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You are here: Home 2005 Vol.37 No.3, September 2005 Exciting Innovations for CHI 2006
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Exciting Innovations for CHI 2006

Dennis Wixon, Vice President of Conferences for SIGCHI, discusses some exciting innovations for the upcoming CHI 2006 conference.

CHI 2006: Interact, Inform, Inspire

Many things about the CHI conference work very well. While attendance took a drop in 2002, it has at least held steady since then, including a meeting in Europe (2004). There are still many who come back year after year, and the meeting still attracts newcomers. Technical submissions to many of the program elements remain strong and of high quality. Interesting plenary speakers still like to speak before this audience.

Nonetheless, there are some worrisome signs. The drop in attendance in 2002, a natural response to both the bust and 9/11, has been recovering very slowly. There are still core HCI professionals who stay away from CHI. Conference surveys show mixed results. Attendance at tutorials has dropped dramatically.

There are several ways we could correspond to these challenges and preserve the aspects of the conference that work well.  For example, there is a position that perhaps CHI should just be a smallish conference, focusing on technical research contributions, and that specialized conferences with different topics should flourish on their own. There are certainly articulate, senior CHI people who believe this. But others think we are missing an important role for the field by letting such diasporas take place. They would argue that there is benefit for having the different streams of CHI activity co-occur.  They also suggest that, as a multidisciplinary profession, both the research and applied communities in the larger CHI community rely on each other in symbiotic ways:  Research that cannot be applied is potentially irrelevant, and practice that is not based in sound research is potentially dangerous.  Therefore, despite the inherent tensions between communities, they feel that we will only succeed as a discipline if we can work together to explore (and hopefully to bridge) our differences.

With the goal of bringing the communities in CHI together and in response to the feedback from those communities, the conference chairs and the Conference Management Committee have experimented and innovated for many years. These innovations include a different kinds of activities at the conference (e.g.., design expo, interactionary, alt.chi), different kinds of fields (e.g., health, education), different geographic regions (e.g., South Africa, Latin America), and so forth. As with all elements of the CHI conferences (and any other CHI activity) these innovations have always depended on volunteer interest and participation. The goal of all these efforts has always been the same to respond to the concerns raised by the CHI community.

After extensive discussion among past CHI chairs, and taking into account a number of trends described above, some changes are being implemented for CHI 2006, to be held in Montreal. In addition in order provide some continuity for the conference these innovations will be continued through CHI 2007 and 2008.

Innovations in the CHI Conference program

Tutorial program. The tutorial program as it has existed appears to be running out of steam. Fewer tutorials are being offered, and attendance has declined sharply. Our idea is to fold the tutorials into the regular registration. Anyone registering for the conference would be able to sign up for tutorials. SIGGRAPH has done this quite successfully. We would also like to have tutorials run during the regular conference days, not ahead of time.

Reorganize the flow of the conference. The conference has for a long time consisted of two pre-conference days (Sunday and Monday) followed by three technical program days (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday). The latter three days have a substantial number of activities occurring in parallel. We are trying a different organization. Saturday and Sunday would be for Workshops and the Doctoral Consortium. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday would be for the technical program. Tutorials would run concurrent with the rest of the technical program.

More plenary sessions. Except for the opening and closing plenaries, the bulk of the conference consists of lots of things happening in parallel. We would like to introduce more plenary sessions to give the participants a greater change for shared experiences. There would still be an opening plenary address on Monday morning, and a closing plenary address on Thursday afternoon. But we would hold additional plenary sessions on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings. These plenary sessions might have different kinds of activities. For instance, there might be a plenary panel on a major issue for the field one morning. A session of plenary demos or videos might be held another morning. The specifics of these sessions would be organized by the various technical program chairs. The rest of the sessions would run in parallel.

Here is a summary of the important changes in the conference organization

  • Tutorials occur concurrently with the technical program and are offered at no extra charge
  • Workshops and doctoral consortium will be offered on Saturday and Sunday
  • The technical program will occur on Monday to Thursday
  • There will be a special Tutorial for new comers, where will be free
  • In addition to the opening and closing plenaries, we may offer plenaries on Tues, Wed, and Thursday morning
  • There will be a job fair on Tuesday evening
  • There are receptions on Sunday and Monday

Encouraging broader technical program submissions. As already mentioned, the CHI conference still draws a substantial number of technical program submissions. The last several CHI meetings have had record numbers of full papers submissions. In recent years the acceptance rate for such submissions has been very small, below 20%. To some extent this has discouraged such submissions, especially for a variety of kinds of CHI work including work by practitioners. The CHI 2005 papers chairs encouraged the acceptance of more papers, and allowed some degree of “sheparding” to allow borderline papers with fixable flaws to be revised before final acceptance. The result was that the acceptance rate rose to approximately 25%.

Full papers at CHI, particularly from the research community, are thriving. However, contributions from people outside of the research community have been declining Therefore, along the lines of some of the earlier conferences; we would like to encourage a broader range of submissions. We have recruited experienced chairs from each of these communities to serve on the conference committee. Each of these communities welcomes participation in all forms from reviewing to submitting to chairing sessions.

  • Conference Chair: Gary Olson
  • Technical Program Chair: Robin Jefferies
  • Research Papers Chairs: Tom Rodden and Rebecca Grinter; Research Notes Chairs: Paul Aoki and Ed Cutrell. Papers are the primary venue for researchers, though other submissions such as SIGs and panels are invited.  The full papers venue will be essentially unchanged this year.  However, we are instituting a new venue, CHI Notes, for smaller, focused research contributions that can be covered in four pages.  All papers and notes submissions will go through the same review process, even if the submissions address topics of interest to other communities.  We will ensure that members of those communities are selected to review the papers.
  • Design: David Gilmore and Kristina Höök. This is the place for contributions that address either a design process or the resulting design itself.  All parts of CHI need to understand how a design evolves and how real world constraints impact it, and to learn from designers about new ways of interacting with technology.
  • Usability: Janice Rohn and Stephanie Rosenbaum. Usability practitioners and applied user researchers are invited to submit works that describe the application of user research methods and findings to ensure that products and tools are practical, effective, and welcomed by their customers and users. The chairs are particularly interested in thought provoking discussions and debates and descriptions of new methods.
  • Engineering: William Newman and  Bonnie John. The Engineering community focuses on the design and construction of interactive artifacts to achieve desired outcomes. CHI has an evolving set of techniques for doing this, and we want to see examples of them in use and evidence of their effectiveness.  The engineering community this year is especially interested in examples of applying engineering methods to solve persistent real-word problems.
  • Management: Austin Henderson and James Euchner. The chairs welcome submissions from managers who regularly address HCI issues in their business creation activities, development managers who create the environment for user centered design, and managers of HCI departments and consultancies. Bringing these managers together to present and discuss experiences, and approaches to leadership, resourcing, vision, and integration of HCI into product development is a focus on this community.
  • Education: Jim Foley and Jenny Preece. HCI has become an established part of the curriculum at many universities throughout the world. These programs have flourished and contributed to a rich research literature and a generation of graduates who have advanced usability practice in industry and made new and better products. The chairs invite submissions in all areas of HCI education, including: curriculum, foundations of the discipline, how students and employers view current education, and innovation in education.

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