To Sleep or Not to Sleep?

A few of our sleeping attendees...

-photo by Jessica Fernandes

Sleep. We need it, we want it, we seek to overcome our reliance on it, but it proves to be a necessity we can do nothing but accept. The mantra of the average SIGGRAPHian: "I’ll just close my eyes for a moment, just one moment, enough to refresh from the haze that’s falling over me". We say this, but one moment leads to another, and another, and soon we are the ones snoring disagreeably in the corner of a given course or paper. Visions of such a fate, (although I don’t snore, or so I’ve been told), forced me to walk out on one of the courses I had been looking forward to attending all week. It seems we can overcome hardware, software, and creative roadblocks, but human needs continue to hold us at bay.

Having gone to “rest my eyes” outside, and having awoken an hour later with the metal patio table filigree pattern on the palm of my hand (not on my face this time, I checked), I began to wonder: with so many events, courses, papers, and parties, how do most attendees get through their (often sleep-deprived) days? The lines at the Starbucks stands confirmed what most people listed as their “fix” - coffee. An early morning course without that faithful cup would be cruel and unusual punishment for most. Food is another important factor. When running on an empty stomach, the friendly and approachable SIGGRAPH crowd can take a turn for the worst. As I’ve learned from experience, hunger can heighten emotions and emotional responses.

With networking an important aspect of SIGGRAPH, most attendees can be seen frequenting the various user group meetings, receptions and parties related to the conference. Times may be tight in terms of company budgets, but at most events I’ve been to, the cutbacks seem to have little impact on overall sales, with attendees fronting the costs themselves to keep the alcohol flowing. In retrospect, I have heard people explain their perpetual sleepiness as a result of late night parties and their early morning hangovers. I hear the self-proclaimed “yes, I should probably cut back on the drinking”, but this is only a half-hearted consideration. The more prevalent course of action is to partake in all the events, stay out later than intended, and get to courses a little later than expected, the next day.

So, how do attendees survive the week, stay awake and get the most out of the experience? Except for the remarkable people who can actually pass up events in light of the full day they have planned in the morning, most of us fall somewhere in the middle ground between consciously wanting to do everything, and realizing it’s not possible, indulging sleep as and when it comes. That said, throughout the conference you will see people dozing off in courses, sometimes practicing daydreaming instead of active listening, showing up slightly later than intended to morning and post-lunch classes, and partying the night away. However, no matter the approach to this experience, most people here share one common attribute – an interest in computer graphics and animation. As such, whether awake or asleep, most survive and thrive by constantly drawing on the incredible people and things that make the SIGGRAPH experience so incredible.







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Last updated 8/25/03.

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Photos courtesy of Cybershot digital cameras generously loaned by SONY.