University creates first how-to course for viral videos

YouTube may not be a profit machine yet, but it can be big business, and limitless free marketing, for the people who put videos on it. Validation of cultural realities previously thought of as throwaway come through academic settings, and as proof, Northwestern University, near Chicago, has launched the world's first college class dedicated to viral videos.

Viral videos, in case you don't know, are those little short movies you see on the web. They're the inspirational/maddening/funny ones your friends send links to in e-mails and spread like wildfire, hence the nickname: Diabolical groundhogs, little boys high on the dentist's drugs, spinster singers blowing Simon Cowell away on one of those British shows we can't see. They're conversation pieces, albeit for very short conversations that usually begin with "Did you see.." and end with "...That was great."

Although some are heralding YouTube, Twitter, and Digg as proof of the democratization of the media, others see them as not much more than new delivery systems for ads and shallow self-promotion. Even the Pope has a YouTube channel, and he's not doing it for the art of it. Indeed, the Northwestern students aren't just studying viral videos as a social phenomenon worthy of cultural critique, but also how to make their own and seed the ground for their success.