How well do videos succeed in conveying knowledge?

Knowledge transfer is one of the main functions of science communication. How successful are science videos in getting this job done? In their recent paper Audiovisual Science Communication on TV and YouTube. How Recipients Understand and Evaluate Science Videos, published on December 17, 2020, three media scientists from the German University of Trier point out the lack of research in that field and report about an extensive study with several hundred participants.

Their findings help to provide better answers to many questions. Lay people are easily outperforming scientists and scientific institutions when it comes to producing popular YouTube videos. So are we watching a “democratic transformation of science communication from a distribution model to a participation model” or are we “dealing with an erosion of a traditional epistemic order”?

And, more concretely: Do specific features of video rather promote knowledge acquisition or do they complicate things by increasing the cognitive load? Do high entertainment levels let us wrongly evaluate the rigor of the videos’ content? Do videos convey rather factual knowledge than structural knowledge?

One ot the study’s authors, university professor Hans-Jürgen Bucher, demands in an accompanying German language press release that scientific institutions better adapt to YouTube’s media logic and announces that his team will now develop practice-oriented recommendations for film production.

Related links:

SWR radio interview with Hans-Jürgen Bucher: Wissen im Netz: Wie Youtube die Wissenschaftsvermittlung direkter und unterhaltsamer macht. January 27, 2021 Wissenschaft kann bei Videos von Laien lernen. January 14, 2021

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