In Praise of Youtube Pop-Culture Academics

Roland Dodds

Roland Dodds is an educator, researcher and father who writes about politics, culture and education. He spent his formative years in radical left wing politics, but now prefers the company of contrarians of all political stripes (assuming they aren't teetotalers). He is a regular inactive at Harry's Place and Ordinary Times.

Related Post Roulette

21 Responses

  1. Kimmi says:

    (you are NOT supposed to put people under that light for that long without a break. Good Grief.)Report

  2. Mike Dwyer says:

    I completely agree with the sentiments expressed here Roland. It made me think a lot of Stephen Ambrose, who was sometimes criticized by his fellow historians for his writing style, but he created far more history lovers than his academic colleagues.

    I will also note that YouTube continues to impress me as it matures. Is there still a LOT of lowbrow content? Absolutely. But there are so many people with channels that are offering real value in the form of instruction, discussion and inspiration. As a wannabe woodworker, I find no shortage of makers on YouTube who are doing the Lord’s work in sharing their craft with others. It’s impressive.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      I don’t mind the lowbrow content.
      I mind the stuff that sends people to a hospital for the sake of a fucking prank. (um, yeah, bullet wounds).Report

    • fillyjonk in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      I just got off the phone with a salesman selling “instructional videos” in the sciences. It wasn’t a productive conversation because my attitude was very much, “For what I want videos for, there is lots of good USGS stuff on YouTube.”

      And yeah: there’s a lot of useless stuff*. (And a lot of useless stuff I laugh like a loon at – the “wanna smash” bird videos are kind of awful but also kind of funny in an animal-behavior sense), but there are also some good, solid, instructional things.

      There’s a retired British materials-science or civil engineer on there who has a video on soil strength I use in class and I keep meaning to check to see if he has other videos, just for my own interest.

      *I admit, I question the need for “10 hours of Nyancat” or “the theme from ‘Phineas and Ferb’ but sped up to 4 x normal speed” but it’s not like those are REPLACING more useful content, so….Report

  3. LeeEsq says:

    Academic dies of exposure.Report

  4. Pinky says:

    I agree with a lot of this article, but I think it’s valuable to distinguish between academics doing research on pop culture, academics doing research with the methods of pop culture, and academics presenting research using the methods of pop culture.

    The first has little interest to me personally. If I’m interested in Fallout I’ll think about its philosophy. I recognize that it can introduce novices to the deeper issues underlying pop culture.

    The second is risky, but it’s also probably the rarest. Academics tend to use serious techniques or at least the industry-standard.

    The third is what I’m most interested in. Free Youtube videos of science, arts, history, et cetera are pure gold.Report

  5. Kolohe says:

    Honestly, I was hoping the Fallout philosophy video was either more entertaining or more incisive.

    (And if you haven’t played to the end of the DC wasteland or New Vegas, you probably shouldn’t watch)Report

  6. Burt Likko says:

    Alas that the YouTube phenomenon cannot be monetized better. An academic producing some interesting insights like these Fallout videos (the Philosophy of Fallout 4 video is just as good as the one embedded in the OP) can get literally hundreds of dollars a month digesting and recapitulating the understated elements of the writing in these games. Which is a great pity because this sort of thing is hugely less arcane than the technical academic writing that earns someone tenure.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Nu, so I post the academic getting more than $100,000 to speak for an hour, and you say that you can only get hundreds of dollars…?

      (Yes, Lasagna Cat is a mad lark).Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Burt Likko says:

      My impression that people that do this for a living either have a gazillion subscribers, or just get a modest amount through their YouTube channel and get the rest from Patreon type funding & sponsored podcasts

      There’s really more a market for the good erudite podcast than the good erudite video methinks (and the latter takes an order of magnitude more work)

      (My other impression is that a lot of people that do this for a living have a significant other with a ‘real’ job as they try to get their internet career off the ground towards self sustaining)Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kolohe says:


        That’s accurate. You can make money off YouTube but it’s hard to make a living without other revenue streams. I do think there is potential for it to become more lucrative though, in some kind of sub-YouTube environment where people can post more valuable content.Report

  7. Steve J says:

    The problem being that YT has no standards unlike academia. So much passes for research and scholarship that could not be further from the truth.
    Good scholarship needs to be in depth, well researched and dare I say long at times. Let’s hope we never fall for the MC Drive Through of public policy that is YT or twitter.
    Big issues are by their nature complex issues. They need complex solutions more often than not.
    I can’t speak for everyone but my doctoral degree included some of the most boring material ever published on this planet but I came to understand why it was important.
    God help us all if we ever find ourselves in the care of a doctor with a YT degree!Report

  8. Murali says:

    Look, I agree with you that because public universities are funded by tax dollars, the usefulness (and hence public justifiability) of what that money is used for must have some weight in the deliberations of how the university funds its programmes.

    However, its a complete non-sequitor to think that the philosophy of 50 shades of grey is more useless than the philosophy of Jane Austen.

    Also, citation count is a poor proxy for usefullness to non-academics. Edmund Gettier published just one paper during his entire academic career. That paper “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?” is perhaps one of the most cited (if not the most cited) philosophy papers of perhaps all time if not in the field of epistemology. That said, the paper is only of use to other epistemologists and not really to anyone else in analytic philosophy. I’m not saying that its not a great paper; it is. Its just that having a low citation count only means that other academics dont want to read your paper, not that the paper is of little public interest.Report

    • Roland Dodds in reply to Murali says:

      @murali “I’m not saying that its not a great paper; it is. Its just that having a low citation count only means that other academics dont want to read your paper, not that the paper is of little public interest.”

      That is true. It may be that a paper is not read by other academics but is read and used by the larger pubic. I imagine that many of the academic papers published in the areas noted in my piece are read by almost no one, layman and expert alike.Report