Journalism and Mass Communication senior Stephanie Linka’s final assignment for her “Social Media” class is an academic project on how one Internet video went viral – that is going viral in its own right. Now at over 1000 views, her video chronicles the rise in popularity of Internet phenomenon “Caine’s Arcade,” the short film about of a young boy in East Los Angeles whose cardboard arcade games have inspired both children and adults around the world.
In her project, Stephanie drew on her background as a PR firm intern to calculate the viewer impressions the original film had and integrated that data into her classroom studies of social network theory. Using photos and music and iMovie, she condensed her findings into a 3:35 minute video incorporating the theories of experts Clay Shirky and Henry Jenkins, among others. Once the project was online, class professor Dr. Nikki Usher tweeted the work out to the same experts mentioned in the original film, as well as the original filmmaker himself.
“For this class, I didn't want to assign students a traditional paper. In keeping with the idea of social media, what they produced had to be spreadable and sharable,” said Professor Usher. “I wanted to see how they could apply course concepts and theories to explain real online and ICT (information and communication technology) phenomenons-- as well as some of their offline interests.”
To her great surprise, as the link was tweeted and retweeted by those experts and other interested fans, Stephanie’s own work quickly gained its own popularity.
“You don’t necessarily think a project you make for a class will reach the academics you quote, but today we have all these tools that allow us to converse directly with the people we’re reading,” Stephanie said. “College and academic work isn’t as stagnant and isolated as I thought it was before this project.”
Stephanie, who graduates this week and will soon begin a teaching position with Teach for America in Baltimore, was drawn to the original short film because of her interest in children and the entrepreneurial spirit shown by the little boy in the film, Caine Monroy. Not only has the original film had over a million views, but a foundation and a scholarship fund have raised thousands of dollars from people inspired by the film’s story. Filmmaker Nirvan Mullick showed Stephanie’s video to a gathering of the foundation’s supporters last weekend.
“Taking your academic texts and finding out how far you can take them into the real world is important part of today’s learning environment,” Stephanie said.
See Stephanie's video below: