Tuesday, April 22, 2014

CHI 2014 -- will it be the same or something new, and what does an answer really mean?

There are only a few days before CHI 2014 in Toronto. CHI is the largest and most important HCI conference in the world. It is also the most well organized conference I have ever been to. The value of CHI is, since it covers the whole field of HCI research, that it is the place where you can get a sense of what is going on, what are the new trends and ideas. Individual papers and presentations are to me less interesting than the way the whole conference moves, shifts and transforms. These shifts and changes are not always visible from year to year, but as soon as you take a longer view (I think even three years is long enough) you start to see that the field is constantly evolving. I get convinced that the changes are bigger and faster than most people believe when I talk to colleagues who have not been to CHI for a few years and have some strong opinions about the conference and you realize that their image of it does not correspond to what you experience.

However, there are of course two ways to think about this. I am convinced that the field, and with that CHI, changes every year, but what is the nature of the change? It might be that it is a superficial change that leave the foundational level the same. Is that the case? Is this what some colleagues mean when they are argue that CHI does not change. Is our field staying the same, being conservative? Is the recognition and glorification of the "new" really about something "new" or is it only a form of changes that leave the overall "project" safe, stable and the same? I am not sure. If anyone has some good answers please let me know...

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