Bringing People Together with Streaming Media

This evening I helped put on a live video webcast [archive webcast link] for an event where I really felt like the webcast served a practical and necessary purpose, allowing many more people to view the event than could fit in the venue.

The event was an open forum to tackle “Racism, Power and Privilege” at the University of Illinois, where I work (and once studied). It was held in the university’s largest auditorium, which holds 1750 people, and was filled to capacity. So two overflow rooms were arranged to watch the webcast, where I’m told there were about 640 people in attendance.

It’s a very important event for this time at Illinois, where the racial climate has been becoming more tense and hostile. The pressure to retire the university’s racist mascot continues to rise while it seems like a lot of the majority white students refuse to acknowledge their privileged position. Two recent scandals have shone light on the problem of Illinois’ racial climate. One involves hateful violent messages posted about Native Americans to a Facebook group called “If They Get Rid of the Chief I’m Becoming a Racist.” Another regards a “Tacos and Tequila” party thrown by a frat and sorority last fall where attendees came dressed up as the most noxious racial stereotypes.

The student group that organized the forum had to put a lot of pressure on some administrators just to attend the forum and listen to concerns of students. These same students have been coming under fire themselves for daring to stand up against the embedded racist attitudes prevalent amongst a privileged white student population. Some of the organizers talked about receiving death threats and constant harassing emails.

From the packed house in the auditorium to the long lines of people who queued up to speak, it was clear how necessary the forum was and how pent up the demand was. Aside from using the university’s sports arena, there really wasn’t a venue to hold everyone who wanted to be a part of this event.

While watching a live webcast isn’t the same as being at the event, I think the overflow rooms serve a similar purpose because they allow hundreds more people to watch together. And those who couldn’t make it into any of the venues could still watch from their desktops.

While I’m a big proponent of using the internet to distribute video, I often feel like live webcasts of some events are really more window-dressing than something truly useful. You get bragging rights for having a live webcast, even if very few people tune in.

Today, the live webcast was not just trophy but served a real purpose that would have been difficult to pull off (especially so cheaply) without streaming media technology. I feel lucky to have been asked to help make it happen.



, ,




One response to “Bringing People Together with Streaming Media”

  1. […] the elimination of the Chief will not single-handedly undo the racial tensions on this campus caused by middle-class white kids flaunting their privilege, as seen with things like the […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *