Report from the ACM SIGGRAPH Strategic Planning Meeting
Held September 15-17, 2000, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA
Introduction by Judy Brown
The ACM SIGGRAPH Executive Committee and guests met in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, September 15-17, 2000, for a scenario-based strategic planning meeting. Scenarios are stories about the future that we construct to help us understand the uncertainties that lie before us and what they might mean. Each story that is constructed represents a distinct, plausible world. However, the purpose of scenarios is not to predict the future, but to show how different forces can shape the future in different directions. A good scenario does not necessarily portray the future accurately, but it helps us to learn, adapt, and enrich our strategic perspective. There are four environmental factors to consider in scenario planning:
1. social dynamics, such as demographics, values, and lifestyles
2. economic issues, both the overall forces shaping the economy and the specific forces such as a company's competition
3. technological issues
4. political issues, including legal issues.
For more information about scenario planning, see "The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World," by Peter Schwartz.
The strategic planning group looked at key forces influencing ACM SIGGRAPH that are shaping the world of the future by constructing scenarios to help anticipate change, to look at what might shape the future, and to prepare us to respond to change. Each of the three sub-groups developed its own scenario about the future of the world and of ACM SIGGRAPH, and the report from each sub-group is included in this report. Although the styles of the reports are quite different, common directions were arrived at by all three groups. The key themes that emerged were globalization, personalization, and community throughout the year.
The key to realizing these ambitions is an expansion of siggraph.org to the "hub" which will be the premier place for technical content, professional community, educational material, and political/policy advocacy for our profession and industry. This must be, not only a place to obtain information, but a place to share information and to build a personalized community. Many other suggestions for enabling ACM SIGGRAPH to both serve and shape the future were discussed and are included in the individual reports. We are interested in what you, our members and our community, think of these ideas. Please send your comments to the ACM SIGGRAPH Chair, Judy Brown, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Report of Group 1: the siggraph.org hub
(or, a squid in every pot.)
Report prepared by Craig Reynolds
Group members: Judy Brown, Alain Chesnais, David Ebert, Craig Reynolds, Kathryn Saunders, Stephen Spencer
We began with a discussion of broad ongoing trends in international culture, as well as the transitions specific to our technological focus on computer graphics, animation, interaction and visualization. In the last thirty years, computer graphics technology has rapidly moved from an arcane technical specialty to a ubiquitous part of everyday life for everyone from grandparents to grandkids.
At the same time people are increasingly isolated. Population densities go up but our next-door neighbors are usually strangers. Mass culture provides entertainment and shared experiences, but because it must appeal to huge audiences with diverse backgrounds and tastes, it can at best be "the lowest common denominator." By trying to appeal to everyone, it cannot serve anyone well. Despite falling prices of technology, the "digital divide" stubbornly persists for reasons both economic and technical. For example, the global distribution of broadband infrastructure is uneven.
Concentrating on themes of globalization and personalization, we sought to map out a strategy to get from where ACM SIGGRAPH is today to where we hope it can be in five to ten years. As the ubiquity of computer graphics expands our audience, we seek to provide a personalized service to a global community. We propose to gradually extend the existing siggraph.org web site to become the premier place for technical content, professional community, educational material and political/policy advocacy for our profession and industry.
A visit to the new siggraph.org will be different for each member of the community. Someone with a casual interest in computer graphics may occasionally visit to scan the front page, or perhaps to find the answer to a specific technical question. A professional in the field might visit daily, seeking late breaking industry news, new research publications, and communication with colleagues. These frequent visitors will form the core of the community and our services will be targeted at them.
The fictitious URL my.siggraph.org stands for the idea of a web page personalized to the interests of a single member of the community. (See for example my.yahoo.com.) In today's technology this would suggest using a browser cookie to store a user identification and password, a corresponding user profile on the server, and a dynamically created web page. The profile would at least consist of topic selections and other information directly provided by the member. It might also be supplemented by implied information, automatically gathered by the web site based on the content of pages a member visited during a session. The member's profile might be further supplemented by recommendation services: "you say you like A and B, other members who like those also like C, so I'll recommend you look at C."
We acknowledge that some people find this sort of inference (data mining) based on "looking over your shoulder" to be downright creepy and a dangerous invasion of privacy. Therefore my.siggraph.org must have impeccable privacy guarantees, it must adhere to strict privacy guidelines and should be certified by TRUSTe or other equivalent organizations. Members must have detailed and absolute control over what information is gathered about them and (if they allow such gathering) they must have control over how the information is used.
Members can visit their my.siggraph.org page to pull their personalized content from the site. Some users may prefer to have the content pushed to them via email, or perhaps using Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) via PDA, pager or phone. This pushed information could be either the content summary itself (the full text of their my.siggraph.org page), or it might be a simple reminder (saying effectively "you have new my.siggraph.org content, click here").
The mechanisms of personalization for web sites are complex and not specific to SIGGRAPH. As this industry matures and grows, it seems likely that we will want to outsource this component of my.siggraph.org to a commercial provider of pers onalization services. A random sample of companies offering products and services in this are includes: Net Perceptions, Zope, MyAble, Yo!, EdgeScape, iPlanet, Plumtree, and Enterprise Portal.
In addition to all of the material that is at today's ACM SIGGRAPH web site, the siggraph.org hub will include many new types of content. These will include technical publications (see next section), industry and public policy news, announcements from the community, discussion forums, and other special events. All content will be filtered through member profiles and presented on the my.siggraph.org page of interested members.
Providing news, filtered to fit a special audience, is a common technique used to encourage frequent visits to web sites. We propose that siggraph.org carry news stories of special importance to its membership. News would cover business stories about the computer graphics industry, new hardware and software products, stories about movie, TV and game productions and releases, and political and public policy issues directly related to our field. Partnering with established online technology news outlets would be a starting point for this service, although having a news director on staff would be ideal.
Announcements from the community would provide another source of information on the hub. The boundary between news and announcements is fuzzy: a lot of "business wire" news is just press releases, which are corporate announcements. We anticipate that there will be a desire by individual members to post announcements to a large audience. For example: the URL of a newly completed thesis, a new Tech Report from a research lab, a new animation clip, or a call for participation in a workshop.
An important function of the siggraph.org hub will be to provide a forum for communication between members of the community. We anticipate that discussion groups will be an important avenue for the exchange of ideas. Such facilities are common to many web portals and as a consequence, software to implement them is widely available, some examples are: Slash, Phorum, Sporum and Agora. These discussion group systems provide for web-based reading and posting of messages, as well as archiving, threading and searching. When appropriate, discussions can be moderated and membership can be restricted. In some circumstances peer-to-peer communication is better served by mailing lists which can be administered by systems like Mailman or Majordomo.
Finally, ACM SIGGRAPH could produce its own special events of particular interest to our community. One suggestion was to host a live webcast of interviews of notable members of the community. For example, an interview with film director John Lasseter would probably draw a large audience.
Technical publications will be a key element of the new siggraph.org hub as they are of our annual conference (and to a lesser extent, the quarterly newsletter). We propose that the siggraph.org hub facilitate a new and expanded meaning of "a SIGGRAPH paper." Traditionally having a technical paper published at the annual conference is extremely prestigious. This prestige is closely linked to the fact that the conference is extremely selective about which papers are published. As a consequence, the likelihood of any given paper being selected for publication is extremely low. Many good papers are rejected by the conference, only a portion of those are resubmitted elsewhere, others never see the light of day. This may be because there is a large drop in perceived prestige between the SIGGRAPH conference and other venues.
The SIGGRAPH conference comes but once a year, while siggraph.org is always in session. We propose that ACM SIGGRAPH solicit the submission of high quality research papers throughout the year instead of just for one annual publication deadline. When a manuscript comes in, an ACM SIGGRAPH officer analogous to the Conference Papers Chair would work with a standing Papers Committee to obtain peer reviews of the draft paper. (The START system provides nice tools for web-based paper submission and reviewing.) Authors of papers meeting a certain standard of quality would be invited to revise their draft based on the reviews, and submit a semi-final draft to be posted at the siggraph.org web site. The presumption is that the threshold of quality for these "web papers" would be somewhat lower than is currently used for the annual conference. The goal would be to accept more papers, say two to four times the number of papers published at the annual conference.
Then once a year (perhaps a little later than the current deadline for conference papers) a second selection process would take place. This might be run by the Papers Committee, or it could be implemented by an audited vote of the membership. The result of the second selection process would be to pick the best of the best, to winnow down the group of "web papers" published over the preceding twelve months to the set of papers that would be presented at the SIGGRAPH conference and (after a final revision) published in the Conference Proceedings volume.
It has been suggested that in some regards this model is similar to the selection process used for the Electronic Theater. Animation is produced all year long, some of the works from the last year are submitted to the jury, a small portion of them are selected to be included in the Electronic Theater. Other noteworthy films can be seen in the Animation Festival screening rooms.
We suggest that a year-round, web-based submission model will result in the same number of high-quality research papers at the SIGGRAPH conference. The double-tiered selection process may even produce better results. It certainly will allow better awareness and cross referencing between papers published in the same year. In addition, the "web papers" provides a staging ground for conference papers. More papers will be made available to the SIGGRAPH community. Even if a web paper does not make the final conference cut, it will be archived and made available to those interested in its content.
Fortunately, as we move toward online publication we can rely on the experience of many organizations who have gone there before us. The history of online journals (a.k.a. eJournals and e-prints) goes back at least to 1991 with the establishment of the "Los Alamos Physics e-print archives" (also known as xxx.lanl.gov, their permanent home is http://arXiv.org/. There is a description of the e-print archives history and practice in Paul Ginsparg's 1995 paper, "First Steps Towards Electronic Research Communication." See also his remarks in 2000 on "Creating a Global Knowledge Network." We should track the ongoing effort by the Open Archives Initiative to standardize the field of online technical publication. Additional information can be found at: Principles for Emerging Systems of Scholarly Publishing, Scholarly Electronic Publishing Initiatives, Create Change, SPARC and New Jour.
A web-based strategy is inherently global: siggraph.org is accessible to anyone with a network connection. Yet the issue of globalization cannot be dismissed with that glib observation. English is widely spoken throughout the world, particularly in technical and commercial fields. But a web site that seeks a global audience should attempt to provide content in other languages. Initially, a weak version of this could be accomplished using automatic online translation services such as Systran. ACM SIGGRAPH has an affiliation agreement with Eurographics and agreements with other national and international computer graphics societies. There is increased potential for furthering these collaborations with other organizations.
We want the content of siggraph.org to be as readily accessible to a rural high school student in the Nile Valley as it is to a commercial software developer in Silicon Valley. Cost will be a barrier to some of the global audience, even the relatively modest cost of an ACM SIGGRAPH membership. We must strive to make as much of our content accessible to non-members as is consistent with maintaining a viable organization. We should investigate the approach taken by the ACM which adjusts membership dues by national per-capita income.
Creating the proposed my.siggraph.org website will be a large and complex project, nor will the workload decrease once the site is built. Because of its dynamic nature, with new content arriving every day, its operation will be an ongoing challenge. Like the yearly SIGGRAPH conference, the website will be directed by volunteers, but must rely on the use of paid staff, professional management companies, and/or other contractors to handle the day-to-day operations. Figure 1 shows a diagram of the proposed ACM SIGGRAPH HUB.
Figure 1. A diagram of the proposed ACM SIGGRAPH HUB
Each of the new sections of the new hub will require some amount of editorial oversight. As previously mentioned, the expanded online technical publication venue will require ongoing action by a papers chair and his/her committee, taking submissions, soliciting peer reviews and selecting papers for web publication. The industry and public policy news section will need at least a part time "news director" for selecting which news items from a partner technology news service or press releases would be relevant for the siggraph.org audience. A full time news director and staff might write their own articles. A moderator would be required to filter announcements from the community to make sure submissions were on topic and to remove spam. If we staged special events (such as the live interviews mentioned above) they would require producers and other staff. In addition to these editorial tasks, each of these venues would require "webmaster" work such as reformatting and posting items in appropriate places on the web site. These straightforward but time consuming tasks would best be handled by paid staff or contractors.
The cost of these services must be offset by new revenue. Potential sources of revenue include: economy of scale achieved through working with ACM and other ACM Special Interest Groups, grants from corporate sponsors, and direct advertising revenue based on the presumably increased number of page views resulting from the hub model. Banner advertising is a controversial topic. Many people feel it both detracts from the content and demeans the atmosphere of the site. Furthermore, web advertising revenues have risen and fallen over the years, and the long term value of web advertising has not been established.
Transforming ACM SIGGRAPH's existing website into "the graphics hub" provides a mechanism to offer personalized services to a global audience. By establishing itself as the premier Internet portal for everyone with an interest in computer graphics, ACM SIGGRAPH will widen its audience and importance. While the siggraph.org hub described here will be significantly larger and more complex to operate than the current website, the changes can be made in many small and incremental steps. This is not an "all or nothing" strategy. We can implement it step by step, testing its success as we go. The risk is small and the potential benefits are great.
The Report of Group 2
Report prepared by Andrew Glassner
"Show me where itís at, baby" -Al Green, "Tired of Being Alone"
Group members: David Arnold, Gudrun Enger, Andrew Glassner, Leo Hourvitz, Lynn Pocock, Dino Schweitzer
I. The Big Picture, 2010
It is 2010. There have been no global disasters beyond the usual plagues, famines, border wars, religious jihads, corporate crimes, ethnic battles, and isolated economic collapses that attend human history. In other words, the last ten years have been a lot like the preceding twenty-five.
On a global, national, and personal level, economic and political forces have consolidated power, control, and wealth of all types into an ever-decreasing number of hands. At the helm are a few densely knit collectives of transnational corporations. In particular, food and media are created and distributed to the world by a very small number of companies and individuals. Naturally, there are a variety of passive and active alternative movements, but they are generally treated as a sideshow, and fail to gather sufficient power to significantly influence the controlling hegemony. Governments see themselves as the lubricants of business, and have relinquished most social programs to non-governmental organizations and charities.
The Internet is an "endless mall," a phrase that carries the same resigned overtones of lost possibilities as televisionís epithet "vast wasteland." While both technologies were originally hailed as great instruments of democracy and education, they both became primarily tools for commerce. This is now widely seen as the inevitable result of spiraling production costs. The richest organizations are always able to afford production values that outstrip everyone else, and people are naturally drawn most strongly to the most well-produced, well-targeted products. Independent works exist, but the mainstream dominates.
As these large organizations consolidated popular interests and properties, a large number of smaller, niche organizations have sprung up, like flies circling an elephant. These organizations serve all aspects of the body politic, including social, professional, personal, political, environmental, and business concerns. Although large organizations routinely customize their services for each individual, the small organizations offer true personalization, and provide common ground for persons and groups with specific interests.
Thus the organizational scales in the worlds of society and economy have been driven to the extremes. While a few dozen world-scale corporations and individuals control and shape an enormous percentage of the lives of everyone on the planet, a large number of tiny organizations in the developed part of the world occupy the empty space of individualized goods, services, and human expression that are too small for the giants to fulfill. In so-called developing countries, these organizations are rare or nonexistent. A few organizations live in the middle size, between monster and gnat.
This polarization is the dominant shape of the social and economic structure of the world.
Part II: Power Lunch
Letís look at the lunchtime journey of a college-educated professional ó the 2010 version of a person ACM SIGGRAPH served in 2000. Cheryl Treeman is 30 years old, and works as a sales representative for Bug-Eyed Toys, a manufacturer of plush dolls for young children. Cheryl is married for the second time, and is raising her four-year-old daughter Ren@a. Names with embedded numbers and punctuation have become fashionable.
Cheryl, her husband Fil, and Ren@a live in an apartment in Boston, where the rent consumes 45% of their net income. They sometimes talk about moving, but most of Boston is a dirty, dangerous mess. Theyíre already in the least expensive of the nice neighborhoods. Cheryl doesnít want to move to the suburbs ó every few weeks she hears about someone holding hostage an entire train car of people in protest of something or other, and half the time someone gets killed. Cheryl wants Ren@a to grow up with both a mommy and a daddy.
Itís about noon, and after a busy morning at work Cheryl and her friend Ja9 decide to treat themselves to a nice, relaxing lunch. Cheryl asks her wrist-agent for a lunch recommendation.
"Iím busy," grumbles the unkempt man in the tiny display. Cheryl grins ó she likes it when Boris gets cranky. "Daminiís has that round pasta you like," he says, "Rachel recommends their chicken marsala, they have a 32% return clientele for lunch, and an entrée bumps your SunCorp rate to three-point-twelve percent." Ja9 nods at her friend, impressed. SunCorp owns almost all the clothing and jewelry stores in Boston, and building and maintaining a good discount rate with the company is something of a friendly competition between the two friends. Since everything is cross-promoted to everything these days, Cheryl needs an agent like Boris just to keep things straight. "Plus," her wrist adds, "Iím pretty sure Allen Foreman will be there, alone." That cinches it ó Cherylís been trying to get to see Foreman for weeks now.
That upgrade to her wrist-agent was worth it, she realizes. Using a coordinated combination of satellite imaging, road sensors, biometrics, point-of-purchase tracking, and other data, itís possible to find out in real time where practically anyone is located and what theyíre doing. Like everything else, privacy and information have their price. Cherylís a good shopper ó in return for letting her doctor sell her real-time vital statistics to the manufacturer of an anti-depressant sheís taking, sheís gotten a five-percent discount on the prescription, plus ten dollars towards a full physical checkup. She can also expect to see encouraging self-help books on her specific condition displayed prominently in the apartments of the TV shows she watches.
Cheryl and Ja9 walk to Daminiís Restaurant (their presence puts the sidewalk population over its limit for the third day in a row, and a piece of email is automatically sent to the Boston City Planner to suggest re-flowing the pedestrian traffic in that region). Arriving at the restaurant, they find to their pleasure that Boris has somehow managed to get them seated next to Allen Foreman. Cheryl doesnít have a clue how these little programs pull off half of what they do.
Ja9 strikes up a conversation with Allen, and they join him at his table. This is their big break, as she and Cheryl pitch to the financier the company theyíve been planning to form. As lunch goes on, it becomes clear to the women that Foremanís central questions are whether their idea can sustain itself in practice, and whether it will be small enough that the trans-nationals will be happy to leave it alone, and thus neither crush it nor swallow it. Because their idea is global, heís also concerned about language backlash. In recent years, some ethnic groups and countries have moved to preserve their languages by refusing any good or services in any language but their own. Other concerns include security, theft, fraud, and intellectual property. But heís interested in the idea, and to Cheryl and Ja9ís delight, their casual lunch conversation soon becomes a serious business discussion.
Part III: Todayís ACM SIGGRAPH (In the Year 2010)
ACM SIGGRAPH has evolved quite a bit since the millennium began ten years ago. The organization today acts primarily in three capacities: connecting people, providing resources, and education. Itís tempting to tease these apart, but itís sometimes hard to tell where one service ends and the other begins, so letís just look at the services provided by the organization in general, beyond its conference activities (which continue to thrive).
The ACM SIGGRAPH online presence began as a web site, but it has evolved into a large database that is accessed through a rich, custom AI system named Peter Grafix. Like an expert librarian who not only knows where everything is located, but can suggest all sorts of unexpected but relevant related information, Peter is able to help people who need a skill or service find other people who can provide it. Peter also manages a dense network of skill bartering, where volunteers donate time and energy to the central repository and each other, and later are repaid in kind.
Peter is also a front end for ACM SIGGRAPHís "on-demand" visualization services. When an organization needs accurate and well-designed visuals, from non-profits to big companies in a crunch, Peter can put together a team to provide whatís needed. Last year when terrible hurricanes were sweeping across the Bahamas, Peter put together a team of rapid-response volunteers who were able to combine their individual expertise in weather predictions, topographical surveys, ocean simulations, and other specialties to create short, scientifically accurate visualizations of expected wind and storm flows to aid the desperate emergency relief teams. By sequencing the production crews, new animations were shipped out almost every hour for a week, round the clock. Peter even found commercial production houses that were willing to volunteer off-hours rendering time to produce the visuals.
Peter also helps individuals. Last week a college student needed help with trigonometry, and Peter found a private tutor who was willing to exchange two hours of free video-call tutoring for advice on birthday gifts for the tutorís teenage sons. A man in Budapest needed help with the graphics card in his computer, and Peter connected him with a consultant in Maryland whose mother, in Budapest, was having trouble getting a doctorís appointment. An hourís investment of time on both sides got everyone squared away.
The ACM SIGGRAPH Skills Exchange has helped job-seekers and companies with open positions find each other to mutual benefit. The mentoring program has captured hundreds of hours of on-line tutoring sessions, which are now available for free review by anyone, anytime. The "Ask Dr. SIGGRAPH" question-and-answer repository has been a great resource for teachers around the world, including taped lectures from many of the greatest teachers of graphics. Many schools and institutions have found knowledgeable and inspiring speakers through the Exchange, and the free educational materials are referenced frequently. And as the population has aged, Peterís facility with the Skills Exchange has helped people forced into retirement continue to contribute by finding grateful recipients for their volunteered expertise and experience, ranging from technical questions to business ethics and communication skills.
Many people look forward to Peterís monthly email, which contains translations of the abstracts of recent papers into each personís native language. Although most of the work is done automatically, human volunteers proofread each abstract before it goes out to pick up the occasional mistranslation. Of course, they usually leave in the howlers, with a correctly translated footnote.
The ACM SIGGRAPH Logo Program helped eliminate the confusion in the early part of the decade when graphics and video hardware and software was everywhere, dropping in price, and guaranteed incompatible. If you get two products that had the Logo, you know theyíll work together or youíll get your money back.
The huge database of people, skills,
needs, and information at Peterís disposal helps ACM SIGGRAPH bring together
individuals and groups for their mutual benefit. Because their feedback
becomes part of the system, people trust the connections and information
that they receive. More than a library, technical resource, bulletin board,
skills center, or meeting room, the ACM SIGGRAPH site, presented through
Peter, serves as common ground for people involved in computer-assisted
visual communication the world over.
Report from Group 3: The ACM SIGGRAPH COMMUNITY
Reported by Glenn Entis
Group Members: Alan Chalmers, Colleen Cleary, Steve Cunningham, Glenn Entis, Erica Johnson, Bill Kroyer, Scott Owen
Our group asked how ACM SIGGRAPH could remain relevant in a world in crisis. The exact nature of the crisis is not important, other than that it monopolizes world attention, and strains resources and communities on a global scale.
Our conclusion was that what most counts in a crisis is a trusted community, so we asked if ACM SIGGRAPH could be strong, trusted, and relevant enough to still be meaningful in the midst of a global crisis. Addressing this question lead us to two very optimistic position propositions:
1. The trusted global community encompassed and defined by ACM SIGGRAPH can be relevant in a global crisis
2. The qualities that make ACM SIGGRAPH relevant in a crisis are the same as those that make in relevant in less troubled times. In other words, preparing ACM SIGGRAPH for the worst is exactly the same as preparing it for the best.
In other words, looking at ACM SIGGRAPH in a world in crisis is just a way of using a different perspective to clearly understand what makes ACM SIGGRAPH relevant today.
We concluded our presentation with a methodical examination of the types of interactions that define the SIGGRAPH community and suggestions for general directions and specific programs that could positively reinforce each type of interaction.
A World in Crisis
Our scenario is of a world in crisis. The exact nature of the crisis is not important, but we defined it generally as a problem so deep, broad, and long-term that it dominates world attention for a significant period of time. A crisis of this magnitude would dominate world headlines for, say, more than a year. Solutions to other problems would be subordinated to how they relate to the crisis. Solution of the crisis would require a disproportionate amount of resources, and would lead individuals, organizations, and governments to compromise other long-held values in search of a solution. Examples of this magnitude of crisis in the 20th century are World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. Because global crises have been an apparently inescapable part of our past, we believe they will also be a part of our future.
Whatever form a crisis takes, its effects on various spheres of human activity are fairly predictable. We examined five areas and discussed the probable impact of a global crisis:
1. Economic (less money, less revenue, more poverty)
2. Social dynamics (paranoia, persecution of groups, mistrust of government and companies, isolation, morality shift, less faith in societal structures)
3. Technology (imbalance and breakdown, mistrust of technology, blame or backlash against technology)
4. Political (closing of borders, restricting of communication, outlawing activities, taxation, license to buy computer, intellectual property protection)
5. Environmental (life threatening conditions, ozone, global warming, aids, poor health)
Healthy communities will be severely challenged by these problems. A common theme of many of the problems noted above is a reduction in resources, communication and trust. Individuals living in a world of crisis will feel less secure (and some will be living under threat of immediate harm) and will thus have a greater need for communities they trust. But those communities themselves will be more impoverished and less secure, and so less able to serve their constituents.
At some point a global crisis could cross the threshold beyond which it would be impossible for an organization such as ACM SIGGRAPH to remain relevant. Clearly a thermonuclear war is past that threshold. If one agrees that ACM SIGGRAPH is currently an important and relevant community, then the many smaller crises that currently exist in the world are clearly under that threshold. We decided to focus on how to raise that threshold. In other words, what would make ACM SIGGRAPH a strong enough organization and community to weather and even thrive during the crises we believe are very possible in our lifetime?
SIGGRAPH is a Community
Our group agreed that ACM SIGGRAPH defines a global community with a high level of trust. The organization itself is trusted and is conducive to the formation of highly trusted relationships among individuals. It seemed apparent to us that a trustworthy global organization that fostered rich world-wide individual relationships among people with high levels of technical and graphics communication skills could be very relevant to a world in crisis. We explored several specific senses in which the SIGGRAPH community could function in this hypothetical world, and came to a very important conclusion - the values and attributes most important for ACM SIGGRAPH in our hypothetical world in crisis are exactly those values and attributes that are most important now. In other words, our foray into the future brought us right back to the present, and that will be the focus of the remainder of this report.
We believe that this is a profoundly optimistic conclusion (particularly for a group obsessed with global crises) in two senses: one is that with the correct focus, preparing ACM SIGGRAPH for the worst is exactly the same as preparing it for the best. And the second is that with that correct preparation, a world in crisis would find ACM SIGGRAPH to be an important, perhaps critical, community for people in need of trusted information and friendship.
Enriching the SIGGRAPH Community
We focused on two key ideas related to community. Many of our concrete suggestions are based on these two ideas:
1. The key to communities is the network of established interpersonal relationships that allow trustworthy, truthful exchanges of information
2. ACM SIGGRAPH should provide brokerage of information and expertise that includes other disciplines
We believe that if ACM SIGGRAPH can strongly execute on these two principles, it will be building itself for the best and the worst of times .
We then looked at specific ideas for enriching the SIGGRAPH community. For our discussion, we looked at 5 different levels of ACM SIGGRAPH:
1) individual members,
2) special individuals who volunteer,
3) chapters and committees,
4) the international organization, and
5) the whole world in which ACM SIGGRAPH exists.
In order to understand the "community" of ACM SIGGRAPH, we looked at all the social and community interactions that occur between all these levels of the organization. In order to make thorough sense of these possible categories of interaction, we constructed a "community grid" that maps these relationships. This provided a framework for organizing the stream of community building ideas that were generated within our group.
You will find below a discussion of many of the types of interactions we discussed, with some of our groupís suggestions for building the community in each of these areas.
Interaction Between Individuals
Facilitate individual contacts
* Web-based filters to link individuals with similar interests. This could allow creation of dynamic, specifically targeted, web-based "birds of a feather" groups that could then be augmented by face-to-face meetings at the annual conference.
* ACM SIGGRAPH bios and interviews ó with key worded special interests. If someone chose to post some personal information and interests, he/she could be contacted on that basis.
* ACM SIGGRAPH public diaries. In the games industry, many notable game developers post ".plan" files, that are regularly updated personal diaries. These diaries discuss how their game is progressing, but might also address other issues (sometimes very informally), such as what other games theyíre playing or films theyíve seen. It gives their fans a way to understand a little more about how they see and judge the world. Why not the same for computer graphics luminaries?
* At the annual conference:
- Have better technologies and support for message posting, e-mail retrieval, etc.
- Have preset forums with invitations for strangers to meet.
- Have course lunches, parties and mixers with specific themes.
- Arrange for attendees to sit with speakers.
- Invite international chapters or organizations to give presentations.
- Color or electronically code badges by key words or interests ó e.g. "I see by your badge that youíre interested in real-time rendering for games," or, "I see by my badgeís response to your badge that we have many key words in common." (OK, we hope no one will really talk this way, but you get the idea).
Interaction Between Individuals and Chapters or Committees
How do the chapters reach out to individual members?
How do ACM SIGGRAPH committees reach out to community members?
Interaction between ACM SIGGRAPH and Individuals
The goal here is superb individualized communication. One question we asked ourselves is "how can ACM SIGGRAPH make itself indispensable to the individual member?" Our answer is that a high-quality, timely, regular, personalized, e-mailed report could be indispensable. If I can get a weekly report on those specific issues, people, and organizations I most care about, complete with links to follow-up information and original sources, I have an indispensable source of information, a reason to belong to ACM SIGGRAPH, a reason to invest in the community, and a reason to think about that community every week when I open my e-mailed newsletter.
For example, this reporter is an Amazon shopper. Amazon does a superb job of tracking his purchases and interests, so they have the data to personalize his junk mail. He actually welcomes and reads their mail, because they usually send him information he wants. Features of such a personalized newsletter include the following:
* It is personalized based on individual interest in topics, people, and institutions (e.g. "Iím interested in real-time rendering for games, plus any news about Electronic Arts, David Salesin, or the University of Washington.")
* It is delivered via e-mail on a regular basis
* It has links to related stories and primary materials. A sophisticated system would track my clicks and adjust my personal profile based on what I was really viewing.
* It includes important news for all recipients.
* There is a role of "ACM SIGGRAPH Correspondent" who feeds reports into the common database. The goal would be for each major organization engaged in computer graphics (university, corporate business unit, commercial animation studio, etc.) to have a correspondent. With stories filed via e-mail by pre-authenticated correspondents and delivered via filtered e-mail, the post-to-read cycle could be very fast.
Our group generally (but not, I believe, unanimously) believed that this would be the most important single program in our list of suggestions.
We also discussed the idea of having a "prestige" level of membership. There would be special events and discounts available only for these members. This level could be awarded for:
* long-term or distinguished service,
* long-term membership (e.g. 10 consecutive years), or
* significant achievement in the field (for example, the Computer Graphics Achievement Award)
Interaction with Volunteers
(by ACM SIGGRAPH, Chapters, Committees, and other Volunteers)
Volunteers are the fuel that make ACM SIGGRAPH possible, so we need to know as much about volunteers and their experiences as possible. This is primarily a marketing problem, which we understand is a controversial concept at ACM SIGGRAPH. So, whatever itís called, we strongly recommend emphasis on addressing the following questions:
* Who volunteers ó by age, gender, occupation, occupational status, etc?
* Who makes the most effective volunteers?
* Why do people volunteer? And what factors lead volunteers to re-enlist?
* What kinds of experiences do ACM SIGGRAPH volunteers have? Are they satisfied; do they feel effective; do they feel valued and special; do they believe they have been properly guided and equipped for their tasks?
* Are there any special perks we can provide to volunteers? Do they even want perks? And if so, what perks?
* How do we target potential effective volunteers, recruit them, train them, and retain them?
Interaction Between Chapters and Between ACM SIGGRAPH and a Chapter
How well does ACM SIGGRAPH promote communication at the chapter to chapter, or committee to committee level? Does each chapter have a sense of mission and share that with other chapters in an effort to find common causes? Do chapters share ideas, know-how, guest speakers, etc.? If chapters are interested in community involvement (see interaction between the chapter and the world below), do they share ideas, know-how and contacts in that arena?
ACM SIGGRAPHís Communication to the World
ACM SIGGRAPH should play a stronger role in the world community. As the trusted organization in computer graphics, ACM SIGGRAPH representatives and members should be regularly consulted and quoted. For example, in the games industry, Executive Director Douglas Lowenstein of the IDSA (Interactive Developer Software Association) is regularly quoted in leading news outlets as a spokesperson for the games industry, and is the industryís acknowledged spokesperson when industry issues are represented before Congress. Although this is a different situation - the computer graphics industry is broader and more multi-faceted than a trade organization and probably could not find the same focus on important issues ó the fact remains that when computer graphics issues are reported upon, ACM SIGGRAPH is not providing a strong, consistent and identifiable voice to the public. The opportunity is about building trust in the name and the organization, and so lending some of that credibility and prestige to individual programs, individual chapters, and individual members.
The benefits to ACM SIGGRAPH from greater involvement and contribution to local, regional, national, and international communities are manifold. Moving beyond "good work is its own reward," the visibility and trustworthiness of ACM SIGGRAPH could be enhanced. Its individual members could come to see ACM SIGGRAPH as an organization into which they could "give back" and thus funnel more of their personal attention and time. This could also lead to some surprising uses of computer graphics.
We looked at the opportunities for building community interactions on the same grid, and came up with the following observations and suggestions.
Interaction Between an Individual and the World
ACM SIGGRAPH can and should empower members to make an individual, positive impact on the world.
Suggestion: Hold an annual contest around a particular theme (e.g. "global warming", or "world wide spread of AIDS"). The goal is to use the visual communication tools of our industry to explain and educate on some aspect of the theme. Individuals, schools or teams could enter. The contest would be juried and the winner(s) would be able to present their work in a special SIGGRAPH conference session. Press would be invited, the winning presentations would be made available on-line, and ACM SIGGRAPH would put some PR behind getting broader exposure for the results. This is a win at every level. It reinforces the image of ACM SIGGRAPH as a responsible, trustworthy organization that provides a venue for addressing world problems with its technical and creative resources. It is of course a win for the contest winners ó they get a highly visible forum for their talents and their work. The success of the individual winners is also a powerful example for other individuals on several fronts ó how individuals can make a difference, how the tools of our industry can make powerful statements on global issues, and how ACM SIGGRAPH is an organization that is willing to amplify individual voices. The big win would be if the results from such a contest were picked and used for a major news item in a major outlet (NY Times, network broadcast news, etc.) or in a Congressional hearing, then ACM SIGGRAPH (and that individual) would be seen as a respected contributor to the national discussion on important issues.
Interaction Between a Chapter and the World
The chapters are ACM SIGGRAPHís links to local communities. ACM SIGGRAPH can and should explore ways to apply its members' and organizationís resources to the benefit of local communities.
Suggestion: Many public schools have grants for new media equipment, but lack training or guidance for their faculty. In Los Angeles, the non-profit Digital Coast Foundation has responded to this need by asking area new media professionals to volunteer their time in a series of free one-day weekend workshops. These workshops offer general orientation, some specific training and Question and Answer sessions for the public school faculty who attend. This is a model that could be rolled out and implemented in any community, and the local chapters are ideally positioned to take on the job. ACM SIGGRAPH could provide thetemplate that the individual chapters, if they chose to adopt the program, could modify to local tastes and needs.
Interaction Between ACM SIGGRAPH and the World
ACM SIGGRAPH should be the voice of computer graphics. Period. In the NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, broadcast news, congressional hearings, etc., people should come to expect that if they want a balanced, professional, trustworthy statement on any issue related to this field, they will come to ACM SIGGRAPH. This of course will take work and opens a lot of questions. Who speaks for ACM SIGGRAPH, with what positions, and on what issues? Who handles the increased PR requirements for such a visible position?. This probably also requires a staff executive director who could provide a respected, consistent voice over a long time period.
We also discussed a project called "CG Jam", modeled after the creatively successful "Anijam" concept, wherein different groups take a specific image (in our group we discussed a space image of Earth), and provide a 10 second CG animated segment that begins and ends with that image. If participation were at the national organization levels in all countries in which ACM SIGGRAPH has a presence, it would be a celebration of diversity of points of view, uniquely presented in CGI. Such a project would give a similar project to scores (or more) groups worldwide, which immediately provides a basis for an on-line community of assistance and collaboration. The film itself would showcase teams from countries that rarely, if ever, publish ACM SIGGRAPH papers, and they would be showcased in their best-possible light ó an animation that celebrates something unique to their own country.
The real value of ACM SIGGRAPH is the community. We recommend that ACM SIGGRAPHís long-term direction be focused specifically on building, strengthening and celebrating all aspects of that community. We should endeavor to better understand what makes our special community grow and prosper, and we should measure every new initiative against the standard "is this good for our community?"
At the risk of vast over-simplification, it seems that each of the different groups was touching a different part of the same elephant:
Group 3 answered what: "Enrich the Community"
Group 1 answered how: "With the ACM SIGGRAPH Hub"
Group 2 answered why: "the world is polarizing to the extremes of globalization and personalization. To be effective, we need a global solution that precisely targets individual needs"
These groups enjoyed being a part of the process of setting the future direction of ACM SIGGRAPH. Now, we ask you, our members and our community, to help us by commenting on the directions suggested in this report. Send your comments to the ACM SIGGRAPH Chair, Judy Brown (email@example.com) or to the entire ACM SIGGRAPH Executive Committee (firstname.lastname@example.org). We would very much like to hear from you.