Democratizing History on The Internet: How Crash Course Makes History Lessons into Entertainment.

Crash Course is a Youtube channel featuring numerous educational videos on a wide range of topics. From literature to psychology and chemistry to ecology, the series tackles the fundamentals of numerous subjects in 5-10 minute videos. What makes Crash Course unique among many of the educational youtube channels is how successful it is at making their videos both engaging and accessible, without cutting corners on accuracy. The videos ratain one’s attention and don’t become overwhelming. The speaker in the videos, John Green, manages to explain often complex topics in a way that almost anyone can understand and learn from.

One of the more popular series of these videos is Crash Course: World History.

This series attempts to teach about numerous subjects in world history, such as debt and famine, in an entertaining, yet factual way. In this I think it succeeds far better than many museum exhibits. Unconstrained by the need for physical objects or space, and not needed to remain focused on specifics times or places. Crash Course videos tackle these broad subjects with examples from throughout history. If you’ve ever been curious about debt and it’s history, but don’t have time to read a 500 page book on the subject, then the Crash Course video on it does an excellent job explaining several prevalent theories about money and debt from the classical beliefs of Adam Smith to the more modern theories of David Graeber.

What I think makes this video series great is it’s mass appeal. These are videos that could be shown to school-age children in a classroom, enjoyed by an adult or home, or shown to friends as a neat youtube channel. In this way, and due to the nature of the internet, Crash Course becomes exponentially more accessible to the public at large than any museum can hope to be. Obviously, this creates a certain risk, since the people behind Crash Course don’t have the kind of pressure to be completely accurate that museums do. They won’t be fired for being wrong and could easily present a skewed version of facts to push their own agenda. Fortunately, this is where a particular strength of the internet as a whole comes in. With so many thousands of fans, if a video were to be grossly inaccurate, the comments on the video would be filled with calls for corrections, and in fear of losing fans, the Crash Course series has a strong desire to remain as accurate and impartial as possible, while remaining entertaining and accessible.

The internet as thoroughly transformed the way in which people get information today. Unfortunately, due to it’s nature the amount of inaccurate information available is quite large and often a problem. Fortunately, there plenty of people out there, from those behind wikipedia to those behind Crash Course, who strive to make sure there is accurate information available, and in the case of Crash Course, that it be entertaining and accessible to as many as possible. This democratization of information is the same thing so many museums are attempting to do today with their generally smaller audiences.



3 thoughts on “Democratizing History on The Internet: How Crash Course Makes History Lessons into Entertainment.

  1. This post immediately caught my attention because I wasn’t expecting a YouTube channel to be compared to a museum. As you pointed out, the channel is so easily accessible because it is shown on a public website; all ages can access this information at will. Not only is it easily accessible, but it is also free. I believe we touched on this in one of our earlier discussion, that museums are sometimes pricey and some people just can’t afford to go. This channel throws the information out there for everyone at a price that even a squirrel can afford. Since I am interested in biology and how the body works I watched the video entitled “Biology#7,” about how the body produces ATP for cellular respiration and energy. I thought that he moved a little fast between some points and needed to explain more, even somebody mentioned that in comments. I like you mentioned a little snippet about how comments are a great way to obtain feedback, but can also be a place where people will harshly correct you for saying something wrong. Although the only negative comment I saw was some guy saying “Nerd going to the gym that joke made my day,” other than that the channel’s post seem accurate and dependable. I know I will definitely use this channel in the future as a study aide.


  2. This was a very interesting post. Compared to the ones we have seen so far it is a refreshing change. I watched most of the Crash Course video on Money and Debt and found it really interesting, which is surprising because I have no interest in economics. I find the concept that the creation of coinage made slavery possible shocking. Something else I enjoyed about the video was the quote they discussed that pertained to the possible use of money “The treasury is based upon mining, the army upon the treasury; he who has the army and the treasury may conquer the earth.” Basically that money made war more possible and appealing.


  3. I greatly enjoyed this post and the Crash Course channel. The videos are highly entertaining and keep me interested. Even topics that are usually hard to understand or are not the most appealing to learn about I found very informative. I watched the video about “Romeo and Juliet Part 1” which was very funny and I love the graphics of the videos. The videos are simple but eye-catching. My only concern is because the videos are “unconstrained by the need for physical objects or space, and not needed to remain focused on specifics times or places.” Are these the type of things that could (or are currently starting to) potentially replace museums? If not replace at least greatly affect museums? Or could museums also learn from these videos? It could be a nice change for museums to create videos that are informative and entertaining. They could talk about their current exhibits and even their collections that have not been out for a while due to the nature of persevering them and then post them to their many forms of social media. A new move forward for museums? (That is if they have not started this already).


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