1. Julia Griffin
  2. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/author/julia-griffin/
  3. Producer
  4. Experiments in Transmedia: Studying Techniques for Increasing STEM Content Acquisition by Young Adults
  5. PBS NewsHour, WETA
  1. Nsikan Akpan
  2. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/author/nsikan-akpan
  3. Producer
  4. Experiments in Transmedia: Studying Techniques for Increasing STEM Content Acquisition by Young Adults
  5. PBS NewsHour, WETA
  1. Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein
  2. Experiments in Transmedia: Studying Techniques for Increasing STEM Content Acquisition by Young Adults
  3. New Knowledge Organization Ltd.
  1. John Fraser
  2. http://www.newknowledge.org/our-team/
  3. President & CEO
  4. Experiments in Transmedia: Studying Techniques for Increasing STEM Content Acquisition by Young Adults
  5. New Knowledge Organization Ltd.
  1. Patti Parson
  2. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/author/patti-parson
  3. Managing Producer
  4. Experiments in Transmedia: Studying Techniques for Increasing STEM Content Acquisition by Young Adults
  5. PBS NewsHour, WETA
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Patti Parson

    Patti Parson

    Co-Presenter
    May 12, 2019 | 07:09 p.m.

    Hi all and welcome from me (Patti Parson,PI) to the PBS NewsHour's presentation. This project has been an exciting one to pursue, and owes its success to so many, especially co-PI John Fraser, who is NKO's CEO, his colleague linguistic anthropologist/researcher Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein, and NewsHour producers Nsikan Akpan, PhD and Julia Griffin. We all will be around at various times this week to answer questions and listen to comments. Thank you so much for watching!

  • Icon for: Julia Griffin

    Julia Griffin

    Lead Presenter
    May 12, 2019 | 09:01 p.m.

    Hi Everyone -

    Thank you for taking the time to watch this video profiling Experiments in Transmedia, a collaborative research project lead PBS NewsHour and New Knowledge Organization. In it, we share some of the information we’ve learned about how 18 to 35-year-olds engage with science news on websites and social media platforms. 

    What interests you about millennials and digital learning?

    Why and how do YOU consume STEM news?

    What observations do you have about how early career adults engage with news media, particularly on science topics? 

    Please leave any questions or comments you might have regarding our project below, and be sure to check out this white paper which covers some of our preliminary results. More papers are in the peer-review pipeline. Stay tuned!

    Thanks for watching. We look forward to hearing from you!

     
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    Jonathan Lewis
  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    Researcher
    May 13, 2019 | 09:20 a.m.

    Very interesting study.  The white paper is definitely worth reading (this a recommendation to other visitors to this video!) — it and the video left me with a couple of questions, though.  First, do you have information yet about which "morally relevant" topics are of most concern to this demographic?  

    Second, I wasn't clear about the relative proportion of video vs audio vs text vs multimedia stories being followed — and does this vary with age, as "curation by source" does?

    Third, your remarks on the effect of esthtics in garnering attenion made me wonder if there's some variation of response depending on the qualitative/quantitative balance of the content being views/heard/read?

    Thanks for this work!

     
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    Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein
  • Icon for: John Fraser

    John Fraser

    Co-Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 10:39 a.m.

    Thanks for the great questions Brian.  Glad you also looked at the White Paper. Moral relevance was not really age specific. It's more attuned to the degree to which someone extends their scope of justice from the personal (me, mine, my family) to the general (people ought, animals, systems).  Susan Opotow has published extensively on these dimensions in human systems and P. Wesley Schultz in relation to concern for nature. This was not an age specific modality. We'd love to learn more about the life-course trajectory of compassion, but that would require a much larger dataset.

    We might have to review our data again, but our total four year data corpus didn't seem to suggest that there was a preference based on age. The variation in curation by source was found to be distinct in comparative study, with younger audiences more likely to use aggregators for their review, while older folks had affinity to brand producer. This may simply be that we solidify our fealty to a source as we get older, or it may be that the younger audience will be less interested in source brand.  Right now, all we know is that it's different. We'll have to follow the early career adults over their life course to see if they do retain this agnosticism as they age.  We already know, however, that the "millennial' is breaking down as a meta-category because life course patterns post-school (marriage, children, occupation) are leading to different responses that distinguish behavior that reduces our ability to speak about the generation as a monolith.  

    I'm going to defer a more full response on the aesthetics question (our poetic) to my colleague Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein. Jena really took the lead on identifying this trend from an anthropological perspective. My focus as a psychologist has been on how the prompts (image and text) transcend content or captivate based on the harmonic of the device and its affordances. That is to say, the representation is an interplay between the device and what is observed. From a phenomenological perspective, this domain of engagement is independent of how we might wish to define STEM content. 

  • Icon for: Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein

    Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein

    Co-Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 12:41 p.m.

    Thanks for the great questions, Brian!

    Building on what Johnny said above, I'd also caution about mapping topic and relevance too directly. You can frame just about any topic in a way that makes it relevant to just about any audience. For example, you might expect articles about the aging process to be more interesting to older folks -- but if they're framed in terms of generational differences, or the way your behavior in your youth impacts it, you might see a very strong younger audience as well! 

    On a related note, other researchers have found fairly consistently that biomedical topics are overrepresented in science media (see, e.g., Pellechia 1997). We suspect that's the case precisely because it's easy to pull out that moral relevance: You might have to deal with this yourself, or someone who does or will.

    As Johnny said, we didn't particularly look at preferences for audio v. text and so on. Pew has some general data on this, although it's not science-specific. That said, I suspect there are a lot of contributing factors. (For example, I've heard a few different people speculate about driving commutes (vs. public transit) being a likely factor in the growth of podcasts, but I don't know of any research on the topic and would LOVE to learn more if you're aware of anything.) 

    Diving into your third question -- can you say a bit more? Are you thinking about variation in the qualitative-vs.-quantitative nature of the research being reported, or in the reporter's presentation, or both? We've started giving this topic a lot of thought ourselves! Following other research on the primacy of math in STEM, we also have some data suggesting that people are less confident about, and less interested in, math than the other STEM fields. We're currently thinking about ways to tease this out more, especially when they are so deeply integrated in media content.

  • Icon for: Gregory Rushton

    Gregory Rushton

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 06:39 a.m.

    Hi, thanks for sharing your work with us, how did you deliver the digital content to your participants? Was it through traditional apps or a different platform? Thanks again.

  • Icon for: Julia Griffin

    Julia Griffin

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 01:43 p.m.

    Hi Gregory - Thanks for your question. We delivered and tested our content in several ways. All content that PBS NewHour's science unit produced was posted in regular fashion to our website and social media platforms or broadcast on the main show. We could then perform performance analytics assessments based on the data made available by each platform.

    New Knowledge also did Mechanical Turk surveys within specific audiences using links to specific stories (or sometimes different versions of the same story.) They also did focus groups in several cities around the country where participants were asked to read or view specific content and provide their thoughts and insights. 

  • Icon for: Monae Verbeke

    Monae Verbeke

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2019 | 08:53 p.m.

    Interesting. How'd you choose which groups/individuals to do focus groups with? 

  • Icon for: Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein

    Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 08:58 p.m.

    Thanks for the question!

    In one year, we only recruited early career adults; in the second year, we recruited two groups per city (both early career and somewhat older) to facilitate comparison.

    In general, we tried to balance groups for all of the following: frequency of news use, frequency of STEM news use, preferred news sources, age within the group, gender, race & ethnicity, educational attainment, and profession. We also tried to get a geographic range in terms of the US.

     
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    Monae Verbeke
  • Icon for: Monae Verbeke

    Monae Verbeke

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2019 | 09:00 p.m.

    That's quite the challenge! Congrats on getting that. One thing I think about frequently is how different our results would be if we had different focus groups. Have you ever thought the same of this project? 

     

  • Icon for: Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein

    Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein

    Co-Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 09:11 p.m.

    You know, we found surprising consistency across groups and locations, at least for some of the major topics we were asking about!

  • Icon for: Doug Ward

    Doug Ward

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 14, 2019 | 11:55 a.m.

    The project sounds interesting and has the potential to benefit STEM fields and media organizations. 

    I was struck by your use of "early career adults" to describe the audience in your study. Can you explain more about that? I realize that terminology is challenging in describing demographics, but the 18 to 35 age range encompasses everyone from high school seniors to college students to people who are well established in their careers. I'm wondering how you are breaking out segments within this group (education level and income, for instance) and what you are learning about them.

    I'm also curious about what role the PBS NewsHour brand plays in people's viewing of the material you are creating. Does it help or hinder with this age group, or does it matter?

  • Icon for: John Fraser

    John Fraser

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 12:23 p.m.

    Great question Doug. 

    We operationalized the study to focus on the age cohort raised after the advent of an internet connected world, and specifically Out-of-school since that's the group that turns to media for their STEM information rather than formal education.  We moved away from the Millennial moniker because we found that life stage is more important than age, with college students leaving post-graduate study late in their twenties while others enter their career at 18 years old.  Yes, age matters, but life stage is the more important moving target (marriage, kids, permanent job vs gig).  We intentionally exclude any matriculated students in our study because we are studying the informal and non-formal purposes and lifelong learning. 

    We have stratified samples by educational attainment and income but that's not showing much in relationship to behaviors, no matter what, if you're under 35 right now, you've probably developed a finely honed skill at editing and decision-making about what to bother with in your consumption of news.  And, you're more likely to not use source of information as your primary feed and are a bit less loyal to the producers, even though you might trust some more than others. Like any good story editor, our younger audiences shut down stories that don't get to the point right away.  It's not low attention span, it's finely tuned skill for removing excess blather in an information rich world.

    in saying this, yes the brand is important. What we're working on right now is exploring the larger question of brand-worlds and story-worlds as part of literacy advancement. Our data (and other data sources) confirm that PBS NewsHour is the most trusted news source in America, but that's just a fact across all of our data since we've created a research partnership as our lab. It doesn't help or hinder, it's the lab we're working in with half our team being NewsHour staff and the rest at NewKnowledge. 

    Most interestingly, we've been looking at how people interact with story elements because the stories are not single pieces broadcast or online, but rather a choreographed set of media assets that exist in a coordinated world that includes social media, broadcast, and online platforms. The interaction effect of those branded properties and the stories told by other outlets create a learning ecology that builds literacy around a subject. That's the real world defined by transmedia, it exists across a variety of platforms each optimized to its most useful role in a larger ephemeral story built over time. An instagram piece or twitter bit really does help expand understanding of a longer online article that has links to a few other broadcast videos cached to fill in back-story. Media users are very willing to explore, click, and migrate across a story-world or jump elsewhere in the brand-world once they are satisfied they have mastery of an idea.

    We have found that perceived competence in a domain (science, tech, eng & math) does influence perceived interest when the lead situates the story in that domain (math less than sci) within the first 10 seconds, but we believe that domain competence does not influence the moral or poetic engagement, only the identity related user audience base. We are really hoping to continue that area of exploration since most of our data is still early findings for the issue of domain competence, partly because we think there are also structural affordances in news that need more study.

    Great questions. Thanks

  • Icon for: Becca Schillaci

    Becca Schillaci

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 03:43 p.m.

    Fun work! Based on your research, do you have any advice to share with researchers (who don't have access to the newsroom) on how they can effectively disseminate findings from their projects to early career adults?

  • Icon for: John Fraser

    John Fraser

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 03:51 p.m.

    Our advice is really about how to structure your pitch. As Nsikan Akpan outlines in the video, situate your work in the first 4 to 10 seconds or opening sentence. Focus on the relevance of the findings and the answer. You have, at most, 15 seconds to create a compelling argument for the user or you'll end up edited out. Select whether you feel your lead would appeal to a moral argument, an aesthetic, or is it honestly narrowly interesting to people already identify with the subject matter. We focus on use of information. You're offering information to a USER, so your set up is focused on what's USEFUL. 

     
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    Becca Schillaci
  • Icon for: Michael Rosenfeld

    Michael Rosenfeld

    VP of National Productions
    May 17, 2019 | 11:04 a.m.

    This is an interesting study and so relevant as consumers of stem news rely more and more on digital formats. Did the study reveal anything that explains what narrative forms (short vs longer, video vs text, and so on) were most effective in conveying stem information? 

  • Icon for: Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein

    Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 11:24 a.m.

    Thanks for the great question! We're glad you enjoyed our work.

    There are some things that hold true across all formats and genres. For example, communicating specific reasons for relevance up-front is important no matter what -- otherwise these audiences will tune out.

    There are also real advantages to working in a variety of formats and genres:

    1. There's always some individual preference at work. Some people just like listening more than reading, and so on and so forth. 

    2. There are also situational preferences. For example, I do a lot of my news-checking on a phone on crowded public transit, so anything with sound is a no-go. But I also get news while I'm doing housework, and then I want something that's audio-only so my eyes are free.

    3. Plus people have different expectations for different genres, and meeting those expectations pulls people in. (There may also be a question of cognitive load here, but for that you'll have to ask the psychologists on our team -- I'm hoping my colleague John Fraser will weigh in.)

  • Icon for: John Fraser

    John Fraser

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 12:32 p.m.

    Thanks Jena for the set up question.  The issue at hand is not really preference for type of STEM consumption, but fit of format to content. Instagram and Pinterest are actually fantastic for simple descriptive data or stories that can be told with a simple visual like a graph.  So launching that type of visual representation or short snippet of fact into the world is better and can be drawn down in many ways into future stories.  We've tended to migrate our thinking toward story assets based on their map to a format and platform, so an interview is great as both a video with captioning and a transcript so the user can decide how they want to hear a first person narrative, while an investigative story might contain links to many supplementary bits and pieces. 

    As my colleague Jena said, the cognitive issue is that early career adults have well developed editorial skill and are quite comfortable pursuing data gathering around a story while they follow along. Therefore, links are super helpful for offering them their own journey and establishing your authority within a StoryWorld. The primary issue is not too much detail, leave that for secondary story paths. 

    The question of cognitive load is that early career adults manage cognitive load by editing and culling quickly. It's as if those awful click bait links that people chase to see pictures of the new Royal Baby resulted in a refined skill of spotting blather and cutting their losses. 

    For simplicity: cognitive load theory deals with learning and problem solving difficulty. For an informal learner, the management of any STEM content has to fit within their learning schema, what they are interested in and what's not overwhelmingly complicated. That's why we found that the motivators migrate away from STEM affiinity and identity as an intrinsic motivator, and focus on the humanities dimensions of morality or poetics.  These are schema's that move the production group into considering utility and value in a learning path.  It's why we talk about the idea of news USERS.  It's the use within a self-defined learning pursuit that we are situating the content. Therefore, creating a story world builds a variety of paths that are pursued by the learner based on their entrance interest.  Each story component, whether a visualization, narrative, sound, or animation is an asset that can be choreographed by the user if they have options. Sometimes, an illustration says everything and therefore that's worth launching into the world and then linking to later. Consider a visualization a satellite just outside three or four story worlds that you're building.

  • May 17, 2019 | 02:27 p.m.

    Julia et al.

    Thanks for this important work!  This is not my area of expertise so please pardon the simplicity/complexity (?) of my question.  In the domain of transmedia how are the boundaries for your work defined?  The demographic accessing PBS is likely quite different than that accessing InfoWars or similar media outfits.  I imagine the outcomes of a study that explored people that regularly access a decidedly different media landscape might look quite different.  Thanks again!

  • Icon for: Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein

    Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein

    Co-Presenter
    May 17, 2019 | 04:04 p.m.

    Thanks for the question! Are you interested primarily in a) who we included & excluded from the research, b) the NewsHour audience, or c) the platforms and styles that the NewsHour team experimented with?

    I am happy to respond to the first question, and Julia or Nsikan is much better positioned than I am to respond to the second and third. For research purposes, we deliberately chose NOT to limit ourselves to frequent NewsHour or PBS viewers so that we could get a sense of what the broader 'early career adult' audience looks like.

  • May 17, 2019 | 04:13 p.m.

    Hi Jena

    I guess I was largely wondering about your (a), who was included/excluded.  Again this is not my area of work, but I am profoundly interested in science communication and the role it plays in public policy/legislation.  I'm glad you did not focus only on NewsHour and PBS regulars.  

  • Icon for: John Fraser

    John Fraser

    Co-Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 10:56 a.m.

    Jonathan, 

    Adding to Jena's note above. The larger point we were making is that PBS NewsHour content moves in the news ecology on social media. With so many aggregators and repostings, the content migrates rather quickly. It's one of the more interesting things about younger adults because they do look at source as validation, but they are more likely . to receive the piece through an aggregator, and consider source secondarily after they engage with content. So, "regulars" are also older people who seek out content by source. What we'd like to learn next is how many see themselves as "regulars" when they are finding the content because of the algorithms that shape preferences in an aggregator site increase the presence of the STEM content they've clicked on.  It's becoming more byzantine ways of learning. But hopefully we can find support to dive into those questions if we can crack open some future funding.

     
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    Jonathan Lewis
  • May 20, 2019 | 11:18 a.m.

    Hi John

    Thanks for the helpful clarification.  I guess I hadn't fully appreciated the extent to which news media research has had to adapt to to an ecology framework.  That makes sense and surely complicates measurement.  It seems like innovations in social media would mean you have a moving target.  The work is really important and I wish you continued success. 

  • Icon for: Jomo Mutegi

    Jomo Mutegi

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 19, 2019 | 07:49 p.m.

    Thanks, Nsikan & Julia. This is a very interesting project. Great video!

     
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    John Fraser
  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.