Do you like to explore different ways of thinking and find new things to consider? Then you’ll want to check out the PBS Idea Channel.
Part of the PBS Digital Studios suite of educational short-form programs made for YouTube, the PBS Idea Channel is hosted by composer, programmer and performer Mike Rugnetta. Each week, the channel makes classroom-friendly episodes that take a philosophical dive into everything from Pokémon fan theories to cocktail glasses to the American Apparel Hoodie. The videos are incredibly well researched and well written, and they often use questions and narrative to weave together science, art, philosophy and other modes of thinking into one fast-paced, TED Talk-adjacent lesson at a time. Videos are sometimes stylized to fit their subject matter, such as this episode on “The Bee Movie.”
But, unlike similar YouTube shows, Idea Channel has a very important added element: a series of comment response episodes that accompany their regular programming. Rugnetta keeps his audience engaged and furthers the discussion by selecting comments from the previous video’s comment section and the channel’s subreddit; he uses them as a jumping off point to further discussion on counterpoints and other ideas that the original video brought up.
Members of the audience, in a way, participate in somewhat of a democratic process by up-voting comments they would like to see discussed in the comment response or by echoing similar points in their own comments. The comments become audience input into future episodes and the creators of the Idea Channel learn more about their audience. So, in a way, the comment response videos create a culture around the channel.
Videos with similar formats might soon become more popular. Humans are naturally social creatures and wish to communicate and be in a greater collective with other people. Many people go to YouTube for this reason: to see people discussing or just reacting to things that they enjoy as a substitute or in addition to normal human social interaction. These comment response style videos allow for the audience to participate in the media they consume as well as create a community of shared ideas around the media.
Watch the PBS Idea Channel and other great short form programs on the PBS Digital Studios channels here: youtube.com/user/pbsdigitalstudios
Side note: you’ll want to be sure to check the IDEA Channel out soon. Mike Rugnetta announced that IDEA Channel is ending, and the last episode is scheduled to be posted on the week of Aug. 28. The last comment response video will post on the week of Sept. 4. All episodes will still be available through the provided links.
Jacob Levy is a junior at Hendrix College, a DJ at KHDX 93.1, an artist and a poet. He loves learning and helping people find new ways to connect to the human experience through art. He is very happy to be interning in the AETN marketing and outreach department for the summer.