Dr. Roel Lutkenhaus, a former PhD-student at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC) and the Center for Media & Health, has recently published a study together with his supervisors prof. Martine Bouman and prof. Jeroen Jansz entitled: “Using markers for digital engagement and social change: Tracking meaningful narrative exchange in transmedia edutainment with text analytics techniques.” The study describes a project that tracked online audience responses to the Indian edutainment initiative Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon, Season 3 (‘I – a woman – can achieve everything’).
Markers as digital beacons for audience engagement
The TV serial included several ‘markers’ – unique words connected to narratives about the key themes and messages that the intervention aimed to address. An example of such a marker is Lambi Saagai (‘long engagement’): the marker was introduced through a romantic storyline between two young characters that decide to pursue a career before marrying. The marker thereby introduces the idea of delaying marriage until one has built a basis to provide for a family.
Expanding edutainment narratives with users’ stories and experiences
The researchers applied various web-based tools to systematically track marker-related engagement on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube across eight months. They also conducted semantic network analysis to better understand how marker-related social media comments evolved, showing how audiences expanded the web of narratives around each marker with their own stories and experiences.
Advancing bottom-up communication strategies
Markers enable edutainment professionals to shift from solely wielding a top-down approach (sending information to passive audience) to also using bottom-up approaches (empowering audiences to share their stories). In his dissertation, Roel advocated bottom-up approaches to stimulate engagement with health and social topics in online communities. After obtaining his Ph.D., Roel founded New Momentum to study societal undercurrents in digital media networks to help organizations fully embrace internet culture.