Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies

The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States. Please give as you are able, and help support our work for a brighter future.

Search the IEET
Subscribe and Contribute to:

Technoprogressive? BioConservative? Huh?
Quick overview of biopolitical points of view

whats new at ieet

What you need to know about CRISPR

Brain Implant Allows Paralyzed Man to Feel Objects With a Prosthetic Limb

Technology hasn’t changed love. Here’s why

Why Non-Natural Moral Realism is Better than Divine Command Theory

IEET Affiliate Scholar Steve Fuller Publishes New Article in The Telegraph on AI

Can we build AI without losing control over it?

ieet books

Philosophical Ethics: Theory and Practice
John G Messerly


rms on 'Can we build AI without losing control over it?' (Oct 24, 2016)

spud100 on 'For the unexpected innovations, look where you'd rather not' (Oct 22, 2016)

spud100 on 'Have you ever inspired the greatest villain in history? I did, apparently' (Oct 22, 2016)

RJP8915 on 'Brexit for Transhumanists: A Parable for Getting What You Wish For' (Oct 21, 2016)

instamatic on 'What democracy’s future shouldn’t be' (Oct 20, 2016)

instamatic on 'Is the internet killing democracy?' (Oct 17, 2016)

RJP8915 on 'The Ethics of a Simulated Universe' (Oct 17, 2016)

Subscribe to IEET News Lists

Daily News Feed

Longevity Dividend List

Catastrophic Risks List

Biopolitics of Popular Culture List

Technoprogressive List

Trans-Spirit List


Enframing the Flesh: Heidegger, Transhumanism, and the Body as “Standing Reserve”

Moral Enhancement and Political Realism

Intelligent Technologies and Lost Life

Hottest Articles of the Last Month

Here’s Why The IoT Is Already Bigger Than You Realize
Sep 26, 2016
(6004) Hits
(1) Comments

IEET Fellow Stefan Sorgner to discuss most recent monograph with theologian Prof. Friedrich Graf
Oct 3, 2016
(4125) Hits
(0) Comments

Space Exploration, Alien Life, and the Future of Humanity
Oct 4, 2016
(4027) Hits
(1) Comments

Blockchain Fintech: Programmable Risk and Securities as a Service
Oct 22, 2016
(3732) Hits
(0) Comments

IEET > Life > Enablement > Vision > Futurism > Technoprogressivism > Contributors > Andrew Maynard

Print Email permalink (1) Comments (3460) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg

Open Access Academics: Experiments with YouTube, the Science of Risk, and Professional Amateurism

Andrew Maynard
By Andrew Maynard

Posted: Oct 18, 2012

YouTube intrigues me.  Having been dragged into the YouTube culture by my teenagers over the past two years, I’ve been fascinated by the shift from seemingly banal content to a sophisticated social medium.

But what has really grabbed my attention is the growth of YouTube as a unique and powerful platform for informal education which is being driven not by the educational establishment, but by an emerging educational counterculture.

Of course, as a fully paid up Prof in one of those educational establishments, this is a little embarrassing!  But at the same time it raises a really interesting question – is there a way of connecting institutional academics with an educational counterculture that is hungry for learning – but on its own terms?

It’s questions like this that led to the genesis of Risk Bites – a personal experiment in bridging formal institutionalized education with informal social education.

The first seeds of Risk Bites were planted at VidCon this year – the annual YouTube convention.  As I wrote back in June after sitting in a room full of rapt young people listening to a panel on science on YouTube:

*  There’s a hunger for science knowledge and insights amongst these folk;
*  The world is changing, and this new breed of community-grown science communicators are leaving more conventional approaches to science communication in the dust!
*  As a science community, if we want to engage and connect with people outside our field more effectively, we need to be actively partnering these YouTube science stars rather than waiting for them to come to us.

Yet by on large, the educational establishment is not reaching this audience.

Just as an example, I had a search around the various University of Michigan channels to find a widely viewed video with educational content.  One of the highest viewed videos was this one on the Higgs boson:

At just over 19,000 views, this isn’t bad – this is significantly higher than many other UM education-oriented videos.  But compare it to Henry Reich’s video on the Higgs boson:

Over 900,000 views.  And nearly 11,000 likes (in contrast to the UM video’s 49 likes)

UM is by no means flagging in relation to other academic institutions here.  But it’s hard to deny that there is a large gap between the establishment and what people like Reich are achieving.

But what is to stop places like UM drawing on the vast experience of their faculty, and creating content as successful as Reich’s that sets out to engage and inform rather than “educate”?

To explore this, I started to look at my own teaching material. I lecture on a wide range of subjects, from risk assessment and aerosol dynamics, to technology innovation and responsible development. 

Amongst all this, there’s some really cool stuff, and some stuff that I suspect many people would find interesting (assuming that I’m not suffering from the usual delusions that come with academic status) – it’s just that it isn’t that cool or interesting when buried in the middle of a 2-hour lecture!

So why not un-bundle pieces of information that might be interesting, and present them in videos that are accessible?  After all, this is exactly what is happening in many of the more successful education-based channels such as the Khan Academy, Minute Physics and SciShow.

One of the cautions from established educators here is that by doing this, the learning process is no longer controlled by the instructor. And as a result it’s harder to teach to a deep level of understanding (and to specific competencies) in a linear and systematic manner.  But I think this is a concern that belongs to an age of formal education that relies on a model of information-flow that has been swept away by the internet.  Instead, “social media information unbundling” supports a complementary perspective on informal education as a tapestry of small but intriguing insights that together paint a picture that is far greater than the sum of the parts.

Having decided to unbundle some of my own teaching material into bite-sized chunks, I was faced with two immediate problems: I’m really bad at making videos (at least ones that involve me talking to an imagined audience), and I’m somewhat time-challenged!  The solution I arrived at that seemed to work best was to play around with the doodling technique that people like Vi Hart and Henry Reich to such great affect.  This also had the appeal that I’ve always enjoyed the “chalk and talk” style of teaching – and am fascinated by how YouTube is helping bring this style back in vogue.

Of course, as well as not being able to make videos, I also cannot draw! But here I’m hoping that by speeding up the footage, the clips will be over before anyone realizes this!  The result could be described as “professional amateurism” – a style that is really quite crude, but is backed up by careful thought and planning and is designed to use this crudeness to good effect.

The outcome of all of this is a series of short (-60 seconds) doodle-videos on the science behind human health risk.  Each video takes on a specific topic related to science of understanding and addressing risk, and covers it in what I hope is a short, accessible and entertaining way.  Here’s a trial run on exploring the difference between hazard and risk for instance:

The videos posted so far have helped iron out the process of developing content and putting together a work flow – things start in earnest on November 24.

The presentation style by the way is pure me – it may be worthy of a few eye-rolls, but at least when the rejections come in, I’ll know it’s me being rejected rather than someone I was pretending to be (reading this back – is this a good thing?).

Will the experiment succeed?  I’m not sure. But whatever happens, I’m certain Risk Bites will help shed more insight into how the knowledge-rich world of academia might better be connected with with a knowledge-hungry YouTube generation.

Andrew Maynard is Director of the Risk Science Center at the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
Print Email permalink (1) Comments (3461) Hits •  subscribe Share on facebook Stumble This submit to reddit submit to digg


When you publish an educational video, please put a free license (free as in freedom) on it.  Educational works are used to do a practical job (learn or teach), so they ought to be free/libre.

CC-Sharealike and the GNU Free Documentation License are free licenses with copyleft (see  CC-Attribution is also a free license, but since it does not have copyleft, it is not as good a choice.

Dr Richard Stallman
President, Free Software Foundation

YOUR COMMENT (IEET's comment policy)

Login or Register to post a comment.

Next entry: Should California Secede from the United States?

Previous entry: What is 3D Printing?


RSSIEET Blog | email list | newsletter |
The IEET is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization registered in the State of Connecticut in the United States.

East Coast Contact: Executive Director, Dr. James J. Hughes,
56 Daleville School Rd., Willington CT 06279 USA 
Email: director @     phone: 860-428-1837

West Coast Contact: Managing Director, Hank Pellissier
425 Moraga Avenue, Piedmont, CA 94611
Email: hank @