For journalists, authors, bloggers and tweeters, sharing articles has never been easier. Indeed, the public expects to be able to read articles about world events almost in real-time. For example,
the New York Times Twitter account was updated nine minutes ago, and National Geographic tweeted three minutes ago. This expectation of speediness applies equally to scientific advances as it does to international affairs.
As an avid reader of online news, I would be the last to complain about being able to access such a vast amount of information. But there is something particularly noteworthy about information presented by a visible human. Perhaps that explains the persistence of televised news in the age of Twitter.
Maybe it also explains the popularity of other media sources like TED talks, which often explain complex ideas in an engaging and understandable format. A personal favourite is “The best stats you’ve ever seen” by Hans Rosling. In his talk, Rosling explains the importance of little-known global public health data that shows the progress (or lack thereof) made by different countries over the past few decades.
A more recent talk on a similar topic is also informative. One would be hard-pressed to find a paper or article that presents the same information with as much clarity and appeal.
In addition to numerous (maybe too numerous?!) TED talks, I have recently experienced the value of human-to-human information transfer. At the beginning of my ROP project in September, I was lucky to be able to hear about previous students’ research in person. I think it helped address the complexity of the work, but also conveyed its importance and the effort that had gone into it. Thanks Kiersten!
I’m not sure if information is generally more effective this way, but it is almost certainly more memorable. In any case, it has definitely worked for the 3.5 million subscribers to CrashCourse’s YouTube channel, where one can learn about anything from astronomy to macroeconomics.
For me, learning more about how researchers give and receive qualitative information to and from their subjects has allowed for a more well-rounded understanding of information transmission in the digital age. But I think researchers andthe media have a lot to learn from each other. Communication is key for both, so understanding how others best absorb and respond to information can be instrumental.
That’s all for now, Julia!