Kristen Purcell reports in her PewResearchCenter.org publication from 2013 that 78% of US adults have either downloaded or watched a video on-line. This sort of statistic makes people who are interested in “getting the word out” – i.e., public health workers – dream about how to tap into that mechanism of communication. But there’s a little catch. On-line video viewership is lower for people above the age of 50 and in people without college degrees or lower household income. In other words, those populations who are often the target of on-line public service announcement are the same groups who are less likely to watch videos on-line.
This should not necessarily discourage public health officials from using tools like YouTube or Pinterest (the 2 tools I explored this week) to grab the public’s attention of a well-made video. Shirky explains that Small World networks (Figure 9.2 above) serve both as amplifiers and filters of information (page 220). In Small World networks, networks of dense (homogenous) clusters can extend communication further than previously appreciated by way of a few highly connected individuals. Most often, it will be these individuals who serve to connect diverse clusters, enabling information to cross invisible and sometimes impenetrable boundaries.
This week, I had the chance to connect with 3 classmates on YouTube. Two of us grew up in the US and two grew up in other countries. One of them is currently in her home country taking this course. We are a group that is at once homogeneous (we are all well-educated, female, and enrolled at UC-Berkeley) and heterogenous (our diverse countries of origin, single, married, with and without kids). We subscribed to one another’s YouTube channels and through this, I had the chance to see an inspiring and beautiful video that I would never have found without this new social group.
Now I have the chance to be a sort of connector by way of that video. Though I will never be one of those “highly connected individuals” that Shirky mentions (and that public health officials should do their best to try to identify), maybe I can use this as my 15 minutes of fame.