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Inline audio

Last week, Vanity Fair published an article about the U.S. Air Force’s response to 9/11. In writing the article, Michael Bronner makes extensive use of audio tapes from the control room of NORAD’s Northeast headquarters and in the online version, you can listen to audio clips of those tapes. As you can see in the screenshot below, not only are the transcripts of the audio part of the main narrative (and not collected elsewhere or put into a separate footnote or sidebar), but the controls for playing the audio clips (PLAY | STOP) are presented inline as well:

Inline audio on Vanity Fair

That’s a nice bit of design. No need for a clunky player or to download the clips at the end of the article when two simple text-only inline commands will do. In Beautiful Evidence, Edward Tufte argues for the placement of information in the location where it will do the most good for those attempting to understand the matter at hand, regardless of form:

Evidence is evidence, whether words numbers, images, diagrams, still or moving. It is all information after all. For readers and viewers, the intellectual task remains constant regardless of the particular mode of evidence: to understand and to reason about the materials at hand, and to appraise their quality, relevance, and integrity.

The examples that Tufte cites in the book are all visual and published on paper. This is an instance where web publishing provides for a better way to design for the information at hand than print. (thx to david for kickstarting this post)