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You are here: Home 2004 Vol.36 No.2, March/April 2004 Local SIGS - Connecting the HCI ‘diaspora’
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Local SIGS - Connecting the HCI ‘diaspora’

Apala Lahiri Chavan, our new Vice Chair for Local Chapters discusses her vision for Local Chapter involvement: "think globally, act locally."

Becoming part of something that is such a well-oiled machine (as SIGCHI) is both a pleasure and a challenge! It’s a pleasure because everything works so well! It’s a challenge because everything works so well… and you have to think hard about what you can do to make things better.

It is however, without doubt, an amazing opportunity to ‘think global and act local’. The CHI conference and the local SIGS workshop each year has been a highlight for me as a HCI practitioner living and working in India, largely isolated from global HCI activity. Without the CHI conference and the SIGs workshop, it would have been extremely unlikely for many of us to have pursued our careers in this area.

It is one of the most powerful forums for the HCI ‘diaspora’ (imagining the CHI conference as the metaphorical birthplace of the HCI community) to converge and draw sustenance from. And it is precisely this ‘diaspora’ aspect that I feel very strongly about.

How does the diaspora strengthen its connections with its roots when its not possible to meet in the same physical space? In fact, not even in the same time zone! How do we build on the momentum that is always generated at the CHI conference?

SIGCHI has put together several means of strengthening the HCI ‘diaspora’ and its commitment to the cause is the very reason why I am where I am today, in the Vice Chair for Local SIGs position. However, I feel that there is a need to look at ways and means by which we can keep the ‘diaspora’ more connected throughout the year and not just feel out this connection at the CHI conference.

How can we achieve this? There are several possibilities and I would like to present three varied options:

  • A global web site for the HCI ‘diaspora’? A web site that is global and embraces all local SIGs but is local in as much as showcasing information from local SIGs and providing links to local sites. Even more important, a web site for the diaspora, of the diaspora and by the diaspora. Yes, why not have a global committee develop this site? Once that’s done, perhaps then distribute the local SIGs into 3 or 4 regions in the world and have 1 region manage the site every quarter.
  • What about pairing local SIGs from opposite ends of the world? So, we could have experienced and ‘veteran’ local SIGs based in the USA paired with relatively new chapters from other parts of the world. Much like the concept of ‘twin’ or ‘sister’ cities. This would help tremendously in getting a local chapter that is perhaps reinventing the wheel when grappling with start-up problems to benefit from the experience of a more ‘veteran’ chapter that has already found successful solutions to the same problems.
  • And yes, on a slightly light hearted vein (but sometimes it’s the incredible lightness of being that is missing!) could we have all local SIGs represent themselves at the CHI local SIGs booth by a suitably interesting artifact, based, perhaps on a theme for local SIGs for that year? Not just the write-ups (those are fantastic) but something that expresses the essence of that local chapter and complements the more formal write-up. One could then have all CHI delegates vote on the best artifact!

    These are just a few ideas, to do what I think is my most important function, that is, to stimulate some brainstorming and get your ideas and suggestions. I am new to this role and am reminded of the poet Rilke's lines in ‘For the sake of a single poem’:

    "Ah, poems amount to so little when you write them too early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a long one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines."

    It is indeed too early in my ‘life’ as VC-Chapters but I think that instead of waiting for a ‘lifetime’, I simply need to connect all of you around the world.

    The poems will come from you…


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