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SIGCHI’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) Sessions

Earlier this summer, we shared the SIGCHI Executive Committee’s commitment to listen, reflect, act, and represent. As a next step, we are working to create channels that might better enable us to listen (and respond) to concerns and questions from SIGCHI members. There are several avenues that already afford us listening room — social media, email, word of mouth, among others — but each of these can be inclusive for many while excluding many others. We are thus creating additional ways for us to learn what our members are thinking (also anonymously, if preferred).

Members of the EC are organizing Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions in coming weeks and months for inviting questions, inputs, and feedback on the matters they oversee, as well as other matters that they may have some answers to as well. Each AMA will be attended by (at least) two EC members.

Yesterday we had our inaugural AMA with Andrew Kun (Interim VP Conferences) and Regan Mandryk (CHI Steering Committee Chair) and discussed conferences, CHI, and many other topics. Cliff Lampe (Executive VP) also participated, and I (Neha Kumar, VP at Large) moderated. The recording of this session is available on this YouTube link. And a big thank you to Cayley MacArthur, an attendee who was kind enough to share her notes from the session; I draw heavily on these to offer a summary below.

Next week, August 6th at 10am EDT (4pm CEST/7.30pm IST), Shaowen Bardzell (VP at Large) and I will do our second AMA (on Zoom). Shaowen has been working hard to get SIGCHI CARES up and running with an incredible team, and supporting a number of inclusion efforts, while I have been working on our global community support mechanisms (funded and otherwise), such as travel awards, the SIGCHI development fund for events and initiatives, this Medium publication, etc. (with an indispensable SDF committee).

Although Shaowen and I will address all the questions we can, we’d also like to hear suggestions and recommendations for changes we could gain from bringing to SIGCHI, and how we can use our existing structures to achieve this desired change, or brainstorm new means of bringing it about. You can share your thoughts with us using this link, before or at the AMA.

We’re still deciding the time for our third AMA, but it will be on August 13th and held by Cliff Lampe (Executive VP) and Julie Williamson (VP Pubs). The fourth will be on August 27th, featuring Regina Bernhaupt (VP Membership and Communications) and Anirudha Joshi (VP Finances). September 4th will be Loren Terveen (Past President) and Mark Perry (AC Volunteer Development). Event details will be posted on Medium, Twitter, Facebook, and our SIGCHI-members and CHI-announcements mailing lists.

If you find that the AMA on your topic of interest is at an inconvenient time for your time zone (we are trying to switch them up), we apologize in advance. Please feel free to use an asynchronous mode (such as the link above) for questions, bring your questions to any other AMA that works for you, and/or watch the recordings that we will be posting on YouTube.

Notes from AMA#1 (drawing on Cayley MacArthur’s notes)

First, on CHI:

CHI 2022 open calls close tonight; over 200 applications were received for the roles. The goal here was to be as inclusive as possible in inviting people to apply. Cliff, Simone (General Chairs), along with the TPCs, Equity Chairs, etc. are working on a rubric for evaluating the applications received. This process aims to ensure that the chairs are not simply selecting friends or people they know for these roles, and to prevent tokenism.

CHI 2022 is also re-examining subcommittee structures, and will have a revise-and-resubmit cycle for papers. A transition to quarterly cycles may take place later, but not for CHI 2021 or 2022.

Site selection takes place years in advance because CHI’s needs are intense (up to 30 parallel rooms, large exhibit halls, etc.). Generally the locations cycle from east coast US/Canada, to Europe, to west coast US/Canada, to Asia, and then a “wildcard” location. CHI 2023’s contracts are in progress now. For the “wildcard” years, we look at locations where there is a growing HCI community that could benefit from a CHI being held nearby. We would like/hope for CHI to take place (soon!) in a city in Africa/India/Latin America. We do not pick a place because it is a “destination”. This explanation about site selection was in response to multiple questions about where CHI would be held in coming years.

CHI 2021 is working hard on accommodating hybrid options (physical to virtual and everything in between). This may become a general trend with our conferences, moving forward.

On EC Roles:

Please consider applying to these open calls for adjunct chairs — for equity, accessibility, and community engagement. There is consensus among committee members that we need to create more spaces and roles for the voices of those interested in doing the work to make change. Apart from these positions, there will soon be elections for EC roles, and the elected “VP at large” roles allow volunteers to bring their mandate and focus on issues of their choice, for the most part. These roles are currently held by Shaowen and me (Neha).

No one on the EC has been looking at public policy, nor did anyone do so on the previous EC. There is activity at the ACM level (i.e., the US Technology Policy Council and the European Technology Policy Council) but not so much at the SIG level. This was in response to a question from Kaveh Bazargan.

On SIGCHI Membership/Outreach:

Connecting to all of the HCI community is hard, particularly because not everyone is a SIGCHI member, and not everyone is on Twitter/Facebook, etc. Cliff described how membership is a way to access/communicate with people via the mailing list, as it is very hard otherwise to reach everybody. This is something we hope that the AC for Community Engagement (open call linked above) can help us with.

There was a question about numbers regarding membership on the global level (and how membership is going up across countries through our 55+ student/professional chapters). These numbers need to be updated, and we will follow up on this.

On Reviewing:

We definitely understand that reviewing for CHI needs to be improved. As Regan shared (paraphrasing): “If we don’t have quality reviews, nothing else matters. It’s the basis of belief in what we do. CHI needs 7500 reviews. What do we do? Limit submissions (no), increase desk rejects (too much power to ACs), try to broaden the pool of people (but outside the CHI audience/field the review quality can suffer), and CHI grows ~8% in submissions every year whereas the reviewer pool does not.”

Reviewer mentorship, akin to CSCW, came up, and we generally discussed lightening the load on individual ACs to reinvent the wheel in terms of mentoring reviewers every time. This type of mentorship could make it easier to recruit new reviewers and for them to be successful. Cayley shared: “I would LOVE LOVE LOVE for SIGCHI to provide more resources to help build confidence & competence in reviewers so they even feel more equipped to accept an offer to review. I don’t have time to independently mentor every reviewer I recruit, so I fall back on a similar group when I’d like to open it up more.”

There are definitely efforts that are ongoing. As a small example, I mentioned that we’ve been discussing in our subcommittee for CHI 2021 how we can have ACs reflect on their biases/subjectivities before reviewing begins. Also, for CHI 2020 LBWs, for example, we created slide decks for each week of reviewing that the ACs used to orient themselves for the week (the cycle is tight for LBWs). We also created some boilerplate text to provide templates for accept/reject reviews to assist new reviewers. And there’s many more efforts that we did not get into on the call. Regan pointed out that it is super hard to scale these efforts (not to say we will not try, just that change will be slow). If any of you have more suggestions though, please do let us know.

Until next week — we look forward to talking more and listening more. Please join us in our upcoming sessions and spread the word. And although the EC members might be done with one cycle of AMAs soon, we do intend to keep a version of these as a more permanent feature.