2011 SIGGRAPH International Conference: Part 2
Interview with SIGGRAPH 2011 International Resources Committee Co-Chair: Sandro Alberti and Exhibits Manager: Mike Weil
By ACM SIGGRAPH Chapter Reporter Ben Henderson
In the first part of our interview, Sandro Alberti, the International Resources Committee Co-Chair and Mike Weil, the Exhibits Manager provided an insightful look into this year’s international involvement. Below they talk about some of the difficulties international participants experience and what help SIGGRAPH can provide those traveling from abroad.
What unique challenges does an international exhibitor face?
Mike: International traveling and shipping are probably the two biggest challenges an exhibitor faces. Challenges related to documentation and visas that are required from those entering outside the host country have gotten stricter in recent years. The United States is stricter than Canada in terms of visas, which in some respects has helped us in our efforts to attract more organizations to exhibit at SIGGRAPH in Vancouver.
Sandro: Language: Not everyone speaks English perfectly, but the conference content is in English. Overall, English is quite a ‘lingua franca’, but there are, of course, cases, where there is a bit of a language barrier. To alleviate this, the International Resources Committee assists international attendees in matters of registration, submissions, and some content translation. Various registration questions are routed to us, and filtered to a specific committee member that can best provide an answer applicable to the world region in question. Regarding submissions, we offer a service to review and improve the level of English in the descriptions. And finally, we try to provide translated overviews of the conference, as well as translations of particular submissions (typically Art Gallery and Emerging Technologies).
Travel: Something that American travelers don’t usually think about (even in the case of Vancouver), is how easy they have it. Even if they need to renew their passport, they can just do it at the post office. In countries like Mexico, on the other hand, the mere act of replacing a passport entails making an appointment 2-3 months in advance, followed by the entirely separate process of obtaining a travel visa (which, in the case of Canada, has turned out to be very difficult, especially for students who don’t have a substantial income or full-time job or other reason to convince the Canadian government that they will not simply stay in Canada after the conference). This is why Registration assistance is a main service that we provide. However, we don’t have influence with the government, and can simply help with recommendations on process and required documents.
What, if anything, does SIGGRAPH do to encourage international participation? Are any special services provided?
Mike: We have appointed an international shipping organization to work with the exhibitors and help them through the shipping process. This firm has been working with exhibitors and has been helping them every step of the way to ensure a smooth shipping process from whatever country the exhibitor resides.
Sandro: At the conference, we have the International Center, with a presentation area and a lounge where people can meet, finish personal work, or even take a short break. As opposed to other international submissions at the conference, the presentations at the International Center have a highly regional (and at times cultural) focus. This is where you find out about what is happening in Computer Graphics in different countries of the world. Because the presentation area is relatively small, some of this ‘international’ content spills over to Birds of a Feather, when the gathering reaches several 100 people. This causes a little bit of confusion as to where one goes to see international events and meet international attendees, but it still works out ok, considering space and budget restrictions.
Every year, we also offer multilingual podcasts of the content shown in the Art Gallery and Emerging Technologies. These are audio descriptions of the various works in some 6 to 10 different languages (depending on availability of translators in any given year). These are available during and after the conference, and so can be used as guides or archival reference.
We also take care of the English Review Service, which offers submitters an opportunity to refine their English descriptions before they are reviewed or appear in printed catalogs and other media.
Outside of the conference, we work year-round to strengthen relations between the conference, ACM SIGGRAPH, and our international members and other organizations.
What changes would you like to see in the future to encourage more international exhibitors?
Mike: I would like to work more closely with the International Resources Co-Chairs on the SIGGRAPH Executive Committee to see if we can offer additional resources or tools to organizations that choose to exhibit at SIGGRAPH from countries outside the United States. We have discussed surveying the international exhibitors after SIGGRAPH 2011 to see what other ideas they may have that we could help provide for to make the entire experience even better in future years.
Sandro: I am interested in making the International Resources Committee into a more prominent and pertinent entity. Only in the past few years have we defined specific world regions amongst which to distribute all our committee members, and I am now looking into assigning 2 people to each of these regions. This will entail some recruiting but should prove beneficial in the future, since with enough support we’ll be able to implement new services and content. We need to grow comfortably into our multi-focus role, that includes: Connection, Translation, Innovation, and Presentation.
I would also like to expand our role as pathfinders at the conference. We are working on focused maps and hopefully also technology that will make it a fun and learning experience for international attendees to discover the conference (and each other).