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You are here: Home 2006 Vol.38 No.1, February 2006 An Interview with Chris Jensen, Secretary of the Orange County Chapter of ACM
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An Interview with Chris Jensen, Secretary of the Orange County Chapter of ACM

Apala has been hard at work again, bringing you another informative interview with a local chapter. This time it is the Orange County Chapter in California.

Q: Can you give us some background about the state of HCI in your region?

We have an active and growing set of academics at UCI (University of California Irvine) and growing interest and positions in corporations.

Q: When was the local CHI formed?

Our first meeting was held in April of 2002.

Q: Are their other similar associations that are also very popular?

We are the only organization interested in HCI and usability in our area.

Q: How many HCI professionals are there are in your region, in this field?

Our current membership is about 59 persons and includes professors, professionals, and students. The density of software companies in the area is reasonable but not very high so the pool of professionals is not very extensive. Luckily, a strong interest in HCI from the local university draws also students and professors alike.

Q: Are their specialized HCI programs in the universities?

Yes, UC Irvine has a rapidly growing department of HCI and includes people such as Alfred Kobsa, Bonnie Nardi, Don Patterson and Paul Dourish. Cal State Long Beach also has a center for usability in design and assessment associated with their program in psychology, human factors and applied experimental options, which we toured in 2003.

Q: What are the most important issues facing by local HCI professionals?

Many or most of our members are in corporations where they are the only HCI professional. In corporations where there is more than one person dedicated to HCI issues, the groups are recently formed. In all cases, usability is in the beginning stages of being institutionalized. As such, the most common issues are evangelism and ubiquitous adoption of HCI practices.

Q: Can you tell us about the activities of the local chapter?

OCCHI is very fortunate to have close ties with both industry and academia. Our programs are mostly talks given by someone from industry or academia. However, we have also had panel discussions, round table discussions and workshops. We dubbed 2005 our year of usability, and our activities ranged from applications in technical (from source code usability to application level/”end use”), social, and political spheres. We've entered into 2006 with four themes: computer uses by special groups, usability of documentation, ecommerce and online learning. We also have a social event every summer. Our first entailed “analyzing usability” of a local movie theater.

Q: How many members do you have?

We currently have 59 members.

Q: Do you have students interested in CHI activities?

Yes, we have both undergraduate and graduate students as members. Both have given talks to our group and we have always had students on our board (one of my roles).

Q: Where do you all meet?

Of late, we’ve been meeting at a local corporation in Lake Forest, though we also meet at UC Irvine periodically.

Q: How do you keep in touch between meetings?

We have our own web site ( with a listserv and message board. We recently moved our mailing list to the ACM’s mailing list service, so those interested can sign up at

Q: Do you have local industry and academic sponsorship for CHI activities?

Both local industry and academia support us.

How will the local SIG chapter help HCI professionals in your region?

We provide educational opportunities, networking and job announcements for our members.

Q: What is your vision for the local CHI, in 5 years from now?

We’re looking to grow and expand CHI in the area. Currently, I see area professionals still plying away individually or in small groups in industry and also some very forward-looking research coming out of academia and I think bringing these people together is an essential part of our mission. As a grad student (studying open source software processes, no less), myself, I’m looking to graduate in the next year or two. If I end up moving out of the area, I’m hoping that catching up with the group will entail stories of collaboration between researchers and practitioners, permeation of HCI in design practice, and lastly, that it’s still fun. I’ve been on the board from about the very beginning and as I step back this year, I’m quite excited about what new directions our future leaders will take us in.


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