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Vol.32 No.4 November 1998

SIGGRAPH 98 Activities and ACM/Policy 98 Wrap-up

Bob Ellis

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This column provides a summary of our public policy activities at the SIGGRAPH 98 conference as well as a wrap-up of the ACM/Policy 98 Conference. See the web site.


Traditionally, the November column has provided a summary of public policy activities at the past SIGGRAPH conference. We have two formal activities: our annual committee meeting held on Tuesday, and a Birds of a Feather (BOF) session held on Thursday.

The committee meeting provides the only chance each year for the committee to meet in person. The 1998 meeting was attended by committee members Judy Brown, Bob Ellis, Oscar Garcia, Mike McGrath, David Nelson and Laurie Reinhart. Steve Cunningham, SIGGRAPH Chair, also attended.

Because the committee does not have sufficient human resources to organize a conference (plus the difficulty of getting policy makers to such a meeting), we have concentrated on participating in other conferences. I summarized our participation in Visualization 97, Computers, Freedom and Privacy (CFP) 98 and ACM/Policy98 (see previous Computer Graphics columns). I described some ideas I have suggested to the organizers of CFP99 which will be held in Washington D.C. in April 1999. These include panels on policy issues in graphics and fine arts, high speed Internet access and television/computer convergence. There was some interest in holding another workshop on PC visualization at Visualization 99, but no organizer stepped forward.

We have been working on a proposal to SIGGRAPH Special Projects for SIGGRAPH to partially sponsor a National Research Council (NRC) study on computer graphics research. A preliminary proposal has been developed and the NRC is very interested, but there are some issues which need to be resolved before the SIGGRAPH Executive Committee is comfortable with the project.

The idea of doing reader surveys on policy issues via our expanded Web page was discussed. Concurrently with investigating the technical feasibility, I’m going to work on some questions. These would be “unscientific” surveys because, among other things, the respondents would be self selected.

We discussed the possibility of having more of a presence at the SIGGRAPH conference, particularly at the BOF. To date we have used the BOF primarily as a meeting place for people interested in public policy because of the difficulty of publicizing a formal BOF program and the significant competition provided by the rest of the conference. We decided to try a short program for our BOF at SIGGRAPH 99 in Los Angeles.

I suggested that it was time to develop another white paper like the one we did on the Internet and public policy last year. Two topics occur to me: universal access and public data visualization. In the universal access paper we could concentrate on the use of graphical user interfaces to support universal access. Public data visualization is my description of the use of visualization tools by the public to view data, particularly data which is publicly available. I plan to put together synopses of both papers and solicit contributors.

We discussed two topics under “new ideas.” First, several committee members suggested that there were a number of potential policy issues associated with the Internet 2 activities currently underway. Then Judy Brown described the “forward looking” activities associated with the 30th anniversary of SIGGRAPH the organization which will be celebrated next year. Several suggestions were made including an interim report on the NRC study (if available), new white papers on the future and reader surveys on the future conducted on our Web page.

A number of activities have been suggested above. If any of you have ideas or would like to contribute to them, please contact me at the address listed at the foot of this column.

Bob Ellis is Chair of SIGGRAPH's Public Policy Committee. When last gainfully employed (1993), he was Sun Microsystem's representative on the Computer Systems Policy Project's (CSPP) Technology Committee and also co-managed Sun's external research program. Before that Ellis held computer graphics software development and management positions with Sun, GE-Calma, Atari, Boeing and Washington University (St. Louis).

Bob Ellis

The copyright of articles and images printed remains with the author unless otherwise indicated.


I have described activities leading up to this conference in previous columns. The conference was very successful drawing a good audience of both technical and policy attendees. The conference did not have a proceedings, but student fellows attended and summarized the sessions. See the web site for their reports.

Also, if you would like an email subscription to the ACM Washington Update newsletter published by the USACM Washington D.C. office, send email to with subscribe WASHINGTON-UPDATE in the body of the message. Back issues are available at their web site.

A Personal Note

SIGGRAPH 98 was the 25th annual conference. Several activities celebrated this milestone. I was particularly pleased that all the Chairs of the previous conferences were invited to participate and was glad to represent the 1980 conference which I co-chaired with Harvey Kriloff.