“Kurzgesagt is lying to you”, admits animation studio Kurzgesagt-In a Nutshell to its 17 million YouTube subscribers on 7 December 2021. In their video, the large science channel – specialised in explaining complex scientific topics in short, illustrated and animated videos – addresses science communication and the challenges that come along with it. The video is the product of a collaboration with the TRESCA project. The TRESCA project is coordinated by researchers Jason Pridmore, Marina Tulin and Tessa Oomen from the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC) and was designed with the aim to develop trust in science by improving the communication practices of scientific researchers, journalists and policy makers.
Social media platforms are open to a variety of voices and content that is not always fact-checked or mediated by experts. For communicators of scientific knowledge, such as Kurzgesagt, this raises important questions: How can they practice effective science communication on crowded digital media platforms? How do they earn trust? Where lies the balance between simplifying reality whilst appreciating its crucial nuances? How can communicators like Kurzgesagt justify the way they squeeze dense scientific phenomena into an apprehensible format?
The TRESCA researchers conducted experiments on a well-viewed Kurzgesagt video about climate change. Contrary to their expectations, small variations in the video narrative did little to change video perceptions. Rather, viewers’ judgments were driven by the perceived production value and perceived intention of the communicator.
Enhanced by insights from this experiment, Kurzgesagt produced the new video on science communication. Close collaborations like this between scientific experts and creative professionals have the potential to innovate digital science communication practices. Especially on crowded digital media platforms, such collaborations might be critical for innovating digital science communication and making it more trustworthy, reliable and engaging.
TRESCA MOOC: “Communicating trustworthy information in the digital world”
As we observe that science and facts are being called into question, what can be done? The TRESCA project is developing a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to explore this question directly. Nowadays, abundance of information has made it difficult for the public to decipher what is accurate or inaccurate information. In this MOOC, students discover what drives public trust and how different people and organizations can earn it and maintain it via improved communication practices. The course will be available free of charge and to anyone who is interested. Visit the TRESCA MOOC-page for more information regarding registrations, and to stay up-to-date!