Saturday, April 8, 2006

Crashing CHI

I've finally come to terms with the fact that I can't afford to register for CHI and I'll simply have to crash the conference.

I'm supposed to participate in a great-sounding workshop - here's my position paper on forgetting - that I agreed to attend before I found out how much it costs. The extra annoying bit is that this will be the cheapest CHI I'll ever be able to attend. It's in Montreal, I've a place to stay, and I qualify for student price. But the cheapest price is still US$595 for a one-day workshop and one day of the (4 day) conference. (According to Jofish's post to SIGCHI, the fees just keep going up and up.) And it would still cost me another couple of hundred for transportation and food. That's this month's rent and then some! But this is about more than me:

"HCI, more than many fields, recognizes the importance of interdisciplinarity. I believe that [sic] year's emphasis on the different HCI Communities is an effort to open up CHI to those with different interests within the larger field. I know that as a workshop co-chair, we were encouraged to use the workshop as a way to attract people to CHI who might not normally come. But with fees at the levels they are, it's a very hard sell. Fees at the levels they are exclude not just my colleagues in the arts, in anthropology, science and technology studies and the humanities in general, but pose a significant barrier to any participation from practitioners or researchers in India, or China, or Russia, say."

Like Jofish says, neither my department nor faculty can pay these fees either. And if one doesn't have a credit card, or wish to go into debt, there are no other options. And that doesn't even begin to address barriers to travelling across the world...

Paul Dourish follows Jofish's comments:

"CHI's change in fee structure is not merely a fiscal decision; it is a major change in policy about the conference and what we want it to be. I and my students were already committed to attending CHI -- because we are all making contributions to the program in the form of workshops, papers, etc -- and so this year's major hike in fees is something that we are just going to have to live with. Next year, though, I expect -- for the first time since I started attending the conference in 1991 -- to be targeting other venues and encouraging my students to do the same. If CHI is not a venue that academic researchers can afford to attend, and if in consequence people send their papers elsewhere and the submission rates fall, the program is going to change in character and prestige considerably."

This is about community-building, it's about who's going to have a participatory role in imagining and making new technologies and who isn't. So let's talk "community".

Unlike Jofish and Paul, I don't really consider myself part of the "CHI community". Or rather, what community exists between us is one of shared interests rather than direct interaction or participation. I've never attended a CHI conference and my paper and workshop submissions have been called "unprofessional", "novice" and, more than once, "irrelevant". (I admit to being surprised when my workshop paper was accepted this year.) But comments on my work from important-HCI-types have also been quite positive, even when they almost exclusively end with something like "This is so different!"

And so here's the crux of the matter: the "CHI-community", like most other "communities", is based on familiarity, too often not knowing how to deal with difference or the unknown except to ignore or exclude it.

But I believe that community is a process not a product. Part of what I talked about at Yale Architecture last week was how community is a really ambiguous term, or rather how differently it has been defined and desired. Rather than viewing community as either a point of departure or as a place to return, I see it as something we do every day. Agamben's means without end. In a way, then, I'm not part of the "CHI community" because I don't think it exists. Or rather, I don't think it's a fait accompli. And that means we can change it.

If I crash CHI, what's the worst they can do to me? Throw me out? It's where I'll be anyway - handing out open research manifestos to the paying customers.


Blogger Susan said...

Crash CHI! I'd love to see you there!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now this is a subject i can write about:)

Lecturer & PhD Candidate, Anne Galloway was arrested yesterday while attempting to crash "Chi" When question by authorities Anne said, "There is no one alive who is youer than you" Dr.Seuss....

Ps. My attorney in Montreal :)
Stikeman Elliott...
David Banon : Montreal
(514) 397-3304

Be strong. be wrong.

Green eggs and ham, Michael:)

Blogger jaceee said...

Anne -- this is sure evidence that you are truely of a transdisciplinary species. Wear your idiosyncracy proudly. I was invited to do a workshop once, and they wanted ME to pay to attend. I laughed all the way through the email I deliciously sent at the last moment canceling. Talk about Ivory Towers and a near-complete disconnect from the real world. It's examples of academia like this that make me plot for the immediate demise of tenure -- wouldn't that be interesting. Check out the article I just posted on my site -- from a little pamphlet my father had in his library... The Cultivation of Idiosyncracy

Anonymous Anonymous said...

just as a practical matter, i would ask someone who lives in montreal to check out the convention center security before shelling out for a bus or plane ticket. the portland convention center (2005) had multiple unattended street entrances and would have been pretty trivial to crash. the vienna convention center (2004) had a single controlled entrance, which would make things significantly more annoying.


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