There’s an interesting article at ars technica titled, “YouTube users prefer lousy science over the real deal“. The article briefly summarizes a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which reports the quality and veracity of information available from Internet-based sources. More specifically, the study focused on the information on immunization found on Youtube.
153 videos related to immunization were identified, categorized and analyzed. Researchers looked for a correlation between the type of message in the video (whether it supported immunization programs, was ambiguous, or was critical of immunization) and the rating and number of comments it received in Youtube. “Compared with positive videos, negative videos were more likely to receive a rating, they had a higher mean star rating and more views.” In other words, videos critical of the official immunization program were more popular and more highly rated.
While I’m more than just a bit skeptical of the conclusion, ars technica summarizes:
The big message in the data, however, appears to be that viewers don’t find the information being put out by public health authorities compelling at all. Even among the positive videos (which were poorly viewed and rated), public service announcements grabbed the smallest audience and the worst ratings; even among videos with a small audience, they stood out as being ignored.
So what makes a message compelling? If the message rejects traditional thinking, is it more likely to be compelling? Is this what make conspiracy theory videos so attractive? If this is true, what does this mean for teaching? Should we put more emphasis on bring alternative messages into our classroom in order to critique and analyze them? Are we already doing this? Sounds like a great opportunity for critical thinking and critical media literacy.