Designed as a tool to help people capture their journey and have their ‘interests at their fingertips’ my experimentation with Pearltrees has revealed what a great tool it is for capturing the ideas and often diverse tenants of research in minuscule to present to others.
Collating ideas together was really easy as photos can be uploaded via the app as well as off a computer desktop, notes are made to create ‘pearls’ and URL addresses copied by the ‘pearler’ and added to your tree in under two clicks. However, for the purposes of digital engagement it is the way that Pearltrees disseminates everything you put together that is particularly exciting. When thinking about how to present research to the public advice is often given to keep things simple and short, avoid jargon, make it visually interesting and interactive but when talking about issues in the Arts and Humanities we do not often have graphs and pictures to insert into presentations in the same way as our colleagues in the sciences do. As I have recently discovered whilst putting together a poster presentation for a conference, as students working with literature and often dense textual material, how can we provide visual stimulus and thus make our work engaging for our audience?
Pearltrees is one way of visually pulling together the various strands of research and you can see my own example based on my current thesis research in the field of contemporary women’s writing here. By linking in articles, websites, adding short notes, snapshots of ideas and photos it allows you to tell a “story” in brief. Instead of asking your audience to sit and listen to you talk about your research for twenty minutes or to read an article on it, they are presented with an interface that they navigate. In this respect Pearltrees puts the emphasis on the reader – or audience – making your digital engagement a two-way experience and placing the audience at the heart of it (something that can often be forgotten when we talk about engaging others with our work). By giving the choice of how to read and engage with your work they can select the areas that interest them and create their own journey within your work and into possibilities beyond it.
The fact that you can link this to your Twitter and Facebook accounts means it is easy to connect your Pearltree to the wider world. It puts across a snapshot of your research in an interactive way and provides a great entry point into engaging non-specialist individuals with your work. In the digital world, where Twitter has become the default location for individual’s exploration of new knowledge and ideas, using a digital tool like Pearltrees is a digi-savvy and compact means of digital engagement.