Animating Conversations Around Energy Development
An AER video series makes complex topics more accessible
You shouldn’t have to be an engineer, geologist, seismologist, or biologist to understand what’s going on in Alberta’s oilpatch.
When Albertans asked for clear, straightforward information about oil and gas activity, the AER saw the need to communicate our work from a different perspective. It was time to pool our experts’ knowledge and deliver the facts in a more creative and transparent way. Umpteen brainstorming sessions later, Conversations that Matter, an animated video series, was born.
Conversations that Matter gives Albertans easy-to-understand information about energy development and regulation in their province. Each episode makes sense of a complex, highly technical topic by presenting it in an accessible way; animation, plain language, candid storytelling, and relatable characters help break down technical material and industry terms for all audiences to understand.
The videos offer a tonic to Alberta’s sometimes confusing energy sector and the regulatory structure that keeps it in check. Feedback from Albertans gathered over the past decade point to specific concerns including safety, environmental protection, and incident response.
With these key areas in mind, dozens of subject matter experts have worked together to provide credible and objective information in a digestible format. Fran Hein, senior geological advisor, lent her technical expertise to the episode “How Big are the Oil Sands?”
She said one of the project’s greatest challenges was translating complex terms into more common language. “Moving away from the specialized language we use among our colleagues was difficult,” explained Hein.
“Initially, I thought animation would make the videos seem less scientific and would make them lose meaning. But it’s part of our mandate to inform the public. As scientists, we should be able to communicate with those who don’t have that background.”
“As things came together, I realized the animation and plain language makes the subject matter more approachable, to the point where Albertans can actually identify with the characters and their level of understanding.”
By reducing technical language and adopting an Albertans-first approach, Conversations that Matter invites anyone to become aware of and learn more about energy regulation. Each video then becomes a tool that people can use to assess the AER’s work and be able to hold us accountable for it.
“It’s a rewarding experience, to effectively deliver the same, transparent information to everyone regardless of their background knowledge,” said Hein.
This kind of approach is new and unconventional, and it’s working. Since its official release in October 2015, Conversations that Matter has been viewed almost 60,000 times on YouTube and has been shown at conferences, trade shows, and other events worldwide.
But the conversation’s not over yet. In fact, the series just expanded to the topic of hydraulic fracturing.
Conversations that Matter can be viewed on YouTube.