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Making SIGCHI Conferences “Family-Friendly”

A new policy intended to make SIGCHI-related conferences a bit more family friendly.

ACM Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction
Guideline for Conference Planning

 

Proposed: September 7, 2007
 

Background

The field of HCI focuses on the interaction between people and automated systems of various types. Such a focus has historically led to an interest by SIGCHI members in a variety of human interactions, including social interactions. This historical interest has manifested itself amongst some of our members and conference attendees in a concern for the stress that conference attendance can cause families and ways in which to ameliorate that stress. This, in addition to an interest in how children interact with computers, led to the CHIKids program at the CHI conference for many years. While this program was very successful, it required a great deal of volunteer effort and financial resources, neither of which were sustainable. After the ending of the CHIKids program, addressing childcare at the CHI conference became somewhat ad hoc, and changed from year to year as the financial resources and venue constraints dictated. This ad hoc approach, and resulting inconsistencies, led to significant confusion and frustration for those who wanted to bring their children with them to the venue, but were uncertain about the rules and resources provided by the conference. In addition, there have been ongoing questions about how the conference provides for the partners of conference attendees who might be interested in some aspects of the conference, but are not in the field, so are not willing to purchase a full registration. Our goal with this guideline is to provide a consistent approach to family members of conference attendees that may be depended on from year to year. This is structured as a guideline, not a policy, to allow conference committees to respond to the legal and logistics requirements of their conference’s venue. Conference committees are urged not to deviate lightly from these guidelines.
 

Partners, Spouses, and Significant Others

SIGCHI recognizes the burden that travel places on attendees and their families. We have historically not allowed attendees to bring family members into any part of the conference without a conference registration. No allowances were made for family members, so they were required to purchase the same registration as an attendee. On the other hand, as conference budgets are very tight, it is unreasonable for the conference to support an attendee’s family in terms of food and access to the venue. In order to provide a balanced approach without significantly adding burden to the conference committee, a new type of registration is proposed, a partner’s pass, which includes all of the social events as well as access to the exhibits, interactivity, and the “commons” area. This registration does not include access to any sessions. The fee for this registration category should be no more than the student member full conference fee, and should be structured to cover the reasonable costs incurred by the conference (food and beverage, security, etc.). As an example, for CHI 2008 in Florence, this cost will be approximately $200. For attendee guests who are not interested in a partner’s pass they may attend the conference reception provided they purchase a reception ticket.
 

Children

Children of CHI attendees are welcome to attend the conference, including conference sessions. It should be noted that children can be distracting, and in bringing a child into a technical session, the attendee must be willing to take their child outside if they are distracting in any way. We expect parents and caretakers be courteous of other attendees. With that proviso, infants should be allowed to be in the sessions without a fee, provided that they are in a stroller or carried by the attendee. Children under the age of 18, are able to purchase a “partner’s pass” as described above, which will allow them access to all of the social functions. Recognizing the special needs of parents, children under the age of 18 with a partner’s pass will be allowed into the technical sessions, provided they are escorted by the attendee parent/guardian.
 

Summary

  • Partners, spouses, and significant others may purchase a “partner’s pass” to gain access to all public social functions, the exhibits, interactivity, and breaks in the commons.
  • Infants are welcome in sessions and at social activities provided they are not a distraction to the other attendees
  • Children between the ages of 1 and 18 may attend sessions and social activities by purchasing a “partner’s pass”, again providing they are not a distraction to the other attendees.

It is our hope that these simple consistent guidelines will allow attendees to choose whether to bring family members to the conference without being surprised by the rules of the conference when they arrive on-site. Based on these guidelines, attendees of SIGCHI-sponsored conferences will expect those conferences to accommodate partners and children. Any SIGCHI-sponsored conference that provides a significantly reduced experience for attendees traveling with partners and children must make that deviation prominently visible to attendees as part of the conference brochures, registration forms, and online registration sites.

 

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