Hi. Thanks for caring enough about SIGGRAPH to follow the link.
This is a longer version of the very short statement that SIGGRAPH sends out. There's a limit on those of ~2k characters, and it's difficult to express much complexity and subtlety in such a small space. The best I could do was give a general overview and hope you'd want to read more. Guess that worked (at least for you :-) ).
I first want to thank all the people who signed the petition to get my name placed on the ballot so we could discuss these ideas. Thank you all very, very much. Here's something I sent out to them that's important here as well:
One of the best things about this petition is seeing the range of people who signed it. It's like a stochastic sample of the underlying reality of SIGGRAPH, and because the petition was really about believing in a better future, it's a picture of the coming SIGGRAPH, the one we've already started to create together. And what's wonderful is that sample includes *everyone*. There are people from every part of SIGGRAPH, technical, artistic, business, current members and people who are renewing after having been away, people who have been at every SIGGRAPH since the very beginning and people who joined SIGGRAPH just that afternoon.
Now the thing to understand about that is I didn't specifically tell them what I wanted to say. Rather like the candidate statement, I simply said I thought I had some things that were important we consider as part of this election. Mostly I just asked if they were willing to be hopeful and excited about creating a new future for SIGGRAPH, and they were completely supportive and enthusiastic. It was a good and reassuring sign for us all, and that's the part for which I'm most grateful. Thank you again.
I want to emphasize that I'm running because I feel we're at a critical moment in SIGGRAPH's life, and see no other way for us to successfully face it than for me to run for this position and in this election. In particular, I very much want to say that I'm running for the future of SIGGRAPH, not against Peter and Sue. I like them both, and I think they're both excellent candidates. If I'm elected I hope they'll work with me to find ways to implement their ideas. I spent months deciding whether to do this, trying very, very, very hard to find some other way (both because I like them and because this is such a crucial moment and responsibility I wanted to avoid it if I could). In the end, no matter how much easier it might seem, I couldn't in good conscience not do this. If I wanted SIGGRAPH to step into its future and make the right choices, not the easy ones, I had to be willing to do that first.
There are two interwoven streams in what you're about to read.
One is the literal description of what I think my Directorship would be about, best summarized as "let go of our old image of ourselves, because that reflects who we were and holds where we are today as an end state, and find a new vision for SIGGRAPH, one that reflects who we are now and where we want to go." Both SIGGRAPH and the world in which it exists are very, very different than when SIGGRAPH began. Yet its structure, and its view of itself and its role in the world, are not. The current structure is one where the focus is primarily inward, where a central committee organizes an annual conference at which the members then meet. That structure works very well for organizations early in their development, where the central group is much more capable than the people outside. But as an organization matures, and the capacities of the general membership grow, a better structure is one where the focus is outward, where the responsibilities are taken up by an increasing proportion of the membership, and the activities are not just separate events but a constant flow and exchange. We're at the limit of what our existing structure and our self-image allow us to do, and we need to transition to that second form if we're to progress and grow. While that transformation may take some time to unfold, it begins (as all transformations do) with a bootstrap or "fiat lux" moment, and in our case that's our full membership deciding to work collectively to find a new vision. A vision befitting a distributed and mature organization can only be created by one, and the discoveries and developments during the process then become the structures to support SIGGRAPH's new growth. My goal for my three years on the EC is to guide that self-discovery and instill in our full membership enough knowledge, sense of responsibility, and enthusiasm that we're well prepared for whatever journey we choose next.
The other stream is more symbolic, a vision of what I believe our future together could be about. It's not supposed to be our vision yet, simply mine. I offer it here as the most revealing way of showing you who I am. I do think it's incredibly beautiful and inspiring, a dream to which I'd gratefully give the rest of my life. Yet a vote for me isn't a vote for even this dream. A vote for me is your way of saying you'll join me and contribute your dreams to our re-discovery, too.
It's time to tell you of the magnificent future I see ahead for us.
I'm running for Director at Large because it's time for SIGGRAPH to find a new vision, a new hope, a new dream.
33 conferences ago we set out on a grand journey, one just as inspired and ultimately just as world-changing as Columbus or Magellan. In a world where computers meant punch cards and numerical printouts, we had a vision of learning how to let people use computers to create images. We didn't know how we would do that. Looking back now, we barely even knew what it meant. But what we had was our vision, and the desire and the commitment and the unshakeable belief that we would follow it and find out.
Our vision guided us through all our incredible years of discovery, and almost everything in the world has been touched by what we've done. We truly succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.
That's why we need a new dream.
SIGGRAPH was once the only place in the world to experience the wonder of graphics - the amazing images, the hardware and software, and most of all the people. That's why it was such magic. But now graphics is available to everyone, everywhere, all the time. People are immersed in graphics. People have more graphics than they know what to do with. And so what was once so special, taking people away from their lives once a year to give them more and better graphics, is now exactly the opposite of what the world wants from us.
But having what we do feel like magic isn't a requirement. There's value in certainty and dependability, especially if one wants to base one's career or business on it. And there's the personal satisfaction that success and even fame can bring. These are all good things. But there's an inherent tension in the arrangement now, because we started out on the quest for magic and discovery, yet where we find ourselves thirty years later is in the maintenance of success and dependability.
So how do we resolve this tension? Go looking for our lost magic and discovery? Or stay and hold on to our success and dependability?
In human terms, SIGGRAPH is facing its natural mid-life transition.
In the arc of a life, mid-life is the time when the power drives that carried a person from adolescence out into life as an adult, the motivating energies that lead to the experiences and discoveries and successes of the first part of life, start to fall away. It takes more effort to do the same old things. Success is harder to come by and less satisfying when it does. Things that used to work well don't quite anymore. And in the absence of some kind of map that says "the old stuff stops working right about now, and that's a good thing" the natural response, for both an individual and an organization, is fear, followed by an ever-tightening grip on the things that still work. But holding on too tightly to the things from that earlier period is as fatal as a rocket being unable to separate from a used booster stage.
The entire goal of an earlier stage is to lift a person to the place where they can begin the next part of their journey. Holding on too tightly not only stops any continued growth, it doesn't recognize the accomplishments of the earlier stages, and eventually leads to the stagnation or death of the whole system. Think of what happens when a baby is ready to be born. From the infant's perspective, all life as it knows it (and it's a pretty good life, too) is about to end. Of course a natural response is to not want to leave the womb - leaving feels like death. Yet it's holding on to the old life that leads to actual death. It's embracing the unknown that leads to new life.
That's why we need a new dream.
What we do in the future can't be about just doing what we've already done but better, or cheaper, or faster, or more widely. What we do next has to be about taking what we do and using it to discover something totally new. I can't tell you all of what our new vision should be, because our vision needs to come from all of us, the way pixels make up a picture. But I can tell you what it looks like to me.
I don't think we spent 33 years simply building graphics, and then just to build even more graphics for another 33. Looking at it only as graphics sees all the activity, but misses the deeper meaning.
We spent 33 years creating for humankind a new language, and this new language can let us express anything.
This is a new kind of language as well, one that doesn't separate speaker and listener through a subject-verb-object cognitive structure. The experience of using this new language is of direct connection. And the perceptual state is like quantum entanglement, where the consciousness is not just one of separate beings, it's the intentional synthesis of an entirely new kind of consciousness that's an exponential expansion of them all.
This is as fundamental a change in human experience as has ever occurred in human history.
Graphical expression has always been about communicating, and communicating is about the experience of being connected. Pictures have no reason to exist other than as fulfillment of the desire to connect the creator and receiver. And we spent all of our collective life working to create for the world that ability. Connecting people must have been really important to us.
This is where we begin to see the deeper meaning of the other half of our name, the part about "Interactive Techniques." For ages the phrase "Interactive Techniques" has been formally carried around in the SIGGRAPH name, but it was almost always treated like baggage, an anachronistic coding sequence in the SIGGRAPH DNA. Everyone talks about "graphics," almost no one talks about "interactive techniques." We didn't even put it in our acronym.
It's only now that we've completed enough of the first half of our name that the second half can start to switch on. "Interactive Techniques" doesn't refer to just interacting with computers. The deeper meaning is the interaction of people when they're connected - connected using this new language.
Our entire future has been written in our name from the very beginning!
And in a world immersed in images, if we begin to consciously explore the interaction of people when they're connected this way, people will begin to experience themselves no longer as separate and struggling to understand each other, but as always connected and part of a whole.
At the literal level we are, and still want to be, the Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques. But if we can see our future with these new eyes, we unite our two halves to become something absolutely new. We unite humanity. We bring to the Earth a new soul.
The first time we got to change the world.
This time we get to change what it means to be human.
Does it mean we change much about what we do right away? Not really. We still have the conference, the ongoing research, the chapters, the educational programs, everything we created to this point. We created those things for a reason. What changes is how we look at what we do and why.
It's no coincidence that the most recent conference keynote address (by Joe Rohde) spoke to us about how to take all the things one has collected over time and create from them a thematically meaningful whole. And the single difference between a collection of stuff and a coherent, meaningful whole is a thematic framework within which all the decisions get made. Made within a theme, the outcomes of the decisions reinforce each other. Without an enclosing theme, the exact same choices lead to subtly different outcomes that destroy the coherence of the whole.
So my goal as Director at Large is to straddle the worlds, and make sure all our decisions and activities are seen within our new theme - within our new dream - and to move that way of seeing into enough of SIGGRAPH that by the time my term ends SIGGRAPH naturally sees its world that way all the time. We'll start to see SIGGRAPH not as a technical half and an artistic half, or as an executive committee and members, or as an organization separate from others, but as connected to ourselves and to others. We’ll attract all kinds of new people, who will see us as connected to them, too. And we'll even be able to plan for the eventual ending of the conference as we know it, because we'll have finally learned how to have what we always wanted anyway, which is the experience we love about SIGGRAPH all the time, everywhere, with everyone.
The theme of last year's conference was "Interaction:Interface," and this year's is "Face Tomorrow." They're not separate, and neither are we.
This isn't the end of our journey. It's just where we had to come to begin the next part.
Thank you, and thank you for all the ways you care about SIGGRAPH.
Let's find a new dream.