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  • Aimee Catalan

Powerful science communication storytelling with video

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

Have a look at streaming sites like Netflix, Stan, Disney, Prime and many others and you will see a science or documentary genre. No longer is the viewer confined to 2-hour feature-length documentaries. Instead, there are a raft of 30-min (sometimes shorter) mini-documentaries that are written, filmed and edited with brevity in mind. Even TikTok has found its way into the short science commercial space. Their subjects range from climate change, archaeology, robotics or even 'a day in the life of a vet' and most subjects in between.

It is not surprising when you consider some of the advantages of using video and the positive impact it has on memory retention and viewer cognition.

  • Short video clips of only a few minutes allow for efficient processing and memory recall.

  • Video is processed by the brain many times faster than text and we are able to take in vast quantities of information by watching and hearing as opposed to only reading text. This makes video an excellent way to convey complex ideas.

  • Visual and auditory platforms like video appeal to wider audiences and permit users to process information in a way that is natural for them. It allows a science storyteller to convey in the blink of an eye what would take many pages and thousands of words in text.

Wiebke Finkler and Bienvenido León have demonstrated the power of storytelling through video and their 2019 paper in the Journal of Science Communication, linked below, explains how they have used a short format video framework as a tool to educate and change behaviours of viewers when engaging with whale watching activities. It is a great read and part of larger research undertaken by Finkler.

There is a time and a place for written work, just as there are instances when only a face to face presentation will do, but let us not underestimate the power of video when telling a great science story.

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