Report on the science communication session at the 16th Annual STS Conference in Graz, Austria, May 08-09, 2017
After an exponential growth in users as well as producers, web videos have become one of the standards in the way online communication takes place. Web videos are increasingly preferred over text and image-based sources – which is also true for science communication. In addition, this trend directly affects the relationships between science and society, replacing traditional interfaces and loosening the control over content and sources in a way that could undermine the trust in science. This brings about new issues, e.g. quality aspects, which need to be addressed from an STS perspective. As a result, and following the last year’s session by Joachim Allgaier (Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt) and me, Erik Stengler (University of the West of England) and I chaired a session about ‘The web video in Science Communication: Issues and Trends’ with five interesting talks. In this session, we were mainly interested in discussing the impact of webvideos on the public communication of science and technology on the one and intra-scientific communication on the other hand.
Klemens Czurda presented Jesús Morino Morzilla’s and his work about ‘Gender Questions on YouTube. Depictions, Misconceptions and Ideological Bubbles’ in which they criticize the affinity of using gender stereotypes in science web videos by using oversimplification as stylistic device. Jose Azevedo talked about ‘Framing climate change on the web videos’ and the differences of web videos on Webpages and on YouTube. He argued that most of the professional generated content found on webpages claimed the existence of climate change, which is in contrast to findings of mainly user-generated content on YouTube. In my talk (‘Don’t act like a teacher. On the importance of authenticity for science communication on YouTube’) I focused on one aspect of my PhD project. I argue that the empirical term of ‘authenticity’ is one of several dimensions of expertise, which are necessary to become visible on a platform like YouTube. In the second session, Issac Kerlow presented some expressions of his practical work at the Earth Observatory in Singapure and talked about ‘Using animation to communicate earth science and sustainability’. He also presented his newest short film CHANGE. Last – but not least – Stefanie Bauer discussed her work on ‘Webvideos on topics of food intolerance’ and argued that more work is necessary to understand how misinformation spreads across a platform like YouTube.
Although, the different talks discussed a wide variety of topics the concluding discussion made clear that we still need empirical work about the users (reception), the role of expertise in regard to the big question of ‘fake news’ and the question of who will communicate science communication in the future.
This year’s STS Conference in Graz had the special thematic focus on social justice in science, technology, and environmental issues.
 The STS Conference Graz is a joint Annual Conference of the Institute of Science, Technology and Society Studies at Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt|Vienne|Graz (STS), the Inter-University Research Centre for Technology, Work and Culture (IFZ) and the Institue for Advanced Studies on Science, Technology and Society (IAS-STS)