Narrative and Video: untapped possibilities for science communication

The way we communicate or, rather, consume media has changed drastically in just the last few years. Online video on-demand is where things are at. However, even though consumption rates are through the roof, the amount of video available online is daunting. As is often the case for science communicators, it becomes a question of how to reach the target audience and get yourself seen/heard with all the competition for eyes and ears.

Associate Professor Bienvenido León (University of Navarra in Spain) and I are part of a large international study looking at science videos on YouTube. We have analysed the narratives in over 800 videos and, on one level, the findings are somewhat depressing: what is largely being posted online is devoid of most of the characteristics that make for good communication (at least as far as those we teach in science communication courses). However, the other way to look at these findings is that this creates an enormous opportunity to communicate science through online videos: if we combine the storytelling and production values that characterise good communication with what is already known to work in the online environment (authenticity and emotion), then hopefully such videos about communicating science could have a reach that exceeds those showing kittens in tumble dryers or grumpy old men shouting at rainbows?

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