Our first objective with any of our videos is to take our scholars' research (which is often dense and aimed at experts) and adapt it into a compelling video product that can be enjoyed by a broader audience.
The reThink Tank series specifically aims to challenge prevailing cultural and media narratives. In this case, our goal is to get viewers to rethink the war on terror. The policy for three administrations in a row has been to defeat terror across the globe by killing our enemies on the battlefield. But what if our enemy can't be killed, because it's not a group of people, but a fringe ideology?
Because our work is driven by data, our aim is not to shock people, but rather use a popular narrative as a hook to engage audiences and to get them to think critically about issues; whether our audience members agree with the ideas presented is irrelevant to our goals. This is true whether the viewer is a student or someone in a position to implement the policies our scholars suggest.
Lastly, because of the sensitive nature of the topic and the partisan rhetoric surrounding it, we needed to make sure the content was presented in a neutral and respectful manner so as to do justice to the people involved, the ideas presented, and to uphold the American Enterprise Institute's dedication to a competition of ideas unconstrained by inflammatory partisanship.
Our strategy begins by condensing a sprawling research report into a three act structure with a strong narrative arc. The resulting video will be concise and accessible to viewers of any experience level.
We allow our scholars to present their own research in the video, which allows for a tangible and human connection between the data and our audience. Our filming techniques and motion graphics are designed to further make the material and data accessible and interesting to a broad audience and also serve the story we are telling. For example, we used a holographic style reminiscent of military heads-up displays for the animations in this particular video to fit the style the topic demands.
By releasing our video through YouTube, it allows our scholars' ideas to remain easily accessible and to reach the broadest possible audience. We also design thumbnail images that stand out with easily readable text and imagery to help with discoverability of our videos.
The healthy performance and engagement that this video received on YouTube is evidence that we have succeeded in translating the scholar's work into a video that can reach an audience beyond the demographic the report would have otherwise. The response is indicative of an audience that is willing to consider ideas that might run contrary to their own preconceptions, and fostering such a critical evaluation of ideas — outside of political bias — is the ultimate goal of AEI video products.
AEI operates independently of any political party and does not take institutional positions on any issues. AEI scholars, fellows, and their guests frequently take positions on policy and other issues. When they do, they speak for themselves and not for AEI or its trustees or other scholars or employees.
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