Ark app aims to strengthen student connections on campus
By Fiona Kirby
May 30, 2014 1:20 a.m.
Students will soon be able to post their short messages and pictures to the monitors in Northern Lights, Jimmy’s Coffee House and Kerckhoff Hall by submitting their information to a new app.
The app, called Ark, is currently in beta testing and will launch in three weeks. Students can currently sign up for the app prior to its launch and learn more about it on its website, which went live Thursday evening.
The content currently on the screens comes from 15 students acting as beta testers, said Justin Boogaard, a UCLA alumnus and the founder of Ark Broadcasting. Through the app, students will be able to share text and pictures through their phones.
Roy Champawat, the student union director, said the Ark monitors are a way for Associated Students UCLA to help facilitate student interaction. While Champawat thinks that social media has lessened the amount of time students spend socializing in the student union, Ark would be a way of continuing to connect students.
“How many students does it touch? That’s our currency,” Champawat said.
Boogaard said he paid for all the monitors and set-up expenses himself. Champawat said the monitors, which were installed earlier this year, were not meant as an advertising source, but as a way to help connect students.
Boogaard said he got the idea for an app to share student endeavors after he made a YouTube video with friends, and it was only viewed about 150 times online.
“I saw the mtvU (television) screen, and I was really frustrated because I thought, here’s an opportunity to showcase student work and student talent,” he said.
Originally, the monitors were just meant to play student videos. But after Boogaard realized it is difficult for students to produce videos during the school year, he and his development team created a computer app for students to submit pictures, text and slideshows.
He said he hopes the Ark monitors and app help create a virtual student union through which students who are not necessarily friends can connect and see each other’s content.
People of UCLA, a Facebook photography project run by second-year art and art history student Rachel Berkowitz, has had its pictures and quotes displayed on the screen.
After the monitors went up, Berkowitz said her Facebook page received about 300 more likes, which she thought was a small but noticeable change. She said she liked the idea that every UCLA student can submit content to the app.
Asmita Paranjape, a first-year computer science student and the publicity chair of the Engineering Society of UCLA, said she thinks her club will be interested in using Ark Broadcasting because members are always looking to bring more people to their events.
“(The club) can be kind of intimidating because it’s so broad, so this would be a good way to show names and faces,” she said.
Arvli Ward, the director of student media at UCLA, said student media has a small deal with ASUCLA to sell ads on the monitors. He said the ads have not yet brought in much revenue, but the monitors have only been up for a couple weeks.
“It’s kind of an example of everybody getting into the advertising game. … Now, all kinds of parts of our university have some marketing opportunity,” he said.
Boogaard said he hopes to promote the Ark app to UCLA students, while also targeting incoming freshmen.