GW students give national Webcam craze mixed reviews

Webcams are becoming popular items for students eager to star in their own shows on the Internet and save money on long-distance calls.

Students are buying small, digital cameras that connect to a personal computer, allowing users to capture images and broadcast them on the Internet.

Users can use their computers to talk to family and friends on the Internet instead of calling long distance. Students with Webcams can see live video and chat with a person at another computer. In order for the interactive call to work, both parties must own a Webcam. Intel’s Webcam, a brand used by some students on campus, allows students to speak to other users regardless of their camera’s brand name.

Whether students are giving a virtual tour of their residence hall room, communicating with a picture or simply taking a photo, more and more students are purchasing Webcams, according to an article in The New York Times. Most students report that the cameras are inexpensive (they sell for less than $50) and operating them only requires a computer.

Since the movie American Pie depicted a character broadcasting a sexual encounter on the Internet, Webcams have captured the attention of young adults across the country.

Some college students already have capitalized on the growing interest by creating a Web site that offers footage of the everyday lives of 25 students. WebDorm (www.webdorm.com) is reminiscent of movies such as The Truman Show and Ed TV. The site does not broadcast any sex, drugs or nudity.

According to the article in The New York Times, several WebDorm participants have achieved near-celebrity status around college campuses.

Although Webcam technology gives people the power to create their own versions of MTV’s The Real World and change the way they call home, GW students said they are not quite ready to forgo their televisions and AT&T phone service just yet.

I wasn’t even thinking about bringing it to school because it was just a waste, said freshman Arezoo Riahi, who owns a Webcam, but does not know anyone else who owns one.

Other students said they found a use for their cameras but have experienced technical difficulties.

It’s useful, said sophomore Brad Stein, who bought a new laptop computer two years ago. It’s practical, but I can’t use it because my computer does not work that well. On (my parents’) end it works very well.

Sophomore Adam Laitman said he tried to use his camera to make a picture of himself to put on the desktop of his computer, but he said it did not come out well.

Freshman Chris Darmanin got his Webcam just before he came to school. He said he uses his camera to communicate with his parents and brother who live in the San Francisco Bay area.

It wasn’t too useful at first because I had an Ethernet connection and my parents had a phone-line connection, but as soon as they got a (digital subscriber line) it worked awesome, Darmanin said.

I think as more and more computers become faster . every computer is going to have one, said Darmanin. Why not everybody have video conferencing through their phone line? And it’s cheap, too.

But students said so far they do not feel confident enough to be the next member of the WebDorm.

I think it’s more or less a wave of the future but just has not caught on yet, Laitman said.

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