CHI2011 reflection

After few days of letting the entire information sink in and have the jetlag wear off, I decided to write up my impressions of CHI2011 in Vancouver.

CHI2011 badge

Monday, 9th of May:
Nice opening keynote by Howard Rheingold, who is an expert in teaching social media and its role in the classroom. He has developed: Socialmediaclassroom.com and a few take-away messages for me are: his experiment with having a Twitter feed of participating students projected in classroom, his advice on the importance of having students sit on a circle to improve collaboration as well as his approach to learning which was to create the boundaries and facilitate the learning process by letting students take up leading roles in the class. I also liked his statement when he compared a sergeant, a warrior and a teacher. He said that a sergeant of 1000 years ago compared to a sergeant of today is a very different one; the same for the warrior. However, in his opinion, the teacher of 1000 years ago is the same compared to one today.

Although being a nice talk my highlight for the day, couldn’t be other than my friend’s Maurits Kaptein’s Talk. He presented his latest research on persuasive technologies and I found out in the conference that Wired had an article on his research. Well done Maurits, I am very proud of you!

Tuesday, 10th of May:

CHI2011 poster

Well having for the first time a WIP in CHI, my highlight for the day could not be other than my poster presentation! It took place between 10:00 and 11:00. Tuesday was the highlight for the conference for me, not just due to my presentation. The note titled: “Utilizing DVD Players as Low-Cost Offline Internet Browsers” by Gaurav Paruthi and William Thies from TEM, Microsoft Research India was probably the best work I saw during CHI. Very inspiring work of cleverly using the existing DVD infrastructure of an average Indian household to educate children and other family members of various topics. The researchers created an application which crawled and burned articles from Wikipedia on a DVD for Indian families and schools. Brilliant!

After this presentation it was the turn of a very good friend of mine, Andres Lucero to give his first full paper presentation, titled: “Pass-Them-Around: Collaborative Use of Mobile Phones for Photo Sharing”, work done in Nokia Research Center. Great work, great presentation Andres! I should also mention that in the same session I saw a paper titled: “Automics: souvenir generating photoware for theme parks”, from Benford’s tem, which was awarded for best paper and was indeed very nicely motivated, executed and presented research.

CHI2011 NordiCHI Party

To top it, after the official end of the conference program, the NordiCHI party on the 19th floor of Rennaisance hotel which was rotating, was the perfect occasion to meet up with people and have a gorgeous view of Vancouver!

Wednesday 11th of May:
My highlight of the day was the first thing I saw, a panel on managing remote UX teams. Maybe I liked it cause it is not really something directly related to research or science and more to management. It is nice to see topics somehow related to what you do however, fundamentally different. It was surprising to me, SAP’s large UX department as well as the wit of SAP’s UX managing director, mr. Rosenberg. In terms of research, I found really interesting a paper coming out of CMU, titled: “Mobile users’ location sharing preferences with advertisers” presented by Patrick Gage Kelley. Although I think that the study was weak in ecological validity, it was nicely setup and had interesting implications. I think there is a lot of future work to be done on this topic. Finally, I found the posters much more interesting than group 1’s.

Thursday 12th of May:
THE highlight for the day was the closing plenary by Ethan Zuckerman. Absolutely stunning talk! He gave recently one in TED which addressed some of the topics he discussed during CHI.

Other highlights of the conference include:
- Have you ever placed a 3V battery in you tongue? What does it taste like? A poster from Japanese researchers (who else), were utilizing that effect, i.e. they were changing the taste of the user with the use of a battery!
- A paper that I missed but looked very promising was that of Pixar research in which they created a virtual 3D model out of a Tangible 3D one
- Bill Buxton’s interactive artifacts collection, a great addition to the conference with Bill standing most of the time around his collection and discussing about it
- As well as VCC’s great open area for companies to exhibit. Microsoft’s presence was the best in my opinion.

Moreover, we had great USI-alumni presence: posters from myself, Abdullah, Suleman & Nata, presentations from Maurits & Andres. I met Nikos, Nata, Toon, Pavan, Andres, Maurits, and Panos’, the new USI-director, presence was also very impressive: presented a course, was organizer of SIG, 2 WIPs and a full paper!

Vancouver Convention Center: great place, beautiful interior, huge spaces to socialize or rest or work, great view, great service but very bad wireless internet connection.

Vancouver Convention Center view

Vancouver’s food was great but pricy with The Sandbar in Granville island being my favorite place for lunch/dinner and Waves’ cinnamon buns with their coffee being my favorite place for breakfast.

Vancouver's Waves coffee and cinamon buns

We had bad weather almost throughout the conference and that didn’t really help in exploring the city but certainly helped my conference attendance!

People I have to check their research include: Ruth Dalton (UK), John Peponis from GaTech, Antonio Kruger (Germany) & Chris Kray (Germany).

My overall impression for CHI2011: a conference worthwhile visiting and I am really looking forward to visiting CHI2012 in Austin Texas.