I am on a short excursion from walking Wales to CHI 2013 in Paris.
Last night I was inducted into the SIGCHI Academy. No great fanfares or anything, just a select dinner and a short ceremony. I thought Gerrit, who is current SIGCHI chair would look good with a sword dubbing each person, but instead just a plaque, a handshake and a photo or two by Ben Shniederman, amanuensis of CHI.
I feel in two minds. On the one hand there are many lovely people in CHI community, and I spent a great afternoon and evening chatting to folk including Phillipe Palanque, Mary Czerwinsky and Hiroshi Ishii over dinner. However, ACM and to some extent SIGCHI often appear like the Star Wars imperial forces, intent on global domination.
The CEO of ACM did little to dispel this at the opening ceremony this morning. He spoke of ACM’s international aspirations and praised CHI for regularly having its conferences outside of the US.
Now ACM is the de facto international computing organisation and CHI is the de facto international conference in human–computer interaction, but by virtue of the fact that they are the US ones. In principle, IFIP and Interact are the international computing organisation and HCI conference respectively, as IFIP is the UNESCO founded body of which ACM and other national computing bodies, such as the BCS in the UK, are members. Interact, the HCI conference sponsored by IFIP is truly international being held in numerous countries over the years (but I think never yet the US!); in contrast having approximately two out of three conferences in the US is laudable, but hardly the sign of a truly international organisation.
So, is the ACM an originally US organisation that is in the process of slowly becoming truly international, or is it part of more general US cultural domination? Although probably neither are completely accurate, at present there seems to be significant aspects of the latter under the guise of the former. In a way this is, in microcosm, an image of the same difficult relationship between USA and UN in other areas of international affairs.
And by joining the SIGCI Academy am I increasing the European presence in CHI and thus part of the process to make it truly international, or selling my academic soul in a Faustian bargain?