Thursday, February 04, 2016

Screenjunk and Chartjunk


I’ve written a few times in this space about things that really get me cranked … about robocalls and other things; there have also been other posts in the distant past that I can’t find at the moment.

But I have yet another pet peeve to share with you … all the stupid, distracting crawlers and logos that occupy the bottom part of your TV screen when you’re trying to watch the news. You know what I mean … the “breaking news” headline about some cat stuck up a tree, the “weather update” that tells you to tune in at 11:00 for a weather update, the endless crawl of the stock ticker across the screen, and the spinning, pulsating logo of the station in one corner. AARRGGHH!! CNN and Faux News are notorious for these distractions, but every pretty much every news broadcast down to the local level is guilty. Here's an example , which in this case occupies about a third of the screen and provides multiple distractions:


I call this optical trash “screenjunk,” in a nod to what Dr Edward Tufte, one of the foremost authorities on presenting data and information, refers to as “chartjunk.” Chartjunk is what Dr Tufte calls anything put onto a PowerPoint slide that is not directly relevant to the point being made – company logos, distribution restrictions, unnecessary explanations, deliberate obfuscations, or unrelated advertising, for example. It’s distracting material that steals attention away from what should be the focus of your attention. Here are two particularly egregious example of slides drowning in chartjunk ...


This one, presented by House Republicans in an attempt to portray their view of the complexity of health care reforms proposed by House Democrats, is an excellent example of including unnecessary detail and unclear connections to confuse an already difficult issue:


Good luck with extracting useful, decision-quality information from either of these slides.

A related bit of annoying screenjunk is the ad for one show on a television network that plays on screen during another show. It’s tremendously annoying, particularly when the show you’re watching is one of your favorites, or is especially interesting.

Remember two famous adages: William F. Buckley's famous admonition to "eschew obfuscation," and the often-ignored advice to KISS - "keep it simple, stupid."

Have a good day. Say what you mean, without obfuscation and distraction. Everyone will thank you.

See you tomorrow for the next installment of Great Moments in Editing. More thoughts then.

Bilbo

6 comments:

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Screenjunk is most annoying when you're trying to watch a comedy. It intrudes the real world back when you're engrossed.

Big Sky Heidi said...

USA Today is big on chartjunk.

Mike said...

I like the pretty colors in the second chart so it must be a good chart.

Chuck Bear said...

I'm glad you cited the names for it!

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

This irritates our family as well.
Then you add the fact that most days we have on our CC because we can't hear well and we can't read the CC because of all the screen junk. oh the fun.

Anemone said...

I don't like the crawls at the bottom of the screen, but especially when they are ads. Those charts are undecipherable.