Asian CHI Community: Quo Vadis?

Josh (Adi Tedjasaputra)
Jun 27 · 6 min read

Summary: While the term Asia or Asian is complex, we started with a focused definition of Asia to build the Asian CHI Community. This focus has given a community a chance to grow. However, as diversity, inclusion, and equity have started to come into the picture, we need to grow with a more varied and inclusive strategy that aligns with ACM SIGCHI’s strategy.

The author in front of the sentence — written on a wall — “Because… Size Does Matter!”
Size does matter.

Quo Vadis is a questioning phrase meaning roughly “Where are you going?”. The origin of the words was traced back to the Latin Vulgate and the story of Peter meeting Jesus while fleeing Rome. It is also the title of a novel that has been made into motion pictures, in which a Polish writer, Sienkiewicz, received the 1905 Nobel Prize for Literature.

The rich imagery and meanings of the phrase Quo Vadis have inspired me to ponder on Asian CHI Symposium on its fifth anniversary. Where are we going with Asian CHI Community and Asian CHI Symposium?

There were many discussions in the last meeting of the Asian CHI Symposium post-event ranging from the works that are still outstanding to the selection or election of the next Chairs and organizers. During an online discourse, the idea of Steering Committee also came up. We then developed the idea further into a permanent Steering Committee consisting of active community members who have co-founded the Asian CHI Symposium and been since its inception, i.e., Eunice Sari, Masitah Ghazali, and myself.

In this article, I aim to have a further discourse regarding nurturing the Asian CHI community further, including the annual Asian CHI Symposium. I will discuss my thoughts in the aspects of Awareness, Engagement, Growth, and Advocacy.

Awareness

In my previous post suggesting a collaboration platform between academia and industry, I have briefly outlined how the Asian CHI Community emerged since 2011.

Asia or Asian is a complex term. According to Collins, “British people use this term especially to refer to India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Americans use this term especially to refer to China, Korea, Thailand, Japan, or Vietnam.” I would say that this is an outdated view of Asia.

A popular term used freely in recent publications and talks, including ACM SIGCHI Equity Talks, is “Global South.” One purpose of using the phrase “Global South” is to identify countries that are mostly “low-income and often politically or culturally marginalized.” In itself, the use of the term “marks a shift from a focus on development or cultural difference toward an emphasis on geopolitical power relations.”

For the last five years, geopolitical power relations are the least important aspect of the Asian CHI community. Without discounting or dismissing the importance of geopolitical power relations, in our discussion, I have limited the term “Asia” to the regions represented in the Asian Development Committee (ADC), i.e., Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, The Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Vietnam.

As briefly mentioned in my previous article, the current event-based platform, such as Asian CHI Symposium, is an integral part of our strategy to build awareness in the region. It is nonetheless insufficient to develop and nurture engagement and collaboration between academia and industry. As its current state, the Asian CHI Symposium is mainly academia-driven and thus attracting more academia than professionals.

Engagement and Growth

At this point, I discuss engagement and growth in the same section due to our lack of data, lack of understanding, and the relatively young age of the Asian CHI community.

The growth that I refer to is firstly related to the personal growth of each community member. This growth subsequently fuels the development of the community. The positive change in the Asian CHI community then supports the growth of SIGCHI through membership. As long as SIGCHI provides benefits to its members, the cycle continues.

The Cycle of Growth in Asian CHI Community: SIGCHI, Personal, and Community
The Cycle of Growth in Asian CHI Community, ACM SIGCHI and Personal Growth of ACM SIGCHI Members

Despite our community’s rich and varied background, based on profession, we can identify that our community consists of three main groups, i.e., Academia, Professionals, and Hybrid Academia-Professional.

Academia represented the majority and established the foundation of our community. The Academia is required by profession to publish, raise funding, and contribute to the body of knowledge in the community.

The Professionals benefit from the interaction with the Academia and draw inspiration from their engagement to benefit their professional development.

The emerging group is the hybrid Academia-Professional. This third group has a primary profession as an Academia or Professional, but actively work with others in different groups, forming academia-professional working relationships and pollinating the community’s body of knowledge.

We have begun learning about these three main groups, but a future homework for Asian CHI Community is to understand better how and why these three groups engage and grow together towards the better international SIGCHI community.

Advocacy

Promoting a cause or advocacy requires awareness, engagement, and growth. But, on the other hand, without positive feedback of advocacy, there is little we can do to build awareness, increase engagement and nurture growth.

The advocacy of the Asian CHI Community through the Asian CHI Symposium has happened for the last five years. We have received a mix of positive and negative feedback from the local and global community.

For example, we learned that many from the Asian CHI community members lacked the exposure and experience to the global SIGCHI community in the early years. This drawback had hindered many from contributing to the SIGCHI international community, such as submitting papers to the CHI conference. Asian CHI Symposium and Summer Schools (Winter Schools) have helped many engage with the global CHI community in a “safe” environment. We have learned about the people, processes, and technology that make us an international SIGCHI community.

Size does matter

For the fifth year, Asian CHI Symposium has attracted the world’s leading researchers and practitioners in the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and User Experience (UX) in Asia and beyond. The Asian CHI Symposium 2021 showcases the latest ground-breaking research and innovation from Asia and beyond by the Asian diaspora and focuses on incorporating Asian sociocultural factors in research and innovation related to how humans interact with technology.

This year, we received 69 submissions, with 58 presentations over the 2-day events, with 2 prominent Asian keynote speakers; Gierard Laput from Apple, and Hiromi Nakamura from the University of Tokyo, and 94 registered participants.

We have seen that the current event-based platform is no longer sustainable to support the recent growth of the Asian CHI community. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the Asian CHI community hard, as the face-to-face interaction becomes more limited and localized to those with the supporting technology. The pandemic has forced us to re-learn how to do that remotely. It is challenging for us, who used to build trust and collaboration in a face-to-face context in the past.

The latest face-to-face Asian CHI Symposium before the COVID-19 pandemic, with people discussing around posters
Sharing and Learning in Asian CHI Symposium 2019 | The latest face-to-face Asian CHI Symposium before COVID-19 Pandemic

In addition to that, the remote meeting fatigue has changed many of us to become more selective in participating in online events. As a result, time zone has become our good friend throughout our remote engagement.

Despite these challenges, the Asian CHI community has grown from fewer than ten people to more than a hundred people. I observed the snapshot of this growth in the 5th Asian CHI Symposium as a part of CHI 2021.

Based on this trajectory, we envision growing the Asian CHI community to be more than a thousand in the next five years. Preparing for this vision, with the increasing number comes more complexity. While we still try to keep many things simple, our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity has made particular overhead to operations unavoidable.

For example, in our Asian CHI Symposium 2021, we had to juggle a limited time as we observe the time for breaking fast for those who observe Holy Ramadhan. As we become more diverse and inclusive, we need to grow with a more varied and inclusive strategy.

We also understand the need to align our strategy with ACM SIGCHI’s diversity, inclusion, and equity strategy in the bigger picture. As we welcome the newly elected ACM SIGCHI Executive Committee, we look forward to learning more about aligning with the new committees.

Acknowledgement

Thank you for the support of ACM SIGCHI for providing a SIGCHI Development Fund grant to promote participation from the Global South. Many thanks to the tremendous contribution of all the Organizers, Ambassadors and Reviewers of Asian CHI Symposium 2021 and the previous ones.

ACM SIGCHI

For/By the SIGCHI Community