post by Gustavo Berumen (2017 Cohort)
This was my first experience at a conference in the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). The Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, also known as CHI and pronounced “kai”, is the most prestigious conference on HCI in the area. In 2019, the conference was held in Glasgow. It was quite special for us, the members of the Mixed Reality Lab, because the lab celebrated its 20-year anniversary and had a designated space in the exhibition area. We presented several of the MRL demos, such as the broncomatic and the VR playground.
Since CHI is a fairly large conference, I will focus on my participation in the two workshops in which I presented a paper, as well as on my attendance at a panel discussion. In addition, I will reflect on the learning outcomes from CHI conference that are still guiding my research today.
CHInclusion: Working toward a more inclusive HCI community
The objective of this workshop was to reflect on our research practices and how researchers can make HCI a more inclusive space. I collaborated with a short paper of a reflection about my personal experience doing research in an international environment . In the first part of the workshop, we reflected on the effects of “privilege”. We talked about the struggles faced by people who belong to minority and marginalised groups in their professional development due to privilege and related issues. In this workshop, there was a fairly vibrant environment in which people not only did perceive a problem but were also willing to propose solutions and promote changes to reduce the influence of privilege.
The participants of the workshop were not only young researchers but also academics with a long university career who perceive the need to create a fairer society. We carried out various group activities in which we discussed our personal experiences regarding discrimination. We then presented possible solutions to promote change in our fields of expertise. This conference was quite stimulating and encourages me to think that a fairer academic environment is possible.
New Directions for the IoT: Automate, Share, Build, and Care
The objective of this workshop was to talk about cutting-edge topics in the development of ubiquitous technologies, innovative ways of conducting research and designing solutions that serve people. This workshop brought together researchers interested in the IoT area, which is related to my Ph.D. topic. The researchers’ interests were diverse and covered a wide range of areas such as social interactions, the smart home, and cooperative robots, among others.
The workshop consisted of two parts: The first part, in which each of the attendees gave a talk about their research, and the second, in which we answered questions from the attendees. Here, I presented my workshop paper titled “Finding Design Opportunities for Smartness in Consumer Packaged Goods”. The paper presented analysis methods that I designed to study the use of items in the cooking process, analysing information from an auto-ethnographic study. In this workshop, I received helpful and insightful comments that have helped me further develop my methods in a larger study.
Finally, we participated in an activity in which we shared our ideas on how to develop IoT technologies that serve people’s needs first and foremost. We were divided into groups and used Post-it Notes to share our thoughts with the rest of the participants.
Roundtable — Rigor, Relevance, and Impact: The Tensions and Trade-Offs Between Research in the Lab and in the Wild
CHI is a fairly large conference attended by thousands of attendees. At such a scale, it is inevitable that several of the presentations that one would like to attend occur at the same time. Luckily, the talk can later be found online in the conference YouTube channel and the papers can be found in the conference proceedings.
I was recommended to attend as many roundtable panel discussions as possible. These panels joined together a diverse group of researchers who engage in discussions that one can be a part of. This kind of experience can hardly be found online. In these panels, researchers who would not normally interact are integrated in order to share their experiences and enrich the conversation with the discussions they can generate when professionals from different areas get together. Personally, I found this panel inspiring. There were researchers in the area of industry, such as Google’s Shumin Zhai, and academics, such as Enrico Costanza, University College London. They discussed both how to do research that has a greater impact on society and how to take research outside the academic space. Attendees had the opportunity to be part of the conversation in a welcoming, friendly environment.
Learnings that Continue a Year Later
My participation in CHI was profoundly fruitful, as it gave me the opportunity to approach cutting-edge research in the area as well as get to know researchers at all levels closely, from renowned professors to young students who were excited to be entering part of this field. The lessons I learned at the conference have emboldened me to carry out my research, and I have been able to apply them to various aspects of my work, such as organizing my own workshop. I certainly think the impact of participating in a conference lasts much longer than the period over which the conference takes place.
- Knowledge about research results and methods that I still cite and use on my research.
- Techniques I learned in the workshops I have applied in my own workshops.
- Motivation to make HCI an environment inspired me to work every day.
Venue: CHI 2019, Scottish Event Campus, Glasgow, Scotland, UK.