2011 SIGGRAPH International Conference: Part 1
Interview with SIGGRAPH 2011 International Resources Committee Co-Chair: Sandro Alberti and Exhibits Manager: Mike Weil
By ACM SIGGRAPH Chapter Reporter Ben Henderson
From a few hundred people in 1974 to tens of thousands attendees today, SIGGRAPH has become the premiere venue to showcase and experience the art and science of computer graphics. From the beginning, SIGGRAPH has been an opportunity to meet, mingle and collaborate with industry professionals and as SIGGRAPH has expanded, that collaboration has grown to include companies and individuals from around the world.
2011 marks the 38th year of the SIGGRAPH International Conference. This year SIGGRAPH ‘International’ takes on new meaning, as the conference ventures outside the U.S. for the first time. We recently spoke with Sandro Alberti, the International Resources Committee Co-Chair and Mike Weil, the Exhibits Manager to find out more about international participation.
Why do you think international participation is important?
Sandro: Although located in America, SIGGRAPH is an international conference (and has expanded international interest, now that we’ve had SIGGRAPH Asia for several years). In the end, I see the academic and professional endeavor of computer graphics as a global, international venture. Our presenters and attendees come from different parts of the world, and it’s common to cross international boundaries these days, whether as a foreign exchange student, a relocated professional, or making international friends on Facebook.
Mike: When an attendee steps into the Exhibition they have an opportunity to interact with the leading organizations from across the world, not just from the United States, Canada, or North America. The SIGGRAPH Exhibition is proud to host the leading organizations and hot-new upstarts from all around the world. Interacting with so many diverse international organizations in our industry can only be done at SIGGRAPH 2011. Interacting with such important organizations will lead to a better attendee experience and that is something we are proud to deliver to the SIGGRAPH 2011 attendee.
What does an international presence bring to the conference that’s unique?
Sandro: Beyond the fact that, these days, things ‘just happen’ to occur in an international context, there are cultural and region-focused aspects that are important to highlight. It is interesting to discover new cultures and ways of thinking and ways of doing things. Sometimes, cultural values can act as compelling content for interactive games, digital art, and video production, among others. Also, particular countries offer specific benefits to producers of digital media. Finally, a cultural connection with someone else could kick off fruitful collaborations in the future.
Mike Weil recently provided statistics, published by the SIGGRAPH Media Blog, regarding the growth in international exhibitors at this year’s conference. Have you seen a similar trend in other areas of the conference; submissions, presenters, or registered attendees?
Sandro: We don’t have very specific numbers regarding growth in various areas, because we have only started to do so in recent years. But the International Resources Committee has recently begun to track these numbers.
(Below is a breakdown of international participation by country, based on information provided by Mr. Alberti.)
Note: Some of these numbers were taken earlier in the year and may have shifted slightly. Also, these are based on submitter contact information, which in some cases might not be fully ‘international’ (could be an international franchise of an American company, or a part-time address of someone who actually lives/works in the USA, etc).
Has there been a specific push by SIGGRAPH for more international exhibitors at this year’s conference?
Mike: Yes, we have been reaching out to a greater extent to Asia and Europe. And since SIGGRAPH will be in Vancouver this year, we have reached out to a larger number of prospects in Canada as well.
Are there any countries or regions of the world where there has been a clear increase in the number of participants?
Sandro: In the areas where we notice an increase, that increase is generally gradual. Good examples are the Middle East and Latin America. The case of Latin America is interesting. People there are eager to participate in computer graphics and interactive techniques, and it is a region full of design studios as well as a couple ACM SIGGRAPH Chapters. For years, we have had good attendance at our ‘Latinos in CG’ meeting at the International Center. But it wasn’t until 2009, New Orleans, that we began to see countries such as Mexico and Costa Rica setting up booths at the Exhibition Hall. Now, this has become a recurring trend. We also see increasing interest and funding from the part of Latin American chambers of commerce. However, we don’t see many content submissions from countries in Latin America. Hopefully, this will begin to happen in the next few years.
Are there specific areas of the industry (e.g. animation, gaming, research & development, etc.) where you see more international involvement than others?
Sandro: Percentage-wise, we see a large amount of international submissions in the various areas:
Emerging Technologies- Half of the content here is from Japan, 3 submissions from France (one of the conference’s Emerging Technologies is typically a winner of France’s Laval Virtual).
Technical Papers- Of about 100 Papers, only some 50 are from the USA, while 11 are from China, 9 from Switzerland, 7 from France, and the rest from England, Japan, Korea, and other countries.
Art Gallery- While about half of the content here is from the USA, the other half is from other countries.
In the second part of the interview, Mike and Sandro address the unique challenges international participants face and the resources SIGGRAPH International provides to encourage worldwide involvement.