Edward Tufte descibes a form of word-sized, inline infoburst he calls a “sparkline”:


A hyperlinked Sparkline would make webpages like superdense, fractal, layered, zoomable resources, and make the top-level of each topic look vital and organic like a terrarium of squirming data.

The next step would be to see Sparklines in the street, not just delivering data, but harvesting it – being it.

Crawling up lamposts as electricity consumption spikes during the ad-break of Coronation Street. Or infesting the wounds of a pigeon flattened by a delivery truck, updating the national epidemiological database and the air pollution record for that borough based upon trace metal readings in the carcass.

Tufte’s aiming to create bumps in the visual texture of the page that we can run our eyes over and just know. Lowering the load on our understanding not in reductive manner of many usability methodologies but trying to transform ways in which information is transferred to create a richer substrate for understanding.

» Ask E.T.: Sparklines [via Scoble]

0 thoughts on “Sparklines

  1. hoo boy.. sparklines look very cool. but with them becoming data like you describe, i can’t help but think of a tufte grey goo senario, where eventually all the world just becomes that map of the nepolean’s march to russia.


  2. I get the utility of sparklines as units of concentrated data representation. But what’s the point of them for data “harvesting”? “The next step” seems like hurdy-gurdy.

  3. Hmph. Just try telling all this to your Ph.D. supervisor when it comes time to lay out and write up your thesis, and see how well it goes down (in a word, it didn’t).

  4. would be good for tracing and feeding back a patient’s changing blood glucose level. maybe the sparkline is sent once a week as an mms to their mobile phone. we are doing this for a diabetes project. tufte needs to get more specific.

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