other and their subject. We also pay a visit to the Welsh Assembly topromote microbiology.
If I wanted to, in the next 5 minutesI could download a podcast aboutastrobiology, comment on a blogdiscussing the pros and cons of mandatory vaccination, watch aninstructional video teaching me howto streak an agar plate and join a groupof sexy microbiologists just by clickingmy computer mouse a few times.Such are the beneﬁts of new mediaand web 2.0 technology. Theadvantages to me as a consumer areclear: I have a wealth of information, ina variety of formats, at my ﬁngertips. Ican even interact with the information,offering feedback and opinions. Butwhat’s in it for microbiology?
The term ‘new media’ can be rathervague. It is often applied to anythinginternet-based that isn’t a staticweb page. One such application is apodcast: an audio ﬁle that is connectedto an RSS feed, which enablessubscribers to be alerted when a new(usually regular and frequent) episodeis available. Perhaps unsurprisingly, themajority of the most popular podcastsare based on music and comedy(15 of today’s top 25 podcasts on
have comedy content; 2 areThese three podcasts cover a spectrumof understanding, aimed at everyonefrom the interested school student andthe concerned parent to the postdocresearcher and the seasoned scientist.Just like a magazine, informationcan be presented in different ways,including news items, discussions andinterviews. The content is convenientto the user who, perhaps, does nothave time to sit and read a monthlymagazine, but can easily listen to a10-minute podcast while walking towork, driving, etc. But perhaps mostimportantly, by making audio available,It is a short video with some basicinformation about creepy crawlies thatlive on us humans, including microbes.Other popular videos include
(http://tinyurl.com/yvehqs) with 28,296 views and
, as told by Lego men(http://tinyurl.com/6akanj).Many of the microbiology videos on
are aimed at students. It ispossible to learn all sorts of things,from the history of microbiologyto plate-streaking methods. Videoscome from a multitude of differentsources, including universities, labsand people’s living rooms. The beneﬁt?According to YouTube.com: ‘
Everyonecan watch videos on
. Peoplecan see ﬁrst-hand accounts of currentevents, ﬁnd videos about their hobbiesand interests, and discover the quirkyand unusual. As more people capture special moments on video,
is empowering them to become thebroadcasters of tomorrow
(YouTube.com, May 2008).
New media has brought along withit a cascade of new words, which canmake it seem even more difﬁcult todecode. One of these is blog. Blogcomes from the term web log, whichrefers to a web page or websitecontent that is written and maintainedregularly, often consisting of opinionsand descriptions of events –a sort of online diary. The word canalso be used as a verb, meaning towrite or maintain a blog. Blogs canbe (and are) written on just abouteverything imaginable, includingmicrobiology. According to Google,
is the most popularmicrobiology blog: with over 250,000page views in the last year. ASM alsohas a blog,
Small Things Considered
.Our own blog (www.micropodonline.com/blog) covers diverse topics,including the effect of TV adverts onthe public opinion of microbes andthe increase in STIs at Christmas. Forblog authors, a major advantage isthe facility that enables readers tocomment and provide feedback.
Social networks are beginning togrow out of the blogging world.
is a ﬂedgling networkthat is based on ‘real-time micro-blogging’: people interact via short(140 character) blogs. Twittererscan reply to each other’s ‘tweets’,creating a dialogue in a network.Yesterday, I asked for opinions.Googler martynj said ‘
I think Twitter’s great for serendipitous discovery of complimentary ideas/techs.’
‘Beneﬁts to microbiology =community of practice, especially for professionally isolated folks.
’Social networks are often in thespotlight. An estimated 200 millionpeople are registered on
and at least 170 million people areon
. In the UK,
rankssecond in the social network ranksand was purchased in March 2008 byAOL for $850 million (http://tinyurl.com/3ac2c8).
are in the top 10 mostsearched for items in 2007 (http://tinyurl.com/5vf6vc) and 1 in 50 UKnetwork visits are to Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/yt6ax5).Social networks provide facilities forlike-minded people to gather virtuallyand share links, videos, podcasts,pictures and ideas. People groupthemselves in all sorts of ways, byprofession (e.g. microbiologists), byhobby (e.g. brewing), by interest (e.g.microbiology) and even by campaign(e.g. ‘
I support the HPV vaccine!
is made up of allsorts of people, each with an interestin topical microbiology. Some socialnetworks are tailored to science andscientists.
Microbiology and new media
factual) but there is certainly a placefor science.
The Naked Scientists
are both popular in the‘Science and Medicine’ category,and microbiology is not neglected.A handful of podcasts is availableby (free) subscription, including theASM’s
, Universityof Leicester’s (Dr Alan Cann)
, the product of a recentcollaboration between SGM and theSociety for Applied Microbiology(SfAM) (www.micropod online.com/podcast.html).For the ASM, University of Leicester,SGM and SfAM, podcasts are anew way to make information availableto the public. (
hasattracted 100,000 downloads in thelast year and there are approximately1,500 regular weekly subscribers.)the producers are better connectedto the users, making them feel moreinvolved with the subject matter andtherefore likely to return for more.And hearing a scientist speak abouttheir research makes it real, accessible,understandable and relevant.
Around 9% of
contentis video. People are watching lesstelevision, preferring to ﬁnd relevantvideo content to view online. Videosaccess yet another audience, whichmay otherwise remain out of reach.For example,
attracts around20 million views each month and ispopular with a younger audience. Thenumber one viewed microbiologyvideo on
We are notalone
(http://tinyurl.com/5xyqu6).It has had 257,451 views and beenawarded a 5-star rating by the viewers.
Photos.com / Jupiter Images