By Kevin Feng, HCDE PhD student
Attending CHI 2022 has been arguably my most memorable experiences in grad school thus far. This was my first in-person academic conference, and I’m incredibly glad I chose to attend in-person. Before the official start of the conference, I attended a workshop called InContext: Futuring User-Experience Design Tools. I presented my workshop paper about how design tools can facilitate deeper collaboration between designers and technical stakeholders—it was a great way to practice presenting to an audience in a low-stakes setting. I enjoyed listening to the other presentations—some of which were quite relevant to my research and others less so—and connecting with other researchers in this area. Having participants from other parts of the world made me realize how research can often be conducted in bubbles: there was an obvious tendency for researchers based in the US to tackle problems related to AI design, while researchers from Europe were wondering why everyone in the US is writing about AI. I also really enjoyed the hands-on physical prototyping aspects of the workshop—I feel like it’s not often something I do in my research but a productive part of the design process. Finally, being able to connect with other participants not only meant that I got to better know my sub-community within CHI, but also have familiar faces to say hi to for the rest of the conference.
The rest of the conference was packed with talks, networking, connecting with old friends, and making new ones. One particularly memorable talk was one from a SIGCHI dissertation award recipient. Instead of using the entire allotted time to talk about his research, he used half to give a summary of his dissertation and the other half to give advice to junior researchers and students. I have been following his work for over a year now and it was particularly inspiring to hear this presentation and chat with him for a bit afterwards. Besides that, I had a chance to talk to some prominent figures in the field who seemed so inaccessible to me even a year ago. I also felt like I formed stronger connections with some students in a stage of their careers as myself, both at UW and other institutions. It felt refreshing to associate physical faces to the names on papers and squares on Zoom that was the primary mode of communication in academia over the past couple years.
Overall, this conference trip helped me feel more tightly integrated into the CHI community. I look forward to submitting to CHI next year and presenting (in person) in future conferences.