After listening to Reut’s midterm presentation, I began thinking about the different avenues through which we can approach and share our work. Society has entered an era where information is constant, infinite and thickly saturated. If we want to make projects that reach certain audiences we need to begin thinking about the ways through which we can achieve outreach.
- Do we want to create well-formatted, digestible information for people to access?
- Do we want to bring two viewpoints into discussion?
- Do we want to make a Buzzfeed-style article that attracts people with a flashy, opinionated title?
These are all valid questions and methods. It is important to think about these ideas when crafting an environmental project so that issue in discussion can be brought to light in the best way possible. As a result of these thoughts, after a hefty brainstorm session I crafted six different approaches through which content can be spread. None of these are mutually exclusive and they often overlap, yet they are ways to begin thinking of the diversification of one’s work:
Education as a concept is simple: we are taking information, opinion and other resources and making them available to the public to pick and choose as they please. Some examples are the Khan Academy, TED, and Conservation. Education lies at the core of environmental projects, yet a lot of impact can be achieved when one goes beyond the simple dissemination of information an aims to draw audiences in. Having information available is also the basis of many other approaches because once audiences are intrigued by a subject, it is important for them to have a place to pursue further research.
Fascination is perhaps the most broad approach. This is the use of beautiful and romanticized imagery, cutting edge information and technology, and all sorts of other methods to make a viewer say “WOW!”. An example of fascination would be NASA, who uses a wide range of stunning space photography, infographics and artistic renderings to make people look on in awe. Although NASA’s ultimate dream is to have every citizen thoroughly educated on astronomy, they have turned moreso towards awe-inspiration and fascinating content to rouse a general respect for space in the public eye. Many people would not take the time to read a scientific article about black holes. Therefore, if NASA can give them an easy-to-digest, attention-grabbing artistic creation of the immensity of a black hole, a greater general interest could be built. As a result, more people have appreciations for space and can dig into NASA’s wealth of online information if desired.
Facilitating is the idea of making things easier for people, whether that be choosing an organic restaurant or having an easy platform to access certain content. This is an important idea to consider for any venture because our society is built around speed and convenience. For example, the large majority of top YouTube videos fall within 3-4 minutes. While one could have enough information ready to create a twenty minute video, they may want to consider cutting it shorter to hold the attentions of more viewers. However on the opposing side of this idea is that some pieces of work may not be going for quantity of viewers but quality. There are times where 10 people watching a full documentary will create more impact than 100 people watching 4 minutes of it. Facilitation is crucial to environmental pursuits because many people will not change their ways if it requires too much extra effort to do so. For example, only 30% of homes have ditched their incandescent light bulbs for more energy efficient options. This is a big step in energy reaction, yet what if we facilitated people’s transitions and installed the new bulbs for them? If no extra effort was required on the homeowner’s part, it is not unrealistic to say that we could at least double the amount of homes making the switch. Therefore when creating a project, it is smart to think about whether it is best suited for a website, app, email list, door to door effort or other avenue.
Clickbaiting is not necessarily good journalistic practice, but it is an amazingly effective tool to bring people to an article or other piece of content. If there is an oil spill on the Columbia River, for example, many people would think to title a piece “Scientists work to clean up deadly oil spill on the Hudson River: ‘Impacts may be severe'”. This is standard and informative, yet what if one wrote “Can you handle seeing these pictures of the Columbia River oil spill?” or “You won’t believe what is happening on the Columbia River.” It is true that these headlines are often no better than tabloids, yet they play off a very real part of the human brain that craves conclusions, answers and the endings to stories. It effectively creates a cliffhanger that many people will want to have answered.
Congregation is perhaps the most tried and true method for spreading a cause or promoting other content. From warfare to protests to meetings, history has been built on vast groups of people uniting to promote a common ideology. On a smaller scale, congregation in a project might involve a town hall meeting or setting up a local lunch for people to come and view a piece of artwork. It can also get as big as the NYC climate march that helped create a petition with 2.1 million signatures demanding action on climate change. With Facebook and other social media tools there is more potential than ever to organize events. Thinking about group gatherings or other congregations in light of a piece of content is an important part of the process.
Moderating debates or talks, when used strategically, can bring new audiences to an issue that would typically never listen. For example, famous scientist Bill Nye had a debate on YouTube with famed Creationist Ken Ham and the video racked up over 4 million views. Both of these men had been writing about their views on religion for years, but it is likely that never before had either been a part of such a widely-viewed religious-themed project. Each man was not only able to get the eyes of supporters but also speak their mind to a listening audience of deniers, effectively increasing the impact of their arguments. The idea of moderated debates appeals to peoples’ interests because debates, arguments and competition are central to the way we live. Aside from this, there can also be similar viewpoints that come together to create an engaging group discussion or brainstorm. Sharing and workshopping ideas with others can lead to better developed, more impactful work.