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CHI 2021 Conference Reflection

By Hannah Twigg-Smith, PhD student in HCDE

CHI 2021, which was originally scheduled to take place in Yokohama, Japan, took place on a virtual platform. CHI 2020 was cancelled due to Covid-19, so this ended up being my first opportunity to engage with participants at a conference where I presented my own work.

One of the most memorable experiences at the conference was one that would not have been possible in the traditional in-person format. The virtual conference-hosting platform was pretty buggy and overall not a great user experience, which is about what I expected. After my first presentation and Q&A session, the authors were supposed to join a round-table discussion room in order to have more in-depth conversations with audience members who had additional questions. We ended up being unable to join the room, and while tech support was diagnosing the problem all of the authors in my session were stuck in a Zoom room together. This ended up leading to some fantastic conversations among us! It was particularly memorable because of the breadth of experience represented among the authors. Some were junior PhD students like me, and others were post-docs, industry workers, and tenured faculty, all with tangentially similar interests due to being in the same session. It was an impromptu, low-stakes environment to get to know some of the other people in my field, and definitely one that I will remember!