14 November 2007

YouTube as a vehicle to social change

This week is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and 50+ students at Champlain are recognizing it by participating in Tent City. This week-long on-campus student-led service project designed to simulate homelessness and raise money for Burlington's COTS (Committee on Temporary Shelter) program.

If you were on campus, you wouldn't be able to ignore the issue of homelessness. But what about those that aren't on campus? For that, there's YouTube.

Thanks to the ever inspiring Rob Williams for getting out there and talking to our students about this project. But more so, thanks for putting this out into the world for others to catch.

I've posted before about the value of YouTube, but it this notion of YouTube as a vehicle for social change that I think is particularly interesting and exciting. Perhaps it's the Henry Jenkins I've been reading, but the opportunity for students, or in this case faculty, to use social media as a way to increase awareness and participation without having to wait for the powers that be to come down to see the work in progress seems pretty radical, pretty exciting, and pretty 2.0 to me.

"Come on, Sheck," one might say, "look at how much ridiculous stuff is out on YouTube." Perhaps. But look at how much ridiculous stuff is on our traditional news sources as well. This reminds me of this interview I read in MIT's Technology Review with Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg. He points out that there is a wide variety of stories that come across Digg, and that it is up to users to determine what is going to be on the front page. The same is true for YouTube. During the protests in Myanmar, YouTube was a vital site for seeing what was really happening.

The same is true for its effectiveness in connecting students with homelessness at Champlain. By posting it in YouTube, we are able to archive the experience and the importance of TentCity for our students or anyone that searches Champlain College in a popular site like YouTube. If nothing else, hasn't the infatuation with reality tv and YouTube shown that we all like to be movie stars? Doesn't our highlighting it in such a way also encourage participation and demonstrate value beyond the traditional community to our students but also to the homeless community in Burlington? Isnt' that taking us further down the road to awareness and action and social change?

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