Dartmouth expands web presence with YouTube channel

| 11/18/09 11:00pm
When computer science professor Hany Farid released a study affirming the legitimacy of an oft-disputed photograph of Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald earlier this month, the College's Office of Public Affairs posted a press release online  and also uploaded a video on Farid's findings to YouTube.

The video is one of the latest entries on Dartmouth's official YouTube channel, and with over 26,000 views in less than two weeks is the channel's all-time most-watched video.

In fall 2008, with the assistance of Google senior manager Jon Murchinson '91, Dartmouth administrators consolidated an unofficial channel created in 2005 and secured name rights.

OPA, which is responsible for promoting the College via print, electronic and event-based communications like "Vox of Dartmouth" and Dartmouth's Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, administers the account.

"The YouTube channel is meant to be a catch-all telling the stories of Dartmouth, " Rick Adams, OPA's director of web and print publications, said in an interview.

Adams characterized his office's role in operating the streaming video channel as "offer[ing] the service," rather than controlling the content.

In the case of Farid's video, Adams said, OPA approached the professor with the idea and organized the logistics of the shoot. More often, he said, campus individuals or organizations seek out the OPA to publicize their video content.

The official channel now boasts over 1,000 subscribers and a total of 296 videos covering a broad spectrum of Dartmouth-centric subjects. A number of videos are full-length recordings of on-campus lectures by professors. Others are sit-down examinations of a professor's research, edited down to a few minutes, such as one recent upload with English professor Donald Pease speaking on "The rise of birthers' and tea party goers.'"

A video uploaded Wednesday presents "You Can't Get There From Here," a one-woman play Anne Galjour performed at Hopkins Center last spring.

One of the channel's most-watched videos includes highlights from Dartmouth Night, the Friday of Homecoming. The video depicts the building of the bonfire and athletic teams singing the Alma Mater as the fire is lit.

Patricia Erwin-Ploog, associate director for administration and external affairs at the Rockefeller Center, emphasized in an interview with The Dartmouth the importance of uploading a diversity of video.

"If we started this channel that was just academic, who would watch it?" she said.

The Rockefeller Center, one of the top contributors to the Dartmouth YouTube channel, has 30 video entries alone.

In the past, the only way to watch Rockefeller Center public lectures, all of which the center records in their entirety, was on DVDs available to students through Jones Media Center, according to Erwin-Ploog.

Partnering with OPA, Rocky lectures are for the first time available to a universal audience.

"It was a long-standing wish to get [the programs] more broadly distributed to people," Erwin-Ploog said. "And YouTube seemed the perfect tool."

Farid said that he believes it is "extremely important" for the findings of the academic world, and particularly the sciences, to be disseminated as broadly as possible.

As a "YouTube partner" a video provider that owns or has express permission to use its original content Dartmouth is exempt from the traditional 10-minute video time limit.

"We have the option of posting longer videos," Adams said, citing as an example the over-two-hour-long recording of College President Jim Young Kim's inauguration.

The ceremony was also condensed into a seven-minute "Inauguration Highlights." Editing events into clips, Adams said, helps videos go viral.

Farid referred to the editing process as "rounding the corners."

Although he said that he finds the abridgement slightly regrettable, Farid also agreed that if the video is too long, "people are going to tune out."

Farid's Oswald video, five minutes in length, was edited down from a full hour of footage.

OPA is interested in providing more student-generated and -centric media, according to Sarah Horton, the director of web strategy, design, and infrastructure for Dartmouth.

Working with the Admissions Office, OPA conducted a contest in fall 2008 to increase student visibility on the Dartmouth channel.

Students were asked to create videos that demonstrate the phrase, "Show prospies why you love Dartmouth."

Due to low participation, the contest page has since been shut down.