Wednesday, November 13, 2013

John Green Gets Us

     Youtube is a platform for video content. What any channel choses to do with that platform is up to them. Content ranges from Make-Up tutorials, vlogging, how-to videos, and even educational videos. John and Hank Green started a channel in 2011 called Crashcourse dedicated to educational video-series in both the humanities and sciences.  In 2013, Crashcourse US History started tackling a breakdown of important US events. The style of these videos tends to be informal and upbeat but keeps an educational tone.  Enthralled with the idea of the use of plain language style education, I wanted to discuss how this can be an effective method of ‘edutainment’. By combining some aspects of academic tone with simple language, the writers communicate complex ideas in an easy to digest package.
            Having the benefit of being able to interact and understand their viewers, John and Hank have been able to tailor their content to match the viewer’s intellectual levels.   Going into the start-up of the channel, the Green brothers kept their established audience in mind. Their main channel, Vlogbrothers, started in 2007 and currently has 1.5 million subscribers, many of whom also watch Crashcourse.  A survey done of the Vlogbrothers’ viewers in 2013, where over 100,000 responses were tallied, showed that the majority of their viewers fell in the high school to college age range.  This age range is subsequently where the level of comprehension is held within the educational videos.

     With the use of a readability score calculator, the average grade level of the video was found to be 11.3, or about a high school junior.  If the viewer’s reading level ranges 9-16, keeping the readability near the low end is a good choice.  The writers, John Green and Raoul Meyer, keep the grade level high enough to not over simplify the challenging topics, but low enough so that even their outlier audience would be able to grasp what they are talking about.  The average American adult reads at a 7th grade level, shown in a 1993 the National Adult Literacy Study. This video falls above that, but not an unreachable amount. However, readability and grade level aside, the blended use of official and plain style is what makes this video an effective method of communication.

               "But certainly the most prominent effects of the slave-based economy were seen in the South. The profitability of slaved-based agriculture, especially King Cotton, meant that the South would remain largely agricultural and rural. Slave states were home to a few cities, like St. Louis and Baltimore, but with the exception of New Orleans, almost all southern urbanization took place in the upper South, further away from the large cotton plantations. 

And slave-based agriculture was so profitable that it siphoned money away from other economic endeavors. Like, there was very little industry in the South. It produced only 10% of the nation's manufactured goods. 

And, as most of the capital was being plowed into the purchase of slaves, there was very little room for technological innovation, like, for instance, railroads. This lack of industry and railroads would eventually make the South suck at the Civil War, thankfully."   -Crashcourse US History #13 Slavery 

     This quote from the video shows the variety of styles employed by the writers.  There are few multisyllabic words and even fewer that are only used once. This allows the viewer to hear any unfamiliar terms in a multitude of sentences and understand them based on the context provided. Most of the sentences are of medium length, but even the long ones refrain from using multiple prepositional phrases which can easily become confusing. Green keeps his audience engaged by not speaking above their level of understanding, but also by not underestimating what they can understand.
      The least formal writing is shown in the starting of the last two paragraphs. The writers started sentences with a conjunction, allowing for a more steam of consciousness approach to the information conveyed. In the very last sentence, a viewer would hear a typical jarring sentence. The thoughts move from a very educational topic, industrial revolution and trains into an opinion of John Green.  Even the word choice is informal “suck at the Civil War”.  The colloquialism “like” is strewn throughout the video.  This filler word, often found in teenage girl’s everyday lexicon could be a habit of Green’s or it could be an attempt to mirror his audience’s speaking patterns in order to communicate with them effectively.

R.R. Watson

No comments:

Post a Comment