By Georgia Kenderova, HCDE PhD student
CHI2022 in New Orleans was my first in-person HCI conference. I attended CSCW21 and CHI2021 online and even participated as a volunteer for the prior, but the online experience the two offered was nowhere near the in-person interactions and talks at CHI2022. Whilst a paper I co-authored was accepted at CHI22, I was not the one presenting our work, which gave me the opportunity to explore and go to an array of different sessions without having to worry about preparing for and giving a talk.
I attended a few presentations that were in my line of work (e.g., mental health and well-being), but, in the spirit of exploration and adventure, I also went to a couple of sessions that were not at all related to what I see myself doing in the future (e.g., a “First Person Methods” session where some of the work was so far removed from what I have done in the past that it made me question how much I know about what methods can and are used in HCI research). Finally, I attended some of my fellow UW students’ presentations and learned a lot not only about what they are working on, but also how to give engaging and informative talks and answer questions skillfully at a professional conference.
One of the standout moments for me was during one of the panels when one of the speakers called out CHI for being very American-centered. It was yet another reminder that, even as perhaps one of the more inclusive tech-related fields, HCI can and should do better. This sentiment kept reappearing throughout the four-five days of the event, and it was clear that this was on people’s minds. It felt great to see what everyone in the field is working on and what they are thinking about; what problems people are trying to solve and what issues they are uncovering. Overall, this year’s CHI was exciting to me for many reasons, but perhaps the main one being that I was finally able to meet people in the field in person.