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Rub trees, crittercams, and GIS: the wired wilderness of Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes’ Bear 71

Rub trees, crittercams, and GIS: the wired wilderness of Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes’ Bear 71 This article analyses Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes’ 2012 interactive documentary, Bear 71. Supported by the National Film Board of Canada, Allison and Mendes made use of thousands of hours of National Park crittercams footage of wildlife to inform audiences that, in Banff, ‘bears and humans live closer to each other than any place in the world’. According to Sundance, this multimedia work is a ‘poignant interactive documentary about a bear in the Canadian Rockies [that] illuminates the way humans engage with wildlife in the age of networks, satellites, and digital surveillance’. Although Bear 71 has received no scholarly attention, it explicitly engages concerns that are central to animal studies, interdisciplinary environmental humanities, critical geography, and eco-media studies. The navigable digital environment that the text simulates and produces, represented through GIS technology, the videogame-like interactivity of that space with your own ‘avatar’, and the crittercam access to intimate, everyday animal life, all raise questions about how new media produces knowledge about nature, the role of mapping tools such as Geographic Information Systems and scientific technologies like radio telemetry and crittercams in shaping human–animal relations, and the viability of an environmental ethic that bemoans the loss of nature ‘out there’. Drawing on scholarship about crittercams and wildlife, such as Benson’s Wired Wilderness and Donna Haraway’s Crittercam, and critical animal geography – especially what Sarah Whatmore calls ‘hybrid geography’ – I argue that the film’s use and representation of interactive digital environments reveal the ways that humans and nature are entangled. The film forces us to imagine that we always already live in ‘material-semiotic’ worlds and asks us to consider how ‘the wild and the domestic get swept up in the volatile eddies and flows of socio-technical networks that bring people, living organisms and machines together in new and particular ways’ (Whatmore, 344). The implications for understanding Bear 71 as articulating a hybrid geography demonstrate the contribution of critical eco-media studies to environmental thinking: space is not material, fixed, or objectively knowable; the human and the wild constitute and attenuate each other; and technology is central to – as opposed to corrupting or only mediating – our ability to perceive how we already participate with and within nature. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Green Letters Taylor & Francis

Rub trees, crittercams, and GIS: the wired wilderness of Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes’ Bear 71

Green Letters , Volume 18 (3): 18 – Sep 2, 2014
18 pages

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References (32)

Publisher
Taylor & Francis
Copyright
© 2014 ASLE-UKI
ISSN
2168-1414
eISSN
1468-8417
DOI
10.1080/14688417.2014.964282
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This article analyses Leanne Allison and Jeremy Mendes’ 2012 interactive documentary, Bear 71. Supported by the National Film Board of Canada, Allison and Mendes made use of thousands of hours of National Park crittercams footage of wildlife to inform audiences that, in Banff, ‘bears and humans live closer to each other than any place in the world’. According to Sundance, this multimedia work is a ‘poignant interactive documentary about a bear in the Canadian Rockies [that] illuminates the way humans engage with wildlife in the age of networks, satellites, and digital surveillance’. Although Bear 71 has received no scholarly attention, it explicitly engages concerns that are central to animal studies, interdisciplinary environmental humanities, critical geography, and eco-media studies. The navigable digital environment that the text simulates and produces, represented through GIS technology, the videogame-like interactivity of that space with your own ‘avatar’, and the crittercam access to intimate, everyday animal life, all raise questions about how new media produces knowledge about nature, the role of mapping tools such as Geographic Information Systems and scientific technologies like radio telemetry and crittercams in shaping human–animal relations, and the viability of an environmental ethic that bemoans the loss of nature ‘out there’. Drawing on scholarship about crittercams and wildlife, such as Benson’s Wired Wilderness and Donna Haraway’s Crittercam, and critical animal geography – especially what Sarah Whatmore calls ‘hybrid geography’ – I argue that the film’s use and representation of interactive digital environments reveal the ways that humans and nature are entangled. The film forces us to imagine that we always already live in ‘material-semiotic’ worlds and asks us to consider how ‘the wild and the domestic get swept up in the volatile eddies and flows of socio-technical networks that bring people, living organisms and machines together in new and particular ways’ (Whatmore, 344). The implications for understanding Bear 71 as articulating a hybrid geography demonstrate the contribution of critical eco-media studies to environmental thinking: space is not material, fixed, or objectively knowable; the human and the wild constitute and attenuate each other; and technology is central to – as opposed to corrupting or only mediating – our ability to perceive how we already participate with and within nature.

Journal

Green LettersTaylor & Francis

Published: Sep 2, 2014

Keywords: hybrid geography; Bear 71; Leanne Allison; Jeremy Mendes; Sarah Whatmore; grizzly bear; crittercam; animal studies; wilderness; Banff; technology

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