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From the Chairs: Reflections on CHI 97

Mike Atwood

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SIGCHI-sponsored conferences are the largest forum that SIGCHI provides for SIGCHI members. We hope that those of you who participate in designing, implementing, and attending these forums will continue to view them as an effective means to share information, renew old friendships, form new friendships, and to share, receive, and generate intellectual energy. These conferences are also the best time for the Executive Committee to get a sense of how our membership would like to see our society, conferences, and activities evolve. In writing this column to reflect on CHI 97, we focus on conference events that we believe will have a significant and immediate impact on our evolution as a profession and as a professional society -- international issues, local SIGs, and CHIkids.

International Issues

While we would very much like to claim that SIGCHI is an international organization, it is more accurate to claim that we are a society with members from many countries and that we are trying to become an international society. To counter the perception that ACM and SIGCHI are primarily US-centered groups, we need to have a better understanding of how SIGCHI relates to the national societies in many countries and how SIGCHI members from different cultures relate to one another.

One of the new activities at CHI 97 was the Development Consortium, funded by the ACM/SIGCHI Development Fund. As we look to the future of HCI, one of our goals must be to continue to develop HCI as a field by reaching out to professionals within HCI and related disciplines who usually do not have the opportunity to share their work and their experiences with colleagues at the CHI conference.

The goal of the Development Consortium for 1997 was to bring together the current CHI community and related groups that are normally unable to participate because of structural-financial-economic reasons, focusing on HCI-related communities from countries with soft currency. Consortium participants met both in closed workshop sessions and in open sessions to share their work. We want to thank Gerrit van der Veer, Austin Henderson, and John "Scooter" Morris for defining, implementing, and leading this Development Consortium. The Development Consortium was a significant step in helping SIGCHI transition from "becoming" an international society to "being" one. We also thank the Development Consortium participants; we hope you benefited from this experience and we hope to continue to have opportunities to interact with you!

One session in which many Development Consortium participants contributed was the SIG on "Improving International Cooperation & Communication in SIGCHI", initiated by Guy Boy, and organized by David Novick, John Karat, and Michel Beaudouin-Lafon. This session raised several issues, one of which was that one conference SIG session would raise issues, but could not resolve them. One recommendation, therefore, was the creation of an international advisory board to give guidance to SIGCHI on international issues.

Guy Boy is leading a task force to develop recommendations for actions in support of SIGCHI's internationalization efforts and to define the roles and responsibilities of an International Advisory Board. This task force currently has members from over a dozen countries and the initial issues being addressed include:

  • plan for working with cooperating societies
  • plan for international research cooperation
  • SIGCHI sponsorship of traveling tutorials
  • CHI tutorials on different research traditions
  • local SIG support
  • CFP and review guidelines
  • submission mentoring
  • Web page translation.

We thank the members of this task force for their participation and look forward to seeing their report this October.

Because the CHI 97 Development Consortium demonstrated the value of bringing together groups that are normally unable to participate in the CHI community, the program will continue in CHI 98, where the focus will be on teachers of age groups from 9 to 18 who are attempting to utilize computers as an educational tool within their classrooms. This event will provide an opportunity for teachers to contribute to how computers are being used in educational settings and how HCI research and development might improve the use of computers in the classroom.

Local SIGs

Local SIGs are one of the growth areas in the SIGCHI community. Currently, we have over two dozen current or prospective groups in nine countries. These local SIGs provide a means for SIGCHI members and others to exchange information on HCI-related issues. Many of the local groups hold regular meetings and distribute newsletters; some offer tutorials or other "special events".

When a new local SIG is formed, the organizers must answer many questions, such as: How do we attract members? What activities should we offer? What support can we get from ACM and SIGCHI? Of course, the best sources of information on these questions comes from other local SIGs. The problem here, is how to get the local SIGs connected together.

At CHI 97, Richard Anderson, SIGCHI's Adjunct Chair for Local SIGs and Lina Iaccarino, ACM Program Director for Local Activities, organized a one-day meeting for local SIG leaders to provide them a forum for learning and sharing. We want to thank Richard for championing this idea and Lina for supporting it.

The energy and enthusiasm at the local SIGs meeting was impressive. It is clear that the local SIGs have much to offer each other and the SIGCHI community at large and that SIGCHI should actively support and nurture the local SIGs. We hope that the dialogs that this meeting initiated among the local SIGs, the SIGCHI Executive Committee, and the ACM Local Activities staff continues throughout the year and that a similar meeting be held at CHI 98.

For more information on local SIGs, refer to the local SIGs column in the SIGCHI Bulletin and visit the local SIGs web site at http://www.acm.org/sigchi/local-sigs/.

If you can't find a local SIG in your area, why not start one? Richard Anderson can help you get started.

CHIkids

Visit the web site from the CHI 97 CHIkids program at http://www.acm.org/sigchi/chi97/chikids/. There you will learn that "CHIkids rolls summer camp, technology, and CHI into an exciting experience. This program offers an opportunity for young people to explore computers, technology and user interface design."

CHIkids "premiered" at the CHI 96 conference. At both CHI 96 and CHI 97, CHIkids caused many in the SIGCHI community to rethink issues such as the role of technology in education, how interactive systems are evaluated, and how the SIGCHI community should be involved in education. In addition, the daily newsletters produced by the CHIkids gave many conference attendees a new look on the conference.

While the CHIkids program has made significant changes to the annual CHI conferences, its impact goes well beyond the conferences. CHIkids has caused many in the SIGCHI community to broaden their view of what HCI is, how to do good HCI, and who is in the SIGCHI community. In addition, CHIkids is an excellent example of how to design and implement new programs in the SIGCHI community and we thank Allison Druin for setting this example.

In summary, international issues, local SIGs, and CHIkids are the events we noted at CHI 97 that we believe will have a significant and immediate impact on our evolution as a profession and as a professional society. We look forward to both working with you to address these challenges and to identify new ones.

New Executive Committee

A couple of other items. We are pleased to announce that David Riederman has joined the ACM staff as SIGCHI's Program Director. He can be contacted at riederman@hq.acm.org or at +1 212 626 0614.

Welcome to the new Executive Committee members who took office 1 July 1997. Contact information is, as usual, inside the front cover of the Bulletin. The Executive Committee consists of Mike Atwood (Chair), Guy Boy (Executive Vice Chair), Bob Mack (Operations), Gerrit van der Veer (Conferences), Dan Olsen (Publications), Jean Scholtz (Finance), and Cathleen Wharton (Communications).

Mike & Guy

chi-chair@acm.org,
chi-executive-vc@acm.org

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Vol.29 No.4, October 1997
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