Stylistic elements of YouTube videos: What do users expect of science communicators?

Stylistic elements of YouTube videos: What do users expect of science communicators?

Author: Lukas Gierth – University of Muenster. Germany

The rise of social media as a dominant information source has given new avenues for science communicators to deliver scientific information to the general audience. Compared to Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere, YouTube has a distinct and unique format of generally short video clips. While the scientific style of communication has always removed from how lay people communicate, this disconnect becomes potentially more pronounced when entirely new platforms, such as YouTube, introduce their own stylistic elements into communication.

YouTube videos tend to be short, informal and often try to move at a quick pace, utilizing techniques such as jump cuts and easily understandable infographics, such as brightly colored circles and arrows. Nevertheless, these videos can be informative and there are several large YouTube channels focused specifically on scientific information, such as VSauce and Seeker. However, these channels are usually led by social media personalities, not researchers. It stands to question how the general audience would perceive the use of the previously described stylistic elements by researchers. Are researchers and formal science communicators expected to adhere to a more formal style, even on YouTube? Additionally, visual expression by YouTubers is not limited to videos; the thumbnails of videos are often carefully designed and can inform the decision of clicking on a video, as well as raise certain expectations users have towards the contents of a video.

To investigate these questions, I propose an experimental paradigm in which participants use a simulated, externally valid YouTube interface to research scientific information, choose videos they deem appropriate and then watch and rate these videos on relevant outcome variables, such as trustworthiness and acceptance of the scientific message. By varying the degree of YouTube-typical stylistic elements in thumbnail and video design, one could analyze these elements’ main effects individually, as well as their interaction with each other.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Idea in progress
Theme: Stories
Area of interest: Building a theoretical basis for science communication