Accepted paper:

Youtubization of Research: What can video demos do (for robotics)?


Goede Both (University of Cologne)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

Although video demos have become a wide-spread medium in communicating science, they remain curiously under-explored in STS (e.g. Elish 2011). With the rise of video sharing platforms, such as YouTube, researchers may easily disseminate their self-produced clips. For example, in order to excite the audience about the potential of robotics, video demos depict robots performing visible actions. Suchman (2011) argues that video demos do more than representing. They are performative. A one-time performance of an artifact is rendered into an enduring performance. These videos imply that what might have only worked once will work anytime. Hence, these videos provide proof of the existence of an advanced technology and of the feasibility of the implicated futures.

During my ongoing field work in self-driving cars research, I was surprised by the pervasiveness of video demos and the researchers' devotion of temporal and financial resources to them. In addition, some of the videos had little to do with what the actors see as part of their research. If the video demos are a solution, what are the researchers trying to tackle? In my contribution to the panel I will explore the role of video demos as a form of 'straight' science communication. My theoretical framework combines concepts from the wider realm of (Post-)ANT with qualitative video analysis (Reichertz & Englert 2011). My argument will be based on preliminary findings from my ethnographic field work.

panel C1
Studying science communication