Author:Joachim Allgaier (Fulda University of Applied Sciences)
Paper short abstract:
Many people are using YouTube for getting informed about science, health and technology. Various pros and cons of using YouTube as a tool for science communication are discussed and illustrated with results of a study that investigates climate science and climate manipulation topics on YouTube.
Paper long abstract:
Online video-sharing sites such as YouTube are very popular and used by many people to get informed about science, health and technology. Technically they could be valuable tools for the public communication of science and technology, but the users of YouTube are also confronted with conspiracy theories and erroneous and misleading information that strongly deviate from scientific consensus views. However, YouTube is not necessarily a one way communication channel; users can comment on previous contributions or respond with own videos, or create entirely new content altogether, i.e. qualities which can be extremely useful for the public engagement with science.
This contribution critically discusses various pros and cons of using YouTube as a tool for science communication and illustrates both with results of a study that investigates what kind of information users find when they are searching for climate science and climate manipulation topics. These results indicate that YouTube can be a very valuable tool for informing citizens about science for some key issues. However, more specific search terms lead to videos that often confront the users with positions that challenge mainstream scientific positions on climate change, or to outspoken conspiracy theories about science and technology - an issue which poses a major challenge to the public communication of science and technology. The study also introduces an innovative methodological approach using the anonymization network Tor for drawing randomized samples of YouTube videos. This approach was used to select and examine a sample of 180 YouTube videos on climate topics.