Why CHI2024 is in Hawai’i

There have been critiques of the placement of CHI2024 in Honolulu, Hawai’i. We view them as predominantly concerned with a) indigenous Hawaiian advocacy organizations have called for a decolonization of the islands, which includes eliminating the harm done by hosting academic conferences, and b) the environmental impact of a conference far from many population centers.

We appreciate the passion and commitment of our community members who actively advocate for environmental and anti-colonial justice. The CHI steering committee has learned a lot about these issues from the arguments being made, and we appreciate the opportunity to improve our understanding of these important issues.

This post is intended to explain the process behind CHI site selection more broadly, and the decision to be in Hawai’i more specifically.

CHI Site Selection

A much longer version of the process behind site selection is available here: https://chi.acm.org/what-is-the-site-selection-process-for-chi-conferences/ 

Typically, CHI site selection starts 5+ years before the intended date of the conference, with contracts being signed with venues 2-3 years before the conference. Several years ago, SIGCHI leadership decided on a global rotation plan for CHI, with a rotation between North America, Europe, East Asia and more recently an option to include other locations outside of that cycle.

For each of these areas of the world, we send out bids to different cities that have a convention center that can accommodate the needs for CHI. Some of these are based on format – a convention center with an exhibit hall and 20+ parallel session rooms is extremely hard to find and does limit the number of venues that can accommodate our needs. Some of the parameters are based on our commitment to the community – including accessibility of the venue, safety of the city/nation for our members, and cost. It’s hard to find centers that are the perfect blend of these characteristics, but our site selection team considers them all, as do all SC members and EC members when the choices are presented to them for ratification.

Another consideration is how the location either inconveniences groups of attendees, or possibly supports them. We understand that the strategy of moving the conference every year to try and spread around inconvenient locations is sometimes unsatisfactory, and proposals we’ve been discussing are a more limited rotation and engaging with SIGCHI’s Sustainability Committee on modelling carbon costs. In general, a site is selected and a contract signed well before we start to recruit volunteers to run the conference. In other words, the organizers of any year’s conference typically have no influence on where the conference is.

How Hawai’i was selected

As far back as 2015 when CHI was in Seoul, there was a discussion of Hawai’i as a North American location that would help bridge future conferences in East Asia and keep invigorating the Pacific Rim CHI communities. If you’re in China, Japan, South Korea, Australia or other active HCI communities in that region, CHI has been especially tough location-wise for the past 20 years. A decision was made to try and support these communities, and Hawai’i was chosen for the 2020 conference as a bridge to the 2021 conference that was to return to Asia. 

As we all know, CHI2020 had to be canceled due to the global COVID pandemic. The contractors we have in Honolulu were very decent and understanding about forgiving contractual items. What could have been a financial disaster was mitigated due to their support. One reason we decided to go back to both Hawai’i and, later, Japan was to support vendors who had supported us in one of our most vulnerable moments.

Additionally, we did look at other sites for CHI2024, with our rotation plan being to place somewhere in western North America. We investigated San Diego, but they did not have dates available. Given the long time frame of assessing venues, the process for figuring out a location for CHI2024 happened during the height of the COVID pandemic. Travel restrictions made it difficult to assess some other locations, but working with the ACM we found that other conference centers (e.g. Phoenix) would not support the CHI format. Site selection during a pandemic is not straightforward, so our familiarity with the Hawai’i Convention Center, along with their previous support for us, made them the optimal remaining choice. Familiarity is important in this in that we have made a commitment to the physical accessibility of a location, and being unable to visit locations made it hard to assess multiple locations on that dimension.

Another reason a decision was made to repeat the Hawai’i to Japan sequence in 2024 and 2025 was for the same reasons they had been picked in the first place – to support our global communities.

Consequences of moving or canceling CHI2024

As we describe above, contracts for venues take years to develop. If we started right now, we might be able to move the conference two years out. The only option for CHI2024 would be to cancel the in-person conference altogether or to have an online only event.

The consequences of that would be devastating for CHI and for other SIGCHI conferences. There is no “force majeure” reason to cancel the conference at this time. We would have to pay the full contract amounts to both the venue and the hotels with which we have contracts. This could be two million dollars (or more) of loss to SIGCHI. What those millions go to otherwise would be support for members not just in CHI, but across all SIGCHI conferences. CHI money *is* SIGCHI money, and we all share the same bank account at the end of the day. This would jeopardize travel grants, money for special projects, support for struggling research communities and other things that SIGCHI does so ably to support a broad range of scholars.

CHI2024 organizers deserve support

Many volunteers in our community work hard on service to produce our proceedings and organize our conferences. Reviewing, chairing, SVing, organizing workshops – it takes a broad array of us to make the SIGCHI community work. We speak from experience when we say running a CHI is one of the weightiest service responsibilities there is. We ask for grace for the organizers of CHI2024, and a culture of care for our fellow volunteers. We also recognize that some of our community members will choose to not submit to or attend CHI 2024 because it is in Hawai’i. For these members of our community, we encourage you to consider one of SIGCHI’s other 25 conferences as a venue to submit your work.

Moving towards the Future of CHI

The CHI Steering Committee is listening to the concerns that have been raised, and we are confident that these concerns WILL have an effect. Each year we find new parameters that inform site selection. Sustainability and anti-colonial justice will surely join these issues as something that shapes the future of the conference. It is frustrating when a big ship like CHI can’t turn on a dime, but it can and will turn and we appreciate the community’s efforts in helping steer us to a better future.

Announcing the CHI2024 Leadership

We are excited to announce the leadership team (General Chairs and Technical Program Chairs) for CHI20204, introduce you to the team, and also provide some background of the 2021 Open Call process.

The CHI2024 Leadership Team

The General Chairs (GCs) for CHI2024 are Joaquim Jorge and Florian ‘Floyd’ Mueller

Collectively they bring extensive experience to the role and represent dimensions of diversity in terms of geography and research areas. Joaquim is from Lisbon, Portugal, the first time CHI has had a general chair from Portugal. He has a long history of senior service roles and conference organisation in HCI, Graphics and VR-related areas, including as General Chair of ACM IUI 2012 and ISS 2020, and IEEE VR 2021 and 2022. Floyd is from Melbourne, Australia, and comes from the research area of digital play, also with significant prior experience in conference organisation, such as CHI PLAY’18 and DIS’22. CHI2024 will also benefit from Floyd’s knowledge of the local Hawaii context (knowledge gained from working as GC for CHI2020 before it was cancelled due to COVID-19). Having been a member of the CHI Steering Committee since 2019, Floyd also brings expertise in the unique considerations that organising a CHI conference requires. 

The Technical Program Chairs (TPCs) for CHI2024 are Julie R. Williamson and Corina Sas. Again, collectively they bring a great deal of experience and enthusiasm to the role. Julie’s experience in the CHI conference as Papers Chair, Interactivity Chair, and Subcommittee Chair (UUX), as SIGCHI VP for Publications, and her work on the ACM Publications Board and Digital Library Board will be invaluable in this role. Corina also brings substantial CHI and SIGCHI conference experience in diverse technical program chair roles, including various Associate Chair and Subcommittee chair roles, as well as conference co-chair for Creativity and Cognition and British HCI among others. 

The GCs and TPCs jointly lead on the main organisational aspects for CHI. The GCs oversee the conference in general and are responsible for all the non-technical-program aspects of the event, especially around managing the budget and setting the overall direction of the conference through putting in place relevant organisational track chairs. The TPCs are responsible for all aspects of the technical program, from establishing the various technical track chairs, to overseeing the conference program and the publications process.

We thank all of them for their willingness to take on these substantial service roles for the CHI Community. We are grateful to Joaquim and Floyd for responding to the Open Call and volunteering to step up to this substantial service role as CHI2024 GCs (see below). We are also grateful to Julie and Corina for agreeing to take on the TPC roles.

In line with the long-standing commitment of the CHI conference series to foregrounding diversity across our leadership roles, the CHI2024 leadership team are committed to establishing a diverse organisational committee for the CHI2024 conference and are working hard towards this. We wish them all the best and trust that the community will recognise and support them in their work. 

The CHI2024 selection process

For CHI2024, this is the first time the CHI Steering Committee (SC) had an Open Call for CHI General Chairs and TPCs. This was to be in line with the 2019 SIGCHI EC Policy on ‘Open Calls for Volunteering Positions: ACM SIGCHI Policy Guidance’.

Towards this, the SC formed a Selection Committee, inviting past General Chairs and Technical Program Chairs (TPCs) from 2019-2021. Nine people agreed to help out (see the SC post for details). The main work of the committee was to develop the Open Call text, help identify a diverse pool of potential candidates and directly encourage people to apply – at least 42 people from all corners of the globe were contacted. We also promoted the call widely via SIGCHI mailing lists, SIGCHI Medium post, a CHI SC blog post, and social media posts. 

We received four expressions of interest (EoI) by the 16 July 2021 deadline, three for GC, and one for TPC or GC. This last person, Per Ola Kristensson, then accepted a TPC role for CHI2023. The remaining three were approached to put together a GC team. During the process, one volunteer withdrew due to changing career circumstances. The remaining two (Joaquim and Floyd) were happy to work together as a team, and this proposal was taken forward to the SC. 

After internal deliberation, the SC approved the proposal of Joaquim and Floyd as General Chairs, reflecting the result from the Open Call, and based on a clear commitment for a diverse broader leadership team. This proposal was then taken to the EC by the SC chair.  Again, after much internal deliberation, the EC approved this proposal on 22 March 2022. 

Following this conditional approval of the GCs, the SC worked together with the GC-elects to identify potential TPCs who brought significant experience and expertise to the role. As no further volunteers were identified from the open call, we sought community members who had served in complementary roles (e.g., paper chairs, TOCHI editors, TPCs for other SIGCHI conferences, publications chairs, interactivity chairs) in recent years, approaching potential volunteers one at a time. As per above we now have a very strong leadership team to move forward with organising CHI2024 in service of our community.

Moving forward, both the SC and the EC agreed to review the selection process and use the ‘lessons learnt’ to consider how future CHI chair recruitment and selection can be conducted smoothly and fruitfully, in alignment with our shared values around diversity and inclusivity, and in recognition of the experience needed to manage the scale and complexity of the CHI conference.