Tufte writes, “Small multiples reveal, all at once, a scope of alternatives, a range of options” and I think this actually ties in really well with Sterling’s writing about the life and death of media. Tufte’s examples seem to be explaining functions or movements, and conveying information or forming connections. For me, the small multiples concept makes me think of thumbnails and iterations, things that are inherent in any project I work on. In both cases, they are a means of preservation—-archiving thoughts, processes, and occurrences. If I’m creating a how-to document, I’ll use a process such as on page 68–showing small changes in a series of images, illustrating how something works.
Similarly, if I am working digitally I can take a screen grab/shot of my screen and develop a process archive. Depending on how often I do this, the screen grabs might display minor iterations or major changes. I have found that I’m obsessive when it comes to screen grabs and exporting in-progress pdfs rather than printing. I rarely keep a paper trail of project progress (well, thumbnails=yes, iterations=no), yet my screen grab collection is insanely untamed and runs wild on my desktop.
I think this ties to media life/death in the capabilities I now have to record fragments of things… and if I don’t do so, will I forget? Does my laptop’s memory work better than my own? I can record bits of data from phone calls, chat sessions, GPS movements, etc. All of these things, when presented formally, might fall under Tufte’s idea of small multiples. This seems like a sort of virtual quipu, where I can store things that will relate to a certain time, place, and experience. Yet I still carry a sketchbook, and still doodle thumbnails that look like small multiples!