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One of the main objectives of academic research is to have an impact on society and its development. But as much of this research is published in specialised international academic journals, it is read by only a limited number of people. Consequently, its impact and reach are very limited.
We are all familiar with the emerging social media landscape – YouTube, Vimeo and other popular social media sharing websites as well as video sharing concepts such as TED Talks – where popular speakers share their ideas in a convenient, accessible and effective video format streamed online. Given the ubiquity of online technology why does academia not make greater use of it, instead of continuing to rely on writing papers as a means of publicising research?
In other words, why does academia lag so far behind the current audio-visual and digital revolution?
Online video sharing technologies offer promising new ways for disseminating breakthroughs to wider audiences, making the latest research accessible and easier to share.
However, traditionally researchers have been averse to the video format. As a result, the development of online video technology in academia is in its infancy. This reluctance to use video technologies has its roots in the nature of the academic publishing system and publishing houses that rely on the written word as the main medium of communication.
In addition, experimenting with new audio-visual techniques for representing or disseminating research would involve further financial investment by academic institutions, including video equipment and editing software. This is an investment that many institutions may not be willing or able to make.
Video production also requires novel skills such as shooting and editing video, as well as a considerably different communication mindset for elaborate audio-visual storytelling – all skills that academics, used to different delivery methods, may find difficult to acquire.
If research film were streamed via online channels it would allow rapid feedback on research findings. It would also reach a much wider audience, compared with the current handful of readers of academic journals.
Delivering academic research via online video would also promote exchanges between researchers and the public. In turn, this would inform the way researchers approach their subject matter. For instance, in my recent research project on an electronic music scene, preliminary findings were streamed online in the form of video. The video was posted publicly on Vimeo and shared across online discussion forums. We received immediate feedback from the participants of the study and more than 4,000 views in just a few months. This had an impact on how we proceeded with the project and also gave us the opportunity to interact with the public.
Using video as a means of disseminating research allows knowledge and ideas to be presented in an intriguing way. Video can also be used to explore areas that are harder to capture on paper – such as an underground musical scene. It opens up a new window to the real lives and experiences of people in a format that is credible, authentic, transparent and in tune with the 21st century.
In teaching, it provides academics with new opportunities to attract students’ interest in academic research. While for students, video offers innovative and intriguing ways of studying and presenting reports, including theses.
For this to happen, however, business school professors will have to adapt to the 21st century and accept that they need to change the ways in which they disseminate their research.
Academic journals will also have to accept change and publish breakthrough research online, rather than simply in selected academic journals.
We are all used to having information at our fingertips. Perhaps now is the time for academic publishing houses to recognise that and follow suit.
Joonas Rokka is an assistant professor of marketing at Rouen Business School.