Bringing Together a Committee for Latin America
Adriana S. Vivacqua & Sane Gaytán
Latin America (LATAM) has a vibrant HCI/CSCW community, as evidenced by participation in SIGCHI’s major venues. This lively community of researchers has been growing over time. As part of its efforts to expand diversity and geographic coverage, the SIGCHI Executive Committee (EC), through its Development Fund Committee and in consultation with the LATAM community, decided to set up a committee, building on existing local efforts to strengthen ties between the Latin American and global SIGCHI communities.
In preparation to launch this initiative, we (Adriana and Sane) reached out to individuals and groups in informal conversations. This included junior and senior members of the community, active members of regional/country communities, chapter presidents, and individuals who had taken part in previous efforts to engage the Latin American HCI community. These conversations helped shape our next steps and focus our efforts.
To understand how the community felt and what they wanted, we designed a questionnaire to ask what kinds of partnerships we could create, and how we could work together to build a stronger global HCI community and learn from each other. We wanted to learn more about local initiatives and help share them with the larger SIGCHI community, and to work towards greater representation of Latin America in the events and initiatives that SIGCHI organizes and supports. In this questionnaire we asked whether they were in favor of such a committee; what were the top 3 items that should be addressed by this committee, or those that the committee should not spend time on; whether they had any thoughts or suggestions about structure and organization and whether they would like to volunteer or nominate someone for the committee.
We received 62 responses, overwhelmingly in favor of creating such a committee. Most respondents were from Mexico and Brazil, which is to be expected, as these are the two largest HCI communities in Latin America, but there were also responses from Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and from Latin American researchers living and working outside of Latin America (in US and Europe.) These helped surface the major challenges and issues perceived by our community.
Major challenges included underrepresentation of LATAM research in SIGCHI events (including participation in events, steering/program committees, and awards) and visibility of research done in LATAM at SIGCHI events; networking and collaboration (within LATAM and with other regions); education (methods, HCI education, integration with Computer Science); and addressing local aspects (locally relevant research, different career formats and evaluation, language, funding, and the fact that some LATAM countries have very small HCI communities.)
After running the questionnaire, we held an open meeting with the Latin American HCI community and invited guests who had worked with members of our community before (Susan Dray, Christian Sturm, Neha Kumar), to help brainstorm about this committee and how it could help the Latin American community. Forty-three people attended this meeting. In addition to a brief explanation of the ideas and open Q&A, participants were subdivided into breakout sessions to discuss and brainstorm ideas, especially regarding what actions could be taken and what they would like to see from this committee.
Regarding the shape and structure, participants mentioned that they would like to see a diverse and inclusive committee, with representation across many dimensions: regional, gender, cultural, career choice/stage, etc. Holding regular consultations with the community and encouraging broad participation (open calls, surveys, etc.) and transparency were also mentioned. Holding regular meetings, looking for synergy with SIGCHI chapters in the region, and exchanging ideas with the Asian Development Committee (ADC) about organization and operations were other suggestions that came up.
Possible courses of action included holding writing/reviewing workshops, summer schools, tutorials, pre-/post- conference events, mentorship, collaboration/matchmaking workshops, meetups; inviting prominent HCI researchers to LATAM for talks, courses or workshops; mapping LATAM researchers and topics of interest; highlighting local research (e.g., through special issues, conference tracks, posters, blog posts, etc.); working towards having more LATAM speakers at technical meetings and LATAM researchers as part of technical committees; developing publications/training/education materials in Spanish/Portuguese; seeking better integration with practitioners locally, and working with SIGCHI towards reduced participation costs. In addition, suggestions such as leveraging knowledge and building networks across the Global South were also made.
This process did take time, but we felt it was important to get feedback from the local community, and ensure not only that they were part of the process, but that we had their support. It would have seemed pointless to put together such a committee otherwise. After this process had been conducted, we consulted with current leadership and senior members of the community, who helped with the first version of the bylaws and with the definition of a group of people to form the first version of the SIGCHI LATAM Committee. Their names were approved by the EC and the committee was thus formed. You will read more about each of the members and the committee in an upcoming post.