"People seem to really enjoy the mix of humour and intelligence": science humour in online settings

part of Science and South Park, Reddit and Facebook, Leonardo da Vinci and the Vitruvian Man, and modern fairy tales about emerging technologies: science communication and popular culture

This commentary considers the topics of humour and online settings. Both have received increasing attention amongst researchers and practitioners of science communication, and both raise numerous questions around the role of informality and enjoyment in the spread of information. However, online settings also provide a great range of data with which to address these questions. Here I suggest that close consideration of technical infrastructure plays an important role in this data collection. I shall do so using case studies drawn from two popular participatory websites, reddit and Facebook, which display contrasting attitudes towards using humour. I argue that these attitudes are partly products of the different tools provided by the pages for users to show appreciation, which affect the appearance of content on the websites. I also suggest that these tools allow users to appreciate jokes in multiple ways, and by extension might provide researchers with methods for assessing different forms of engagement.