SCIENCE POPULARIZATION VIDEOS BY INDEPENDENT YOUTUBE CREATORS AND USER'S APPROPRIATION STRATEGIES: QUALITATIVE ANALYSIS OF USER COMMENTS
The popularization of science through audiovisual media is not a new concept. Specialized television channels that began airing in the eighties and nineties, such as Discovery Channel (1985), History (1995) and National Geographic (1997) are known worldwide. Through their production of high quality content, they have become a major reference when it comes to communicate Science, History, Technology, Biology, and many other academic fields. Inspired by these role models; independent YouTube creators emerged and became big hits by popularizing science through their videos, which have different narrative structures from those of traditional television networks. Their success is backed by millions of views and subscribers, but most importantly, by having active comment sections on which users share their thoughts on the information presented and discuss among themselves. Modern media platforms are often branded with prefixes such as “inter”, “trans” or “multi”; which do not necessarily describe the communicational processes and the capacity of modern receivers to intervene, question, and critique the audiovisual narrative and information proposed by these senders.
Whereas traditional media only had to worry about sending a message through unidirectional channels, the receivers of these online contents can, albeit sometimes asynchronically, give meaningful feedback. This is useful if the sender wishes to test how the message was understood, and what can be done to further improve their narrative. But how do receivers interpret this information? This study first took a sample of (5) videos belonging to some of the most subscribed independent YouTube creators, chosen due to the diverse audiovisual narrative and themes they each employ.
The YouTube creators and videos chosen are:
1) "Veritasium" and the video titled "Surprising Applications of the Magnus Effect ". This video has 34,536,283 views, 1,998 comments, 76,178 likes and 859 dislikes.
2) "Vsauce" and the video titled "What If Everyone JUMPED At Once?” This video has 24,765,085 views, 37,703 comments, 259,282 likes and 8,268 dislikes.
3) "Kurzgesagt" and the video titled "Addiction". This video has 12,118,139 views, 13,335 comments, 281,892 likes and 3,708 dislikes.
4) "minutephysics" and the video titled "Immovable Object vs. Unstoppable Force - Which Wins?". This video has 10,855,019 views, 12,210 comments, 74,773 likes and 2,958 dislikes.
5) "CGP Grey" and the video titled "Humans Need not Apply". This video has 8,409,251 views, 25,126 comments, 180,332 Likes 3,416 and dislikes.
The comments were then extracted using a web scraping tool that downloaded all the existing comments up to the moment of extraction (subsequent interactions not measured). The sample (90,372 comments) was filtered using data analysis software, in order to discard trolling, hate speech and unrelated comments, whilst prioritizing those which got replies and sparked discussion between users. Based on the qualitative analysis of the comments (and their replies), diverse hermeneutic categories are now being identified, along with users's appropriation strategies, providing an insight on how these users interact on the comment section. This effort is part of a larger study whose objective is to develop a methodology that allows Colombian universities to create high quality science popularization content. We hope the findings can expand modern discussions about online science communication.