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Digital Story Critique #2: BEAR 71

By September 6, 2016Digital Story Critique

“It’s hard to say where the wired world ends and the wild one begins.”

In my ongoing exploration of transmedia, I ran across a very cool web documentary called simply, “Bear 71” produced by the NFB of Canada. Bear 71 is an amazing interactive 20-minute journey from the perspective of a grizzly bear through the Banff National Forest.

The story is narrated throughout while you (human) navigate a map of the terrain infused with video, augmented reality, webcams , pictures, geolocation tracking, motion sensors, a microsite, and social media channels. The map also ripples and moves in such a way that you can see the activity taking place in the park. You can feel the life that pulsates there, even though the map is a simple, yet responsive, wire- frame style graphic. As the narrator (bear) speaks, the map that you are interacting with is replaced periodically by video that fits in with the storyline. The entire presentation is accompanied by sounds and music to create a stunning learning experience.


It begins with a bear that gets trapped in a wood pile so the rangers capture her and tag her with the number 71. The narrative progress as the bear struggles to survive in a forest increasingly infiltrated with human presence. The webdoc explores how the animal and human world interact and the affect human habits, settlements, roads and railways have on wildlife. While following the bear, users ramble around Banff with the bear’s movements, scrolling over cameras that activate webcams.


My Critique

These three areas were chosen for my rubric because I felt they were the traits that stood out to me as strongest. The goal was to “blur the lines between the wired world and the wild world.” It’s a social narrative as well as a multi-media one, so I applied these traits to gauge success.

Digital Story evaluation: 10 points each

Digital Craftsmanship

Command of the media? Was the use of media appropriate, supportive of the story, balanced and well considered?

Impressive. I’m not even sure how some of the media was done. It was an incredible mashup of tools. The most striking thing about this presentation is the complex production that took place to create such an experience. Just the amount of filming, the amount of footage to shift through, and all the technical expertise to create the interactive site itself is mind boggling.

Points: 10

Audience Engagement

How well did the story capture and keep audience engagement? Was the level of interactivity appropriate to the story being told.

Excellent! This project was not only a documentary, but one created specifically for the web and geared toward interactivity, not passive consumption, so the audience perspective was paramount.

Points: 10

Originality, voice, creativity

How creative was the production? Did the presentation exhibit an original sense of voice and a fresh perspective?

Extremely creative and one of the most interesting projects I’ve seen. It also won several web awards in categories of public awareness to interactive design. The story being told from the perspective of the bear made the user more empathetic and the writing/expression was well done.

Points 10


My one issue with the story is that it’s told from a “Humans are crowding nature” perspective so, although it’s very educational, there is a bit of a “jaded” feel to the narrative. Sort of like the bear is bitter for having to make all these accommodations to human pollution and will say something like “Park rangers who play God…” But even though it’s told in that tone at times, it is no less true. From the bear’s perspective it is a challenge to navigate her world as it butts up against the “wired world.” I felt after watching it a new appreciation for the animal’s struggle to survive and simply doing what’s natural to them, even when it goes against what’s normal for us. I couldn’t deduct anything for this; the overall presentation is too good.

Final score 30/30. I absolutely loved this and would highly recommend it.



  • louiza says:

    Incredible documentary! Thanks for sharing! I love all the interactive features and the dramatic tone of the narrators voice. So unique that you listen to the narration as you navigate the park in any direction you want.

    • Lisa, I really like the topic you chose and how you laid out the presentation. I really like how you completed the Rubric in your critique and want to incorporate this into my critiques as well.

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