Suppose someone is presenting at a mathematics conference. He or she wants to soften up some of the less-technical slides with relevant images from a site like Pexels. It seems to me that, at least in the presentation's that I've attended (which are usually presentations for Master's and PhD students) that this isn't done too often; usually if a slide in a mathematics presentation has a picture, it is either meant to help convey a technical idea, or else it's a picture of the originator of an idea, or something like that.

Question. Is there reason to be concerned about how the presentation would be recieved in the context of a conference for professional mathematicians?

Assume that the creator of the presentation has e.g. the cultural sensitivity to ensure nothing potentially offensive is included, and the artistic sensitivity to ensure that images are not overused to the point where they're obviously distracting rather than helpful.

Edit. There was a request for concrete examples.

  1. Maybe your presentation is about optimal timing of traffic lights, and you have a slide with a traffic jam in your description of the problem (assuming traffic jams are related to timing of traffic lights of course, which I'm not sure they are).

  2. Maybe you're talking about encryption, and in the slide where you want to talk about the difficulty of breaking any given protocol, you have a slightly cartoonish image of a "hacker" on a computer trying to "break" it.

  3. You're talking about mathematical models of the distribution of major earthquakes, and in one of your early slides you have an image of an earthquake occurring.

So, the question is really about images that are not really conveying a technical idea, but they're still relevant. They're used to make the presentation feel a bit less dry and technical and to orient the audience toward the theme being discussed by the presenter and the time the slide is displayed.

Edit2. I'd like to argue against the closure of this question. It asks questions that everyone at some point needs to ask if they're to develop their career in math research, and consequently has wide applicability. It's most easily answered by people already at a research level, and, since it's a question about the perceived appropriateness and professionalism of a particular practice in a particular community, it has objective answer that isn't too opinion-based.

closed as off-topic by Steven Landsburg, Alexandre Eremenko, Andy Putman, YCor, R. van Dobben de Bruyn Sep 20 at 14:24

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about research level mathematics within the scope defined in the help center." – Steven Landsburg, Andy Putman, YCor, R. van Dobben de Bruyn
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    it may help to have a concrete example: say you give a talk on some technical topic in string theory, would you show a violin? – Carlo Beenakker Sep 20 at 12:22
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    I think that the goal of a talk at a professional conference is to advertise the work of the presenter and to explain her/his main ideas. That been said, I can't see any harm in including some pictures to make the talk more palatable for the audience. After all, math should be fun! I must add, I am assuming that the presenter have the skills that you mentioned in your question of course. – Charles Sep 20 at 12:23
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    @goblin: you sound like you've never been to an applied math talk.... – Willie Wong Sep 20 at 12:55
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    I think this is a good question for Academia, or even Workplace forum. While I can see it being a soft question here, it is more about career and presentations, and only indirectly about research. The only tie with mathematics is asking about the culture of certain groups of mathematicians, and that answer is as varied as the groups. I do not see a good general answer coming from this. Gerhard "Does Not Represent Many Icons" Paseman, 2018.09.20. – Gerhard Paseman Sep 20 at 14:46
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    Here is a better question: "what are some goals I should achieve in making an oral presentation of a mathematics subject, and how can I use illustrations to achieve them? In addition to communicating the material, I have an agenda of getting a postdoc and want this presentation to contribute to that.". It still isn't a great question for MathOverflow, but since it involves getting a job in research mathematics, many here will find it a better fit than the current question. Gerhard "Everyone Wants A Nice Job" Paseman, 2018.09.20. – Gerhard Paseman Sep 20 at 15:00

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