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CHI 2021 Group Report

By HCDE PhD students Sourojit G Ghosh, Blair Subbaraman, Shengzhi Wang

Sourojit G Ghosh

This was my first time attending CHI and my second virtual HCI conference overall. It was a little difficult adjusting to the time differences with Japan, but I was still able to attend some sessions where I found interesting papers and presentations. Especially relevant to me were papers about DEI in online spaces and those on emotional expression in online communities, as they are both topics of interest in my research. However, the platform and format of such a large conference made it very difficult to get a lot of useful information out. One of the biggest issues for me was the non-uniformity of sessions, leading to some sessions being well captioned and moderated while others were uncaptioned and loosely moderated. There were also times when the platform seemed to break under sheer volume, as during Ruha Benjamin’s talk, something which I was very excited for but could not adequately consume due to platform interruptions. Overall, I’d describe my conference experience at CHI as moderate to poor.

Blair Subbaraman

Like G, this was my first CHI and second virtual HCI conference (the first being CSCW). The time difference was certainly an issue, but for the most part I was able to attend interesting sessions related to my research without too much trouble. The sessions on Wearables, Tangibles, and Fabrics and Design Tools/Machine Learning/Fabrication/Visual Artifacts in Design and Ideation had particularly relevant talks for my research. I found the Delegate Connect interface really tough to navigate with it’s technical issues (buffering/stuttering/etc), so for many talks I watched the prepared video on YouTube and tuned in to the live talk to monitor the chat and Q&A. It was tough to build much community with or introduce myself to fellow attendees; while the Chat function seemed to allow more people to ask questions than might have
otherwise done so, it was also relatively impersonal on a personal-networking level. On the flip-side, it was productive to instead talk through the sessions with my lab here at HCDE. I’m excited to experience CHI again in-person, when that is hopefully a safe experience for all.

Shengzhi Wang

This was my first experience at CHI as well. I was fortunate enough to have been in Japan while attending the virtual conference so I was able to be less affected by time zones. While the virtual conference platform did have its issues with loading different video conferencing formats and dropped calls, this format
had some distinct advantages when viewing live demos. One of the demos I especially enjoyed was ARTEMIS: Mixed-Reality Environment for Immersive Surgical Telementoring. This demo used multiple points of view to demonstrate a tool that can be used by expert surgeons to guide novice surgeons in complex surgical procedures using a mix of mixed reality through the Hololens and other accompanying systems. The demo utilized split screen in three parts to simulate two surgeons who are mentoring remotely and operating on the patient respectively. Having a simultaneous view of both parties and their surroundings gave a much more comprehensive understanding of how the proposed system would work in a real-life scenario. Overall I found it much easier to ask questions and add comments during presentations, although it felt much less personal than in-person conferences I’ve been to in the past. I was happy to be able to attend this year and learn more about research both in my area of interest and adjacent topics and I look forward to attending again in the future.