I did not expect a digital scholarship project to make me cry, but there I was, 7:30 on a Wednesday night wrapped in a blanket crying about a bear I had never met after I watched bear 71. Bear 71 is an interactive short film that uses real data from tracked wild animals in Alaska to tell the tale of one female bear and her interactions with people and society as it slowly infringes on her home. It creates an interactive map where the view can choose to follow the real travels of bear 71, or other wild animals in the area. The story of a bear and how the world around her is interesting as it is, but when combined with online and interesting tools to create an immersive world, the viewer is quickly drawn in.
This anecdote highlights what digital scholarship means to me. It’s the use of data and technology to take something and present it in a more engaging way. Articles and books have been the way of spreading information and ideas in the world of academia for almost as long as it has existed. Digital tools like test encoding, data visualization, interactive maps, timelines and more can present the same information in a way that puts control of it in the hands of the audience. A history of a given person could be written in a book or presented on an interactive timeline where the viewer can choose which events in a persons life they want to explore, and which they want to ignore.
These digital tools create an environment where information is constantly being presented in new ways, and these tools are pushed and expanded to be used in different ways. This creates an environment where sticking to traditionally accepted means of conveying information is no longer important, whats important is representing this information in a way that’s engaging and interesting.