2021 is a unique year for CHI--the Organizing Committee made the decision to hold the conference entirely virtually due to the ongoing issue of the global pandemic. This meant that we needed to think creatively and well about how to best serve CHI attendees from around the world, as we designed the online program. In this blog post, we give a broad-strokes overview of the planned schedule for CHI 2021, so that authors and attendees can begin to plan for it. Note: this post is NOT about the online tools that will be used--that is still being finalized.
To prepare this schedule, we observed and got feedback about other virtual conferences held in 2020. Certain patterns emerged: attendees liked shorter presentation slots in the online format; it was easier to manage sessions that had pre-recorded videos, but attendees preferred live Q and A; poster sessions with a ‘room’ per poster seemed to often leave some presenters sitting alone, hoping for a visit. Many attendees of virtual conferences, depending upon where they lived, noted that they could not really stay awake for some sessions, and missed content they were interested in. Finally, many attendees reported that they really missed informal conversations and networking.
We took all of this feedback and came up with a plan for dividing the global ‘day’ so that any attendee of CHI 2021 would get a chance to see most main program content without being up all night. You can think of the main program of the conference as taking place in 3 time blocks a day, evenly distributed across 24 hours. For anyone around the globe, at least two time blocks are reasonable (not midnight). Each of these three time blocks has a 2-hour paper presentation part (papers, case studies, etc) , followed by a 2 hour poster/interactivity presentation part. Each presenter will give same presentations twice, picking two time blocks In this way, it should be possible for anyone in any timezone to manage to see any particular paper, poster, or interactivity demo that they hope to see, and discuss it live with the presenters at a reasonable time by attending the timeblock of their choice.
We realize this will make the schedule more complex to understand, but the gain is preserving equity of access to the content regardless of where a person is situated geographically, without putting undue burden on presenters.
It’s important to note that not all conference content will be distributed across more than one time zone. As we finalize these details, we will share them with the community.
Regarding the inadequacy of informal networking support in many virtual conferences, the CHI 2021 Organizing Committee are vetting various conference support tools to make a final decision about which will best support both the formal program and the informal networking and community building that we all value. This is an important consideration in making the final selection. And of course, Accessibility Chairs are involved in this decision making process.
To summarize, we plan to take the bulk of the main program to a global schedule, with 3 main timeslots for presentations. This means authors will have two presentation times within these timeslots, so that attendees from around the world can interact with them live.
Please note: if you are a presenter at CHI 2021, look for an email soon, explaining how to return to PCS to select your two preferred time blocks, as well as to indicate your own base timezone. We will use that information to create the schedule.
We will continue to update the CHI community as we resolve further details about the program. We’re looking forward to the virtual event, and hope to make it as informative and enjoyable for attendees as possible.
Takeo Igarashi and Katherine Isbister
CHI 2021 Technical Program Co-Chairs