The Case of Science Videos on YouTube
Digitalization, Web 2.0 and the importance of science communication for the scientific community itself interconnect science more and more with pop culture. The leading social video platform YouTube is one example for the popularization of science and technology. During the last years the number of videos with scientific content increased dramatically. Just a quick query for “science” reveals that approximately 1 million distinct channels exist today (15.06.2015). Despite this great presence of science and technology on YouTube STS still lacks empirical studies examining science on YouTube.
This project aims to answer the question how the production process of YouTube videos is influenced by the different role models of Science YouTubers and the platform mechanisms.
One first thesis is that Science YouTubers face a discrepancy between two contrasting forms of authenticity, namely the communication at eye level on the one and scientific authority on the other hand. Hence, new not yet fully differentiated role models for science communication emerge and affect communication concepts, like PUS (public understanding of science).
A mix of several qualitative methods is adapted to examine the project topic from various perspectives. Qualitative video analysis, combined with the creation of a tool to capture and map the use of specific functions of YouTube, focus on the video platform. Qualitative interviews and ethnographic methods will add insights into the patterns of practice on the production process.
In Germany nearly 60 % aged 14 to 29 use video platforms like YouTube in order to inform themselves about science and research (Wissenschaftsbarometer, 2015). As YouTube follows a specific market logic which aims to maximize click rates instead of curating or controlling the steadily rising contents users face the problem how to identify reliable information. In order to evaluate YouTube’s impact on science communication and to position science against dubious content we need to know more about the production concepts of Science YouTubers.