The Assignment

Give a presentation, both in class and on the web, in which you introduce a topic and make an argument using a combination of words and images that follows the constraints of the pecha-kucha form. The topic and argument of your presentation should be related to the general theme of data, information, and culture.

Pecha-kuchas have the following basic characteristics:

  • They use 20 slides.
  • Each of those slides is timed to auto-advance every 20 seconds, so the presentation is precisely 6 minutes and 40 seconds long.
  • Most slides feature an image or a short phrase.
  • Most of the 20 slides are unique—that is, they appear only once in the presentation.
  • The speaker speaks as the slides play, whether they improvise or speak from talking points or a script.
  • The spoken component of the presentation is closely linked to the visual component of the presentation. The speaker won’t always make direct reference to the content of a slide, but the connection between the visual and the spoken component should always be clear.


You should develop your own topic for the presentation related to the course theme of data, information, and culture. Your topic should be focused, clear, and appropriate to the constraints of a pecha-kucha. As you develop your topic, think both about what interests you generally and about the potential visual evidence for your presentation.

The more focused your topic is, the better: a presentation on “American consumers’ resistance to self-driving cars” is likely to be more successful than a presentation on “self-driving cars” or “cars and big data.”

Start thinking about topics by brainstorming general areas you’re interested in learning more about and thinking about how datafication and pervasive information affect those general areas. For example, if I’m interested in “politics and data,” I might initially think about such general areas as (1) how big data shapes get-out-the-vote operations in modern campaigns; (2) what data has to say about differences between political parties; (3) how the government gets information to its citizens; (4) why American politicians have been permissive of a growing security state; (5) how Nate Silver and other data-oriented journalists predict election outcomes; (6) how data is used/can be used/should be used in congressional redistricting; (7) how polling shapes American politics for better and for worse; and (8) what a government that made decisions based on big data would look like. After this initial brainstorming, I’d look for a more focused topic and argument: “Many people have attributed Barack Obama’s election victory in 2008 to his charisma and personal appeal, but the key to his victory was a data-heavy get-out-the-vote operation.”


To present your pecha-kucha, you should use presentation software that produces a Microsoft PowerPoint-compatible presentation. The software must have an auto-timing feature that advances slides automatically, without the speaker clicking or prompting.

I will provide further instructions on how to record your pecha-kucha for the web. Macs have a built-in screen recording function that will let you record your pecha-kucha. The Windows version of PowerPoint has a similar feature. You may record your presentation using the built-in microphone on your computer, or using the recording booth in the Hall building.


The immediate audience of your pecha-kucha will be the other students in class. On the web, you may have a wider audience. For the most part, your audience will be familiar with basic ideas about data, information, and culture, but you will need to familiarize them with background information on your specific topic.


In addition to making your PowerPoint, you should plan your presentation in some depth. We will work on the pecha-kuchas several times in class:

  • On 9/29, we will brainstorm and focus potential topics and begin some basic research.
  • On 10/3, we will produce and workshop some slides as a class.
  • On 10/6, we will discuss the oral component of the presentation.
  • On 10/10, we will workshop a draft of your pecha-kucha talking points or script, along with the in-progress PowerPoint.

You should also be working on your pecha-kucha outside of class throughout this time.


You must acknowledge the sources of images and other evidence you use in your presentation in the blog post in which you submit your pecha-kucha electronically.


You should practice several times before you present—with friends, with the Communication Center, in front of the mirror. Public speaking can be a source of anxiety for many students, and you’ll feel more confident if you’re well practiced.


After you have performed and submitted your presentation, you will write a 400-500 word reflection about it. Specific guidelines for the reflections will be posted later, but the basic idea is that you will reflect on the process of producing the pecha-kucha generally, and then show how some slides and their related content work together.


You’ll turn this assignment by:

  • By presenting in class
  • By recording and submitting a screencast-style video of your pecha-kucha to the course blog within one week of your presentation, and appending the reflection to it


The pecha-kucha assignment is worth 15% of your final grade. It will be assessed using the the Writing and Communication Program’s common rubric.


This assignment draws on each of the WOVEN modalities:

  • Written. Writing will be involved throughout, from your research notes, to the production of your talking points/script, to the reflection.
  • Oral. When you present in class and record for the web, you’ll be using your voice expressively to make an argument.
  • Visual. In addition to mind-mapping exercises we’ll do as we brainstorm, the assignment will challenge you to use images and slides effectively in your presentation.
  • Electronic. You’re using electronic tools to create your presentation in the first place. After you’ve presented, you’ll post it to the web.
  • Nonverbal. Especially when you present in class, you’ll be challenged to control nonverbal aspects of your presentation, such as eye movement, stance, and gestures.

11 thoughts on “Pecha-Kucha”

  1. For the pecha-kucha, can we use the same powerpoint slides that we used to present in class? Can we just add an audio file to those powerpoint slides and post them to the web to satisfy the online submission part of this assignment?

    1. Yep–in most cases, the PowerPoint slides you use for the in-class presentation will be the same as the slides you use for the web presentation. The script/talking points will basically be the same, too. The basic difference is that in one you’re presenting in person and in the other you’re narrating for the web.

    1. The grading will take into account the quality of your in-person presentation, and it’s an important part of the assignment. But if the quality of the digital presentation is high, that will matter more than a less-than-perfect in-class presentation. I anticipate that few students will have disasters in class, but even if you do, that’s only part of the assignment, and a weak in-class performance is unlikely to sink your grade if the rest of your performance on the assignment is strong.

    1. You are welcome to use talking points or a script as you present. I encourage you _not_ to memorize the presentation—your time is more valuable than that, and if you memorize, you’re likely to stumble more if you forget something. You should still take into account the nonverbal elements of your performance. Even if you have a script with you, it’s important to make eye contact, for example.

  2. How do we record in PowerPoint? Is there a way to do one recording, including the 20 second slide transition, without doing it all manually?

    1. Instructions for recording will be up on the blog tomorrow. In PowerPoint itself, it’s hard to record without going slide-by-slide, which is a pain, and which also breaks the continuity of the pecha-kucha. On both Mac (which has built in screen recording) and Windows, I’ll recommend that you use screen recording software rather than PowerPoint itself. I’ll be trying out CamStudio on Windows myself tomorrow, and will recommend it if it works well; on Mac, Quicktime Player features solid, built-in screen recording.

  3. Please note I’ve updated the section on submission. There is no need to submit talking points/outline/script–instead, post your reflection to the blog.

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