Youtube draws students for use in extracurricular activities

Students are increasingly flocking to YouTube – a popular video-sharing Web site developed last year – as a means to promote extracurricular activities.

YouTube was founded by friends and former Paypal employees Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim in San Bruno, Calif., and today the Web site offers visitors about 100 million videos per day; 65,000 of which are changed daily.

According to YouTube press releases, videos viewed on the YouTube Web site, www.youtube.com, account for nearly 60 percent of all videos viewed on the Internet.

One student group contributing to the massive amount of videoed humor on YouTube is GW’s improv comedy group, Recess. This is the first year the student group has used YouTube to upload videos originally produced for their comedy shows.

Christopher Singel said the group faced one problem with YouTube that he and fellow Recess members had not expected.

“A lot of people online apparently don’t understand that videos put online by comedy groups are supposed to be a joke,” Singel said. “Some people thought we were being seriously offensive.”

Singel said he characterizes a majority of the humor displayed in YouTube videos as juvenile.

“People on YouTube wouldn’t know funny if it hit them in the face,” Singel said.

Freshmen Tim Swenson and Ytit Chauhan said they used YouTube to aid their campaigns for Residential Advisory Council president and vice president of Thurston Hall. YouTube made news last month when candidates for the national midterm elections were uploading campaign videos to reach more voters.

“We were going through the campaign and we realized we wanted something to kind of blow them away,” Swenson said. “Everyone really liked the ad (on YouTube). It gave us some more legitimacy and showed people that we were really committed.”

Like many students, freshmen Kevin Geiser and Richard Liou frequently search the Web site for entertainment.

“It’s a great place to find videos of anything,” Geiser said. “Clips from TV or movies, funny homemade videos, that TV show you remember from your childhood.”

Geiser admits being the star of one YouTube video, but added that he is like most GW students and acts predominantly as a viewer.

“The best part of YouTube is all the unintentional humor you find. Foreign game shows, bloopers from live television, it’s always funny to watch someone get thoroughly embarrassed,” said Liou, adding that YouTube has become the standard among Internet video sites.

Julie Barko Germany, deputy director of GW’s Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet, said that YouTube can be an effective public relations tool if used in the right way.

“People go on YouTube every day to catch TV clips and watch viral videos,” she said. “But it’s not effective to post your normal ad; you need to stand out. It’s good for funny spots or political attack ads because that’s what people want to see.”

A perfect example of the type of advertisement or caught-on-tape-controversy is former Sen.George Allen (R-Va.) being caught on tape using the term “macaca,” a racial slur, while on the campaign trail.

“YouTube has spawned trackers – campaign volunteers that follow opposing candidates with video cameras – and that gave us macaca” she said, adding that the incident helped transform Allen’s campaign from a sure-win to a narrow loss.

Internet conglomerate Google recently purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion. Geiser said he feared Google’s control would make YouTube “corporate” and destroy the decentralized community that provides its content. Germany said she thinks the acquisition will be beneficial.

“Google may improve YouTube’s layout, which is currently very difficult to navigate,” Germany said.

She said, however, that YouTube won’t sustain its current form far into the future.

“What we think of now as television and the Internet are going to merge (and) there won’t be any distinction made,” Germany said. “You’ll have TV on your computer and the Internet on your television.”

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