When I first became interested in video essays I noticed there were very few science-based video essays on YouTube, especially from academics or scientists. I wanted to figure out why. I started with two underlying questions: Do other academic fields use video essays? And can video essays can be used appropriately in science?
For me, the answer to both questions was yes. Continue reading
Over the last few years, a new genre of video has gathered momentum on YouTube; the analytic video essay. Today’s question is; what characterises a video essay?
The phrase “video essay” has two main meanings; the concept currently used by YouTubers (and the internet in general), and the original meaning used in filmmaking communities. For filmmakers, a video essay is a compilation of clips from a film which demonstrates a point about that film. In this definition, the video takes priority- many video essays make their point solely through the chosen clips.
However, other communities use the phrase differently. Reddit’s dedicated subreddit /r/videoessays describes them as:
“a written essay that is read aloud over video accompaniment which seeks to analyze some media text (tv, film, music, art, speech, etc)”.
Right now, conversations about “fake news” are everywhere. Between debates about Facebook’s role in creating and promoting “fake news”, websites promising to fix or block fake providers, and the Trump administration shouting “fake news” at every opportunity possible, there’s a cloud of confusion around the idea.
But what actually is fake news? One thing is for sure – fake news was not born in 2016. It is not a sudden intrusion into the media world, and to treat it as such masks its history and context.
Just like the rest of the internet, I’m going to talk about No Man’s Sky...
More specifically, about the 1.1 update announced today.
1.1, known as the Foundation update, will add two new modes (Creative and Survival) to the main game and will introduce a Base Building feature, while adding features to existing mechanics like farming. Foundation also promises to improve multiple parts of the resource management side of the game, by making resources easier to store, automate and use. The patch list is one of the longest I’ve ever seen.
A recap for anyone who needs it: the pre-release material for No Man’s Sky set 2016’s largest hype-cycle in motion. Every showcased aspect – from its spectacular graphics, to its appearance of a living and shareable world, to the interviews and quotes from Hello Games which never gave specific information about what would or wouldn’t be part of the game – converged to give the impression that NMS would be “all games to all people”. It created a sort of excited vagueness which allowed consumers to expect NMS be amazing while not knowing exactly what it would consist of; a recipe for disappointment.
I’ve recently finished Fun Science by Charlie McDonnell, and after reading it I’m surprisingly impressed both by the book itself and its potential value for science communication.
Firstly, some context. Charlie McDonnell is a filmmaker/musician/ vlogger/presenter… and now author. Last month he released Fun Science (the book), inspired by his 2011 YouTube series of the same name. Fun Science (the show) has also returned,and covers topics included in the book. (A playlist of all of the YouTube episodes is below).
This post follow part 1, where I looked at the type of videos and channels appearing on YouTube searches for science communication.
While there’s a lot of science content on YouTube, and relatively strong content communicating science, there isn’t much about science communication itself. There are videos for non-scientists about science, but not about scicomm. A Crash Course or RiskBites equivalent for science communication doesn’t exist.
The obvious question is; should that content exist? To me, the answer can only be yes.
One reason is my personal experience in discovering science communication. I didn’t find out that science communication existed until a few weeks before I graduated with my BSc, while I was already researching psychology-based Masters courses. The second I came across a description of UWE’s scicomm course, I knew it was the Masters I wanted to do, before I’d even read any more about what scicomm even was.
The sheer amount of publications, information sources, and people that I follow has become too much to read, and too much to mean anything. Continual anxiety means I’m struggling to focus on anything useful, like uni work or project planning. But trying to escape or get ideas by reading non-uni media isn’t helping at all.
Between my Twitter feed, Medium recommendations and Pocket list, there’s almost 1000 items of “do this to be happy”, “do this to be better”,”here’s how everyone else is succeeding”, and “you need to care about this”.
In 1994, Dr Phillip Long founded www.mentalhealth.com aiming to create a cross-cultural encyclopaedia of mental health conditions. The site is looking a little archaic now, using older DSM categories not commonly used now, and containing diagnostic ideas that didn’t really catch on, such as analysing all mental health symptoms through Greek personality dimensions.
While the site may not be entirely relevant these days, it’s a fascinating and detailed read. Moreover, it’s attached forum has been consistently running since 2005. In internet terms, this is an incredibly long time. Imagining friendships possibly extending for 10 years, its easy to see the best part of forums; their ability to connect people with others across time and space, providing friendships built on common experience and support.
Of all the major social networks, Tumblr is the one I wanted to write about the most, because its a dramatic difference from the stoicism of Twitter and the envy-inducing highlight reel of Facebook. Just like most of its users, its young, bold, and easily misunderstood.
For the uninitiated, Tumblr is a microblogging site with a very “anything goes” attitude towards content: drawings, videos, music, gifs, longform text, links and pretty much anything else you can think of are all found there. Its major feature is reblogging, which is reposting someone else’s content onto your own feed and adding commentary, opinions, or a visual response- a cross between a Twitter retweet and a standard blog’s comment chain. Content is organised and collected using hashtags, which are essential for posts being discovered and read.
Part of Tumblr’s appeal is how it conveys the impression of a private, almost clandestine association. (In reality, there are over 100 million tumblr users, and it got bought by Yahoo! for over a billion dollars). Unlike most social networks, pseudonymity can prevail; a user can change their name as often as they want and hide all personal information, while the lacking search function works solely on tagged words, effectively making untagged content invisible except for to followers. Because of this, Tumblr can seem far more private than other social networks. Many posts are made seemingly without considering a potential audience- often off-the-cuff, reactionary, self-depreciatingly, or holding nothing back about mental health difficulties.
Compared to Facebook, I didn’t think of Twitter as a useful place for discussing mental health issues. This was partly due to the 140 character limit; I couldn’t see the use of tweets for in-depth discussion compared to something like a blog post or video.
However, when I looked through my twitter feed more closely, there was a lot of talk about mental health. Most of the people talking were advocates; either they wanted to start conversations, to support mental health organisations, or start their own campaigns. And most of these advocates were survivors, using their experiences with mental health to show others why researching mental health matters.
Twitter doesn’t have the same kind of scare-headline news stories as Facebook, and there isn’t any research saying it affects people negatively. However, there is some research on responses to individual hashtags. Shepherd et al studied the #DearMentalHealthProfessionals thread, a conversation set up by Amanda O’Connell in August 2013, and found there were four main types of discussion:
Everyone, their mum, and their cat has Facebook, or so it can often seem. As one of the most subscribed-to places online, and perhaps some people’s only online connection, looking at what Facebook has to do with mental health could be important on a large scale.
Simply searching for “Facebook” flags up a New Yorker headline- “How Facebook Makes Us Unhappy”. Narrowing it down to “facebook and mental health” adds BrainBlogger’s “Facebook is no friend to mental health”, and “7 Ways Facebook is Bad For Your Mental Health, from Psychology Today.
The BrainBlogger and Psychology Today articles were almost uniformly negative, showing research that connects Facebook use to envious friendships, jealous relationships and decreased life satisfaction.
The New Yorker article included its fair share of research on the unhappy consequences of Facebook usage, but also included some optimistic findings. Their best answer was: it depends what people are actually doing on Facebook. People actively using Facebook to keep in contact and engage with loved ones benefit from the social connection. People passively browsing their timelines, however, are often left feeling worse after using Facebook.
Facebook as a mental health resource
If actively participating on Facebook is generally beneficial, does that make Facebook a good resource for people with mental health issues?
You have full energy!…
While boxed game releases used to mean one large payment for one large game, that idea isn’t a certainty any more. Episodic games often occupy the midpoint of the price-content spectrum, while some AAA games aim for everywhere on the spectrum at once; a full game for a full price, a season pass on top, then microtransactions on top of that.
For AAA games, microtransactions rely on keeping the momentum of playtime going- for longer, either by unlocking new items early, or by increasing rewards. However, major freemium games instead aim for “micro-gaming”- limiting people to short, regular chunks of gameplay. Transactions can act as micro-monetisation -exchanging a little bit of money for a little bit of time saved.
To read the next article in this series, please download the “DLC Edition Blog Post Pack”…
Digital distribution and expansion packs have been around for a surprisingly long time: the Atari 2600’s GameLine (1983) let people download games via their phone lines, while the Genesis’ SegaChannel (1994) offered a subscription to play games through cable lines, like dial-up proto-xbox-live. Total Annihilation (1997) was the first PC game to gain an expansion pack.
Like many gaming nerds, I don’t have a problem with DLC, Expansion Packs, or even freemium games. The part I have a problem with is when it seems like developers and marketers are designing a game based on what suits their pockets rather than their players. Sometimes, these things work pretty well together. Joke DLCs like Skyrim’s Horse Armour and services like the Xbox Live Avatar Marketplace are technically completely useless. However, they are entirely optional, and the players who spend money on these things are providing money that can be used to develop other services for lower-cost. Voluntary money sinks designed purely for fun aren’t my thing, but they have a purpose and a fanbase.
Games designed in an exploitative way, lying about their “play for free” status, or using psychological manipulation to make people feel like they have to pay in order to maintain their progress? That’s where profit overtakes propriety, and that’s where the negativity should be aimed.
Microtransactions are a newer avenue of digital distribution. In a sense, they are a logical extension of expansion packs- if someone only wants more of one specific aspect of the game, it is more efficient to offer every available extra separately, so people can choose what parts of the game they want more of. This idea itself isn’t problematic, but the culture of microtransactions and freemium gaming grew so rapidly due to the influx of social media games and mobile games that it raced ahead of its critics. Trying to regulate what is fair in freemium is like trying to safety-check fireworks on Bonfire Night- there’s no way everything can be checked in time.
Last week, I posted about ways that websites could get implied, indirect, or direct consent from visitors, to ensure they had a consenting user base for user experience (UX) or technological experiments. The ways I posted were quite simple, being mostly based on straightforward modifications to existing strategies, and without changing much in the way the websites themselves treat research and data collection.
However, after finishing that post I started thinking about what websites would be like if their approach to research changed in a more fundamental way. This is probably (unfortunately) unrealistic at the moment, but its an approach that I would love to see realised.
And by this, I am of course referring to the controversial experimental results published this week that show Facebook’s ability to induce emotions in people.
Although the study was actually carried out 2 years ago (January 11th-18th, 2012), it was approved in March 2014, and first published at the end of June 2014. Since the first news stories about it broke last week, legal institutions such as the UK Information Commissioners Office, and the US National Academy of Sciences, are investigating whether the experiment should have been approved.
However, the National Academy of Science are the people who published the paper in the first place- this goes beyond locking the stable door after the horse has bolted, and more resembles investigating the door for possible structural problems after the horse has already caused property damage.
I’ve spent a large proportion of this summer gaming when I meant to be doing psychology work, so I figured I could at least combine the two so it looks like I’ve done some work!
I first got the idea of this combination when I was playing Halo 3 online- while the game is good, an annoying part of the online experience is that people on the opposing team will in many cases jump away and lose a point for committing suicide rather than lose a gunfight and have the other team gain a point. Even though these two options have the same outcome mathematically, many people will choose to take the deliberate loss rather than let someone else gain any status. While this seems like an irrational decision, the principle is common in real-life as well.