Report on SIGGRAPH in the 21st Century: Rediscovering Our Fire

Content Last Updated: June 29, 1995. Formatted March 5, 2001

This document has a number of sections. One may read through it sequentially or jump to any of the listed sections by clicking on the section name below:

  1. The Snowbird Conference
  2. SIGGRAPH in Context
  3. Current Trends Affecting Computer Graphics
  4. Present Issues for SIGGRAPH
  5. Proud/Sorry
  6. Visions for the Future
  7. Building the Future: Task Force Visions
  8. Where We Go from Here
  9. Preliminary Survey Results
  10. Complete the SIGGRAPH Survey!

The Snowbird Conference

SIGGRAPH in the 21st Century: Rediscovering Our Fire is the theme of the strategic planning initiative undertaken by SIGGRAPH. It was launched in May of 1995 by a three-day "Future Search" meeting at Snowbird, Utah. The result of months of planning by the SIGGRAPH executive committee, the meeting called on a diverse group of computer graphics professionals, both members and non-members of SIGGRAPH, to review the past and present of SIGGRAPH, make recommendations for the future, and form task forces to act on those recommendations.

The rationale for the initiative and the meeting was that there had been no long-term organization-wide planning for several years. A long-range outlook for the organization as a whole was needed to provide a direction and a context in which activities could be proposed,executed, and evaluated. Planning for the future is always a way to organize what we do and how we think about what we do; the Snowbird meeting was a time to start rethinking our organizational mission and structure and whether our activities are moving us in the direction we want to go.

Much has changed in the field of computer graphics since its inception, and the changes have been rapid. Computer graphics has matured and there have emerged sub-specialties within it. Because SIGGRAPH's constituencies have changed, it is necessary to know who they are and whether we are serving them. It is time to get in-depth opinions from a variety of people about what the organization is and what it should do in the future.

According to Mary Whitton, Chair of SIGGRAPH,

My personal feeling has been that big changes are coming, have come; that SIGGRAPH must respond to the changes decisively. My goal was to have whatever happens be"graceful" for the organization - and mandated by it rather than as an unplanned reaction to change. We must be moving purposefully as a society, else we will founder.

My personal belief also is that groups which know where they are going work together much better than groups that are directionless - and that a renewal of vision will help us work together more effectively and be able to attract good candidates/volunteers for the senior positions in this organization.

Prior to the meeting and to provide a starting point for the discussion, an electronic survey was posted on the Internet and sent to a number of SIGGRAPH volunteers asking for feedback about SIGGRAPH. The results are summarized at the end of this report.

The meeting was attended by 60 representatives from a variety of constituencies in computer graphics. The constituencies included:

Not all attendees were SIGGRAPH members, and a number came from outside the United States. There was a broad range of ages and involvement with SIGGRAPH. They were about equally split between men and women.

The meeting lasted for 16 hours over three days and consisted of brainstorming on a number of topics by tables of 8 people each, sometimes arranged according to constituency, sometimes in mixed groups. Each table then presented its thoughts to the whole group. Progressing through a well-ordered choice of topics beginning with the social and historical context of SIGGRAPH, the attendees arrived at the end of the weekend at agreement on a series of issues to be resolved and formed task forces committed to resolving them.

The meeting began as the group put SIGGRAPH in context by considering the time periods 1965 through 1974, 1975 through 1984 and 1985 through the present from personal, social, computer graphics, and SIGGRAPH perspectives. Although there were no historians among us, as a group we broadly reconstructed the past 30 years and isolated the trends.

SIGGRAPH in Context

1965 through 1974

The period 1965 through 1974 saw the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the adoption of a mass culture driven by television, and a counter-culture fueled by drugs and disillusionment. There was nevertheless a sense of idealism, that obstacles could be overcome and wrongs put right.

Technology, and particular computing technology, was not a major social issue at this time. Basic research was being done in computing hardware and software, but both were very limited in capability and could only be appreciated and understood by technical people. Many of the Snowbird participants saw their first computer during this decade, but computer graphics itself was, like the rest of computer science,limited to a few research groups. Ground breaking efforts were being made, however: this was the decade when Ivan Sutherland introduced Sketchpad.

1975 through 1984

The social consciousness and enthusiasm of the previous ten years gradually became disillusionment with society. Technology grew in acceptance and became a commodity. Raster graphics replaced vector graphics; techniques developed in graphics research such as shading and anti-aliasing were adopted and led to the appearance of the first computer graphics productions. Artists began to recognize the possibilities of the computer as a tool. Careers in computer graphics began to emerge; it was during this decade that many Snowbird participants first worked with computers. Progress in the computer graphics field was overwhelming, and the excitement was contagious.

SIGGRAPH had been formed in 1967 and experienced a moderate rate of growth through 1982, when huge growth occurred. SIGGRAPH came to be identified with computer graphics. As an organization, SIGGRAPH achieved stability and became a motivational and social group as well as a technological one. The SIGGRAPH conference became the place to show new developments in the field, but tension developed between the business and technical communities over how much emphasis the conference should place on end-users and applications.

Current Trends Affecting Computer Graphics

1985 to the present

The industrialized world has experienced an economic restructuring during this past decade, leading to a loss of faith in the future on the part of many people; previously regional economic concerns are now increasingly global in scope.

The typical computer graphics professional has by now experienced a number of job and career changes as the field develops rapidly and becomes more diverse and diffuse.

Technology is available to the masses world-wide. Computers are ubiquitous, although there is a dichotomy between the technological haves and have-nots. Network connectivity has begun to have a significant impact on society and is reflected in government initiatives; the United States, for example, has established the National Information Infrastructure. The public has the facilities to access increasing amounts of information, and dispersed communities are springing up enabled by network connectivity, as computing and bandwidth become cheaper and more powerful.. Although the general population is aging, more and more children are using and profiting from computing technology. The commercialization of the Internet promises to lead to further changes in society.

The value of education has increased because of the pervasiveness and availability of technology. Computer graphics has exploded into use in a wide variety of fields through tools such as multimedia, virtual reality, and scientific visualization. The number of applications and markets for graphics software has multiplied quickly. Entertainment and commercialization now drive the development of computer graphics just as the military did in previous decades; pure research has declined in importance and there is less glamor perceived in scientific applications.

SIGGRAPH membership has undergone a decline since 1991, due to the splintering and diffusion of the computer graphics field. (This decline has been shared by most ACM special interest groups.) Computer graphics started as a small unified community, and is now a large and diverse one. There are now more professional societies to choose from, more conferences, and more publications. SIGGRAPH's role is less clear in this new technological society and in a computer graphics field now mature. The cutting edge is less distinct in the welter of application fields. SIGGRAPH's paper publications are being challenged by electronic publications. Research results may be made public almost immediately on the Internet, making attendance at conferences and the receipt of paper proceedings of less import to the researcher.

Summary of Trends

The Snowbird attendees ranked the trends affecting computer graphics in the following order (most significant first):

Present Issues for SIGGRAPH

The constituencies at Snowbird each presented a summary of the issues they see facing SIGGRAPH, both the organization and the conference, in the face of the trends they had articulated. The following summaries are the opinions from each of the constituent groups.

Technical Users

The technical computer graphics people, the users of the graphics software tools, saw the growing importance of applications in computer graphics. They would like application areas to be better represented at the conference and within the organization.

SIGGRAPH now puts on courses dealing with specific applications and co-sponsors specialized conferences, but the technical users hope to see more application-oriented publications.

Distributed communities, which are rapidly springing up, are the wave of the future. SIGGRAPH is now dealing with them by making information available on siggraph.or-g and through some electronic publications. The technical users suggested launching SIGGRAPH onto the World Wide Web. They would like to see SIGGRAPH foster the building and integration of better tools for application users and make the tools available electronically.

In light of a loss of distinction between developers and users, they would like SIGGRAPH to encourage the developers to produce better tools and to learn from the users. They criticized the organization for identifying application areas for computer graphics but then letting them go their separate ways.

The Creative/Expressive Community

In the creative/expressive community, the most pressing issue was that of SIGGRAPH's involvement with the public. This constituency perceived SIGGRAPH as inner-directed and taking no public position. The members emphasized that the organization needs to become pro-active through leadership and by fostering a social conscience,a vision, values, and an agenda. It should be outward-directed, expand beyond the computer graphics elite, raise public consciousness about the ethical use of technology, encourage diversity, and assume both an editorial point of view and global leadership in legal issues such as intellectual property rights.

The Educators

The educators saw problems in education created by technology, problems that SIGGRAPH could help alleviate or solve. They cited the chasm between the technological haves and have-nots, the isolation of educators teaching computer graphics in small departments, the increasing necessity of education for those who teach, and the declining widespread funding of education.

Further funding to educate the educators is vital to those in highly technical fields such as computer graphics; SIGGRAPH should provide more. Support for isolated pockets of graphics professionals might be possible through a mentoring.program and the use of the Internet as a repository for information and course curricula. Outreach to other computer graphics organizations, such as Eurographics, could create an international network for computer graphics education.

Education for grades kindergarten through twelve should be fostered more actively by the organization, and SIGGRAPH should sponsor special courses and conferences for educators.

Related Organizations

Organizations related to SIGGRAPH, such as ACM and Eurographics, see too little collaboration and internationalization in SIGGRAPH's efforts and not enough of a global view. Both limitations could be overcome by encouraging more international professional chapters; increasing cooperation with other organizations, such as in more conference co-sponsorship; and an increased number of international contributors to the conference.

Those in related organizations expressed concern about how SIGGRAPH would incorporate multimedia, virtual reality, scientific visualization and other specialized fields. It needs better ways of dealing with diverse technologies related to SIGGRAPH's mandate. It should develop relationships with other conferences with a graphics focus, such as those held for medical applications or geographic information systems.

SIGGRAPH should also take an active role in providing accessibility to the technologically disadvantaged. This should include using the Internet to re-establish SIGGRAPH's place as an information broker and the distribution of the annual conference in as many ways as possible: via videoconferencing, videotape, tutorials and workshops locally and internationally.

The Researchers

The researchers highlighted some themes also raised by other constituencies. They worried about the diversification of computer graphics, making it important to examine the interface between graphics and other disciplines more effectively. They saw as vital collaboration with other societies with a vested interest in graphics. SIGGRAPH should have a place at other groups'conferences, just as they should have one at ours, even though that may be politically difficult. Our outreach is currently haphazard and ad hoc. SIGGRAPH should be identified with special conferences and at our annual conference should hold special-interest sub-conferences.

The details of the presentation of research results drew the attention of the researchers. They took SIGGRAPH to task for not nurturing promising researchers through the paper-production process. The eight-page limit on papers is too restrictive; all proceedings should contain extended four-to-five-page abstracts and be available in toto on CD-ROM.

The researchers asked SIGGRAPH to encourage a number of diverse areas:virtual reality, computer/human interaction, multimedia, 3-D sound, video games, scientific visualization, consumer products, communications, financial applications, design, compression, imaging, computer vision, interactive TV, modeling, networked graphics games and collaborative graphics, parallel graphics and supercomputing.

Business People and Entrepreneurs

The group of business people and entrepreneurs emphasized the maturation of the core technologies of computer graphics and the emergence of new technologies. They warned against complacency and asked SIGGRAPH to consider whether it is too big or too small and whether it should concentrate on core computer graphics or adopt the leading edge of research as its area of emphasis. In sum SIGGRAPH should define its mission in the face of an increasingly greater influence of technology on society.

The greater access to information that we all have as a result of the wired society should spur SIGGRAPH to use on-line services to provide more information to its constituents. Although it is now dispensing some information on-line, it is not doing enough.

Ventures have sprung up overnight to compete with SIGGRAPH. The organization must become more aggressive in introducing new products and adopting new technologies.

SIGGRAPH Volunteers and Contractors

SIGGRAPH's volunteers and contractors highlighted three trends which they regarded as significant. The first was the maturation of the industry, the conference,and the organization. Although SIGGRAPH itself has matured, there has been no evolution in its organizational structure. There is now less risk-taking in SIGGRAPH as a whole than is healthy in its ever-changing environment.

Secondly, SIGGRAPH needs to recognize the importance of education in technology to a society which is more and more dependent on technology but also fearful of it. SIGGRAPH has more potential than it is using to help overcome this fear through courses, demonstrations, professional development of its members, and assistance to those who are designing curricula.

The diversification of the industry poses problems for the organization,which could capitalize on it. The annual conference should be a celebration of diversity, a meeting of people with different interests to focus on a vibrant field. SIGGRAPH must take risks to lure the aficionados of the new fields, or it risks losing its membership and its conference attendance.

Trend Setters and Government Staff

This constituency reiterated many of the points noted by other groups. It called for SIGGRAPH to make its presence felt globally, not just in North America. It also requested a central on-line archive for papers and an on-line review process.


In the next session, Snowbird attendees spent some time discussing why they are proud of SIGGRAPH, and what they are sorry about.


They expressed pride in the organization: its high standards of performance, the commitment and work by the large number of volunteers and contractors, its publication quality, the progress it has brought about in computer graphics education,its international scope, and its excellence in its field.

They were also very proud of the conference, which is the best of its kind. They cited the excitement and sense of community of the conference, the quality of the proceedings and the exhibits, its excellence, diversity, its enthusiasm, and its unlikely but stunning merging of art with technology.


But the Snowbird attendees felt there was room for improvement. They are not happy with SIGGRAPH because the organization loses so many first year members; they regretted the sometimes difficult relationship with ACM, the volunteer burnout, the perception of elitism, and the lack of progress in the kindergarten through grade twelve curriculum. They are sorry that the organization is not using the electronic media more effectively or taking leadership in the issue of intellectual property rights. They worried that SIGGRAPH is not taking enough risks to promote itself, and they want the leadership to represent the membership more effectively.

The conference, while the source of great pride, is also the cause for some concern, in that too many quality papers remain unpublished; there is not enough outreach, especially internationally; there is not enough support for emerging technologies, application areas, or business;and it is too expensive, both to put on and to attend. There is a perception that SIGGRAPH is the conference, even among some of the most dedicated SIGGRAPH volunteers, leading to the feeling that there is no value in membership unless you go to the conference.

Visions for the Future

Primed by the recognition of their successes and the areas for improvement, the Snowbird attendees then spent some time imagining what the future of SIGGRAPH could and should be. They agreed that an effort should be made to make SIGGRAPH the premier organization for all of computer graphics. That position implies an increased role politically and socially; it should expand and define the principles relevant to the graphics community and take a stand on issues of import to that community, such as intellectual property rights.

The group suggested that the organization should be an umbrella encompassing cutting-edge interactive technologies, scientific visualization, advanced visual communication, and multidisciplinary graphics. There should be significant collaboration internationally, spurred on by the professional chapters on both a local and global level. The art and design shows, both excellent, should travel every year. Very important to the organization's future is its relationship with ACM, which must be re-examined so that both parties are comfortable with it.

The SIGGRAPH organization needs to undergo a constant self-evaluation.

There were many ideas to build on SIGGRAPH's success by keeping the conference vital, interesting, and important. One that was frequently mentioned was the desirability of putting it on-line, making it interactive, and making it multi-site. SIGGRAPH should also sponsor more workshops and small, specialized conferences.

Building the Future: Task Force Visions

The common themes arising from the deliberations of the attendees are reflected in the areas chosen for emphasis by the task forces.

The SIGGRAPH executive committee has given the task forces the mandate to proceed with their work, subject to approval where appropriate by the executive committee, conference planning committee, annual conference committees, and ACM executive committee. Some of the task forces, particularly those on the SIGGRAPH organizational structure and on its relationship with ACM, have the potential to propose significant changes to the way SIGGRAPH is structured and operates. Some ideas coming out of other of the task forces, such as on-line publications and education, are being implemented quickly.

There follows a description of each of the task forces, the mandate each was given at Snowbird, and the progress to date.

SIGGRAPH On-Line Services

It was recognized that as we move into the next century, SIGGRAPH needs to expand its on-line, networked services. Although SIGGRAPH already has a gopher, ftp, and World Wide Web server, the task force realized that SIGGRAPH needs to build up these resources and embrace new methods of presenting information on-line. A group of individuals gathered and outlined some important tasks and issues that need to be addressed. This on-line taskforce put together ideas including adding to our on-line archive of conference proceedings and materials, developing a resource database using the World Wide Web, exploring on-line conferencing, setting up a preprint service, and putting together an e-mail listing of the membership.

The task force recognized that there are a number of issues that have to be addressed as it adds new resources to our current site. Intellectual property issues (such as copyright, patent disclosures and permissions, and the like) need to be carefully considered to protect SIGGRAPH and the contributing parties. The group discussed the problem of information overload and efficient access to information. Because of the possibility of an impact on memberships and revenue, the on-line task force also discussed the potential of developing a site which will provide wider access only to SIGGRAPH members. Because many individuals do not have access to high-end graphics machines, while developing our on-line services we must attempt to address the lowest common denominator by providing multiple formats and various ways of accessing information.

Directly after the Snowbird conference, the group began work on the World Wide Web resource database. Stephen Spencer created a new SIGGRAPH home page with a large number of SIGGRAPH information pages linked to it. He converted many of the documents on the ftp and gopher site to HTML format and created a link to the on-line bibliography. Bob Judd added the SIGGRAPH '89 and '91 panel proceedings to, as well as the SIGGRAPH '93 slide set and the SIGGRAPH bylaws. He is currently working on an e-mail distribution list for the SIGGRAPH membership and on ways for various conference committees to present their information in HTML format. Jeff Jortner developed a new list of professional chapters and is in the process of including icons and links to the professional chapters sites. Bonnie Mitchell is currently creating the educational resources pages which will include a new on-line directory of educational institutions. Garry Paxinos is coordinating an on-line project for the professional chapters and education conference booths at the annual conference, as well as researching methods of creating access controls for on-line information. Ralph Orlick maintains the SIGGRAPH network site and keeps everything in working order. There are also a number of other people involved with the on-line task force in various ways.

The task force plans are to continue working on the World Wide Web site as well as to begin implementing other on-line services. This task force aims to build bridges with all parts of ACM SIGGRAPH to bring as much information on-line as possible. These efforts are well underway within the executive committee, publications committee, education committee, professional chapters and the annual conference committees.

The current members of the on-line taskforce are: Alain Chesnais, Coco Conn, Steve Cunningham, John M. Fujii, Jeff Jortner, Bob Judd, Bonnie Mitchell, Ralph Orlick, Garry M. Paxinos, Stephen Spencer, and Lance Williams.

You may contact the this group via (or Alternately, Bob Judd and Bonnie Mitchell, the chairs of the task force, may be contacted as shown below. Comments, suggestions and help are always welcomed.

Bob Judd
Los Alamos National Laboratory
C-6 Client Services and Marketing
MS-B295 Bikini Rd.
Los Alamos, NM 87545
(505) 667-0690
FAX: (505) 665-5817

Bonnie Mitchell
Computer Graphics for the Visual Arts
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY 13244
(315) 443-1267 office
(315) 479-7183 home
FAX: (315) 443-5345

Organizational Structure of SIGGRAPH

The task force on the organizational structure of SIGGRAPH articulated a need to examine and restate the mission of the organization in order to formulate a mission which would allow SIGGRAPH to achieve the goals stated during the renewal process. It decided that the mission should encompass, among others, the following values of the organization. SIGGRAPH...

These values were incorporated into a restatement of the scope and purpose of the organization as set forth in the bylaws. The task force aims to discuss, modify as necessary, and agree on these new statements as the first step towards proposing a modified structure for SIGGRAPH. It must also decide on a means of implementation. All decisions will be taken to the executive committee and the membership for approval.

As with all the task forces, input is sought. Please contact:

Judith R. Brown
The University of Iowa
Weeg Computing Center
Iowa City, IA 52242
(319) 335-5552
FAX: (319) 335-5505

Relationship with ACM

Because the relationship between SIGGRAPH and ACM has at times been uncomfortable for both sides, a task force formed to examine that relationship. John Hart, its chair and a director-at-large, moved the task force to the executive committee as an at-large committee. Those working with him are: Coco Conn, Randy Dipner (ACM Vice President), Chris Herot (SIGGRAPH Past Director-At-Large), Steve Van Frank (SIGGRAPH Treasurer), and Tom Wright (SIGGRAPH Past Treasurer). The group is assembling an advisory team consisting of current and past SIGGRAPH and ACM chairs and liaisons, and will draw on their experience and viewpoints when tackling some of the tougher issues. They see the concerns as being entirely financial but with strong political aspects.

The action plan is:

To provide feedback, contact

John C. Hart
School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Washington State University
Pullman, WA 99164-2752
(509) 335-2343
FAX: (509) 335-3818


Several tasks were recommended by the education task force. Unlike the other task forces, an established group within SIGGRAPH, the education committee, already exists to carry out these recommendations and has started this process. The task force was, therefore, rolled into the education committee.

The first task recommended is to establish formal relationships between the education committee and other groups such as the Eurographics Working Group on Education, the IEEE Technical Committee on Computer Graphics, the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education, appropriate groups in the sciences, and other groups like those in art and design. An important goal of this task is to internationalize the education committee's activities.

The Snowbird attendees suggested that the committee enhance its efforts to put more resources on-line, and modify them for access by the WWW. These include directories, curriculum reports, resource lists, courseware, and other materials.

A third recommendation of the task force is to seek external funding so that the education committee can increase the resources available to graphics educators. One such resource would be the repackaging and distribution of the conference tutorials.

Another task is to do more to publicize the activities and materials of the education committee, especially to K-12 educators. This involves putting together a small package of information that can be distributed at K- 12 oriented conferences. The committee needs to expand current K-12 oriented activities.

The education committee also needs to coordinate more activities with the SIGGRAPH professional chapters, including the sponsoring of short regional conferences and workshops. Conferences and workshops specifically targeted to educators are necessary in order to support those teaching computer graphics in smaller institutions.

Many of these initiatives are already being undertaken by the education committee. To provide feedback or to offer help, please contact:

G. Scott Owen
Dept. of Math & Computer Science
Georgia State University
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 651-2245
FAX: (404) 651-2246

Small Conferences and Workshops

The small conferences and workshops task force discussion focused on ways.SIGGRAPH could make things easier for organizers of these small, targeted, technical.gatherings. It views small conferences and workshops as being vitally important to.SIGGRAPH, offering unique value and opportunity for people interested in particular.topics to interact and exchange up-to-date information. It also believes this to be an excellent.medium to explore new and diverse topics within the umbrella SIGGRAPH organization.

The task force recognizes that the issue it.focuses on is related to other issues, such as on-line access, participation of SIGGRAPH.professional chapters, and the annual conference format.

Part one of the task force agenda is to.gather information about how ACM and SIGGRAPH support small meetings currently and also how other technical organizations such as IEEE, SPIE, and Eurographics do so. Several members volunteered to gather information regarding issues such as.size, finances, publicity, participant selection, proceedings publication and distribution,.character and purpose, and format.

Part two is to propose that SIGGRAPH have a.small conference/workshop action committee with a charter to:

The overall goal of this task force is to enable SIGGRAPH to help any of researchers to hold a conference or workshop easily and with minimal burden and overhead, and for SIGGRAPH to nurture and enable rather than to oversee.their efforts.

The steering committee of the task force.consists of Steve Cunningham, Nick England, Branco Gerovac, Carl Machover, Mike Pique,.Theresa Marie Rhyne and Sylvie Rueff.

Nick England is involved in information gathering on the topic of the.staging of small conferences and workshops and is acting as the contact point for the taskforce. Sylvie Rueff is collecting background information on current ACM/SIGGRAPH practices. Steve Cunningham is the interface with other related task forces, such as SIGGRAPH organizational structure. Jock Mackinlay, Steve Feiner, and Ed Catmull.have agreed to act as resources for the task force.

Comments and offers of assistance should be.addressed to:

Nick England
Computer Science Dept.
UNC-CH CB #3175
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3175
(919) 962-1747
FAX: (919) 962-1799

The Annual Conference: Program Diversity

The task force for diversity in the program of the annual conference.focused on broadening the scope of the technical program. It wants to encourage the submission.of papers, panel ideas and courses in areas including:

The group discussed methods of mentoring.these emerging technologies. Some of the ideas which arose were: The group decided to form a committee that includes past, current and future paper,panel and course chairs and others to discuss ways to broaden the diversity of the technical program. The group planned to meet at SIGGRAPH 94 in Orlando.

A similar task force was formed in 1987.Adele Newton has transcribed the report of that task force and will distribute it to the members of the current task force.

The task force members are: Meredith Bricken, Patti Harrison, John Fujii, Peter Meechan, Adele Newton, Cindy Stark, Larry Yaeger, and Kevin Weiler.

The contact person is:

Adele Newton
6338 Snowflake Lane
Missisauga, Ontario
Canada L5N 6G9
(905) 824-6793
FAX: (905) 824-8165

SIGGRAPH and Public Policy

The "activism" task force sought to create a continuing mechanism focusing on influencing national and international social and political issues. It made the suggestion that the entire membership should be consulted on whether SIGGRAPH should take this role.

This task force attracted the smallest number of members (three) during the Snowbird conference. Its continuance depends on new interest being shown by additional people. To express interest, contact

Mary Whitton
811 Kenmore Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
(919) 460-8351 work
FAX: (919) 460-8355

Where We Go from Here

SIGGRAPH has just begun to rediscover its fire. This preliminary report, Chesnais distributed at SIGGRAPH '94, on-line at, and in the November edition of Computer Graphics, is meant to keep those interested in computer graphics informed of SIGGRAPH's planning and to inspire them to get involved and provide feedback. At the end of this document is the survey originally sent out over the Internet. Please return it, or simply send a message, to thee-mail or postal mail addresses shown. If you would like to get involved in one of the task forces or offer suggestions, contact the chair of that task force as shown.

Further reports are scheduled as progress is made toward our goals. These will appear in Computer Graphics, on,and by special mailings to the membership as they are warranted.

Appendix A: List of Snowbird Attendees

Those who attended the Snowbird conference are, by constituency:

Nick England, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
John Fujii, Hewlett-Packard
Christopher Herot, Lotus Development Corporation
Mike Keeler, Silicon Graphics Computer Systems
Carl Machover, Machover Associates Corp.
Steve Van Frank, independent consultant
Kevin Weiler, Autodesk
Charlie Athanas, D. C. Ture, Ltd.
Brad DeGraf, Colossal Pictures
Patti Harrison, SIGGRAPH '94 conference coordinator
Doris Kochanek, National Film Board of Canada
Bill Kroyer, Kroyer Films
Mark Resch
Sally Rosenthal, independent producer
Vibeke Sorensen, California Institute of the Arts
Meredith Bricken, In World, Incorporated
Coco Conn, Homer & Associates
Patrick Hanrahan, Princeton University
Bonnie Mitchell, Syracuse University
Kenneth O'Connell, University of Oregon
G. Scott Owen, Georgia State University
Stephen N. Spencer, Ohio State University
Related organizations
David Arnold, University of East Anglia (Eurographics)
Julia Baca, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station
Alain , Wavefront Technologies (ACM Professional Chapters)
Pegotty Cooper, ACM
Randy Dipner, Meeting the Challenge (ACM Vice-Chair)
Carol L. Hunter, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (IEEE)
Peter Meechan, Wavefront Technologies Inc.
John Michael Pierobon
Rick Beach, Xerox PARC
Elaine Cohen, University of Utah
Steve Feiner, Columbia University
Branko Gerovac, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
John C. Hart, Washington State University
PixarJim Kajiya, Microsoft Corporation
William Lorensen
Jock D. Mackinlay, Xerox PARC
Technical users
Judy Brown, The University of Iowa
Indranil Chakravarty, Siemens Corporate Research
A. Robin Forrest, University of East Anglia
Derek Ney, Ney Associates
Garry Paxinos, Metro Link Inc.
Michael Pique, The Scripps Research Institute
Theresa Marie Rhyne, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Trend setters/government
Gloria Brown Simmons, The GLOBE Program
Ed Catmull,
Oscar N. Garcia, National Science Foundation
Bob Judd, Los Alamos National Laboratory
Judson Rosebush, Judson Rosebush Company
Lance Williams, Apple Computer, Inc.
Larry Yeager, Apple Computer, Inc.
a'traditionalSteve Cunningham, California State University, Stanislaus
Alyce Kaprow, The New Studio
Susan G. Mair, University of British Columbia
Molly Morgan Kuhns, SIGGRAPH conference planning committee coordinator
Adele Newton, Newton Associates
Sylvie Rueff
Cindy Stark, Smith, Bucklin & Associates
Mary Whitton, Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Appendix B: SIGGRAPH Survey Preliminary Results

As explained in the attached document, a survey was distributed over the Internet this past April in order to solicit opinions from the computer graphics community about SIGGRAPH. The initial results of this survey are summarized below.

The survey itself is reprinted in the next appendix. We encourage you to respond. Continued input from the community is vital to planning for the future of SIGGRAPH.

1. Think of a time when you felt most excited about being a member of/associate with SIGGRAPH. Describe that time or event. Consider both the annual conference and other SIGGRAPH activities.

There were two themes that encompass the large majority of responses to this question.

One theme depicts the individual's first experience with SIGGRAPH, which most often occurred at a SIGGRAPH conference. This was a time when each was in awe of all of the "on the edge"ideas (the electronic theater was mentioned frequently) and the like-minded, intelligent people and was inspired in some way by the energy and community. There was a feeling of being at the heart of the field, witnessing "firsts," and being moved by the possibilities. In essence, the newness of discovery and the energy gained from the experience were an impetus to use towards individual purposes, goals and dreams. The quotes below depict these feelings.

"I was assailed by a bonanza of the latest innovations -- at the time, it was stunning imagery and witnessing the raw,brute power of the latest rendering hardware." - Rosalee Wolfe

"It was there (at the conference) I got my first original idea about computer graphics research, which led to a SIGGRAPH paper the next year, and formed the base of my career in computer graphics. Best investment (for my future) I ever made." - John C. Hart

"The opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with other persons with similar interests, and the opportunity to see, under one roof, so much new creative,intellectual and commercial materials." - Marc J. Barr

"Overall, I would say that there was an intangible spirit to that conference which permeated it. There was a sense of idealism and sort of child-like wonder, and people seemed to be respectful and helpful of one another, seemingly knowing that they were all "in it together." The high quality intellectual mix of science and art,a cross-fertilization of ideas, was really exciting. Spontaneous discussions that inspired people in unexpected ways, the transfer of visual ideas and visual language, the formation of new and long-lasting friendships with professional colleagues, helped define the conference as something more than a formal, standard conference. In subsequent years, this has come and gone, at times peaking and at times waning." - Vibeke Sorensen

The second theme had to do with connection to SIGGRAPH through involvement as volunteer, presenter, organizer, founder or participator.

"Nothing excites me more than providing a forum in which people can discover new potential within themselves through the sharing of their ideas and dreams." - Christopher Stapleton

"(As) co-chair of SIGGRAPH '87, I felt that I was providing a great service not only to the attendee but to the membership and community at large . . . Providing that environment and culture was very rewarding. I knew I was helping to empower our youth to be the innovators of tomorrow." - Jim Thomas

"The time I felt the most excited about SIGGRAPH was when I was presenting a paper at one of the papers sessions. It felt good to present the results of my research with others who had similar interests." - no name

A few people also indicated that a feeling of community was the most enlivening.

"It was a party at the Boston Film and Video Foundation, my third SIGGRAPH in '81 when I first realized that there was asocial component of the conference, which I have come to believe is its real strength." - no name

Additionally, a few people referred to the ability to help others.

"All the times I felt most excited about being a member of SIGGRAPH revolved (and continue to revolve) around times I felt I was able to contribute to exciting things that made a difference to people." - Steve Cunningham

"I get a lot out of SIGGRAPH by being a volunteer. The biggest lift I get is when I am able to alter someone's life for the better." - John Michael Pierobon

2. What is there about SIGGRAPH that made this time or event possible?

The element of SIGGRAPH that was mentioned most was the diverse mix of members with talent and skills who want to connect with other like-thinking individuals. Adjectives often used to describe the SIGGRAPH membership included: intelligent, fun,free-thinking, curious, driven, high energy, dedicated as volunteers, exploring leading-edge ideas and striving to exceed past limitations.

"Only at SIGGRAPH could you get that many tech-loving, free-thinking individuals." - Barry Buff

"It is a unique magnet for awide range of talents who want to connect." - no name

"The bringing together of an eclectic group of individuals who have been willing to share their vision, hopes, desires, fears about what the industry is doing and how we can improve on the current state of affairs." - Bob Judd

Answers to this question mostly inferred that SIGGRAPH is providing a forum for their excitement by the availability of conferences and workshops.

"... my work was finally understood and appreciated." - Tom Wright

"SIGGRAPH has always been a place where small companies could come and show their wares and be seen by the top graphics technologists in a wide range of application areas and industries. There has always felt like there was the willingness to recognize good technology wherever it came from--small or large company, new or established researcher. An openness to excellence." - Mary Whitton

The structure of the conference was also mentioned as important. These were the most common elements: balance of programs, research paper sessions, flexibility, educator's grants, student course pricing, witnessing of other innovative ideas, opportunities to develop skills and opportunity to connect with mentors.

As well as its reputation and professionalism, others cited SIGGRAPH's financial assistance, which they saw as important in allowing educators to attend its conferences .

"This commitment to supporting educators is vital." - Cary Laxer

3. What is there about you that permitted such an experience to occur?

This section provided the least substantive answers. The characteristics mentioned were: drive to help people, wanting to make the world better, contributing good ideas, wanting to learn or teach, curious about new ideas, exploring new things, high energy, hard work, talent, strong technical background, open to discovery,imagination, taking risks, personal excitement and strong desire.

"The greatest contribution I had to offer was to start a local chapter and create a channel for the enthusiasm and excitement of the other members wanting to contribute to the organization. It was great to see how members learned to empower themselves with this new technology and social interaction." - no name

"I like to try new things; I'm interested in dissemination of information; and I'm willing to work hard to make something worthwhile happen." - Judy Brown

"I was charged up from meeting people and seeing hot new hardware on the exhibit floor. I was in a mood to consider the future." - Roger Wilson

"I was young, and shared with the other participants at these events the enthusiasm surrounding the discovery of a new world." - Lance Williams

4. As you think about SIGGRAPH, what qualities or capabilities does it have when functioning at its best that you believe will sustain it in the future?

Innovation, ability to adapt, volunteerism, non-competitive atmosphere, ability to push goals to the limit, perceptiveness to spot new trends and ideas, free flow of ideas, identifying breaking research, requirement of excellence in all areas, focusing on cross-disciplinary interactions to push the field, diversity of membership and ideas, risk-taking ideas, membership talent, enthusiasm, empowering volunteers, equal appeal to a wide variety of fields, capturing of one's attention, organization and planning, maintaining its reputation, keeping a balance of technology and showmanship, solid, reliable, creativity, friends, loyalty: all are used to describe the present strengths of SIGGRAPH that will help sustain it in the future.

"Creativity. Synergy between a wide variety of disciplines - from hardware design to fine art, from perceptual psychology to parallel rendering, and mixing in an amazing range of application areas." - Sam Uselton

"Impressions which come to mind- quality, openness, variety, post-conference resources, celebration of creativity and innovation and continuity." - John Fujii

"I believe technical excellence with aesthetic temperament are the things that make SIGGRAPH special." - Barry Ruff

"...the people willing to volunteer, the non-competitive atmosphere that is conducive to the exchange of much needed information, the impetus it provides everyone in the industry, from novices to experts, to push their goals beyond current limitations..." - no name

"SIGGRAPH is hugely inclusive, with a fantastic mix of disciplines and concerns. This is appropriate to the field of computer graphics, which supports (like mathematics) all disciplines of research, and serves the larger community as well through art, education, training, communications and entertainment. What SIGGRAPH does uniquely well is provide a window on the future through which anyone can look." -Lance Williams

5. What should SIGGRAPH improve,stop doing or start doing in the future--either improving existing programs or embarking on new ones?

SIGGRAPH should find ways to get more people involved. The key to an individual's excitement is attendance and participation. In other words, SIGGRAPH should examine its methods of involvement and structure at conferences to see if attendance and participation can be expanded inclusively.

"...outreach to other societies/conferences. With the decrease in cost of graphics equipment and the increase in software more people will be peripherally interested in the area. SIGGRAPH has the expertise to further hook these people." - Jeffrey McConnell

"The biggest risk to SIGGRAPH, I believe, is not expanding beyond ' audience base. And I think the EC needs to lead the expansion into different audience markets and not be caught unawares." - Dave Kasik

Many respondents liked the conferences' structure and balance and have worthwhile experiences while attending or participating. The innovation and the excitement were key for these respondents to feel it was a great conference.

"Presenting a balanced slate of courses and publications for all the different interest and ability levels of SIGGRAPH participants is vitally important. It will take effective leadership to make sure that it is done efficiently and correctly." - Stephen Spencer

"Somehow keep adapting, encompassing new technologies and research results and applications, and perhaps most important, keep both the industrial and research communities entertained, interested and participating. Don't let multimedia get away." - no name

There were also many people who did not like the conference structure, mostly due to its size and resultant inaccessibility. It was often felt that there was too much to do at conferences not pertaining to the individual's field of interest. Many people wanted smaller, regional conferences with perhaps different areas of emphasis. These people usually go back to SIGGRAPH conferences, however, although they are seen as exclusive and expensive, because they are at the forefront of technology and put on a good show.

"Because of its continuing growth, there may be a need for an additional annual conference or some way to provide for the accessibility of conference presentations. It is becoming increasingly difficult to attend all of the courses/papers/panels needed in the current four day period." - no name

"Support more workshops that allow practicing professionals to get together for a few days to discuss special topics. ...These should be at times other than annual meeting times." - Steve Carson

"... The conference itself has grown into a circus. More than half the attendees don't even go to the paper sessions! Splinter conferences have evolved to take up the technical slack (visualization, Eurographics rendering workshop, etc.). We need to take back the cutting edge and hold on." -Barry Ruff

"Sponsoring and co-sponsoring small conferences and symposia is a valuable response to the growth of the annual main conference." - Sam Uselton

"If I had to justify only one conference trip a year to my employers, I think I would have to start pushing for the visualization conference instead of SIGGRAPH, even though I enjoy SIGGRAPH very much. It's not clear you can do much about this, except possibly identify particular subgroups like visualization and actively plan appealing things for them." - Joel Welling

"When discussing the SIGGRAPH conference with other individuals, the number one issue lately is the enormous lines at the VR and other interactive exhibitions. There is too much to do at SIGGRAPH to wait in lines for hours." - Bonnie Mitchell

A second reason why the conferences were cited as not accessible enough is the cost. Many educators cannot afford the price of the conference and would like the grant program to be expanded and more flexible. Other respondents had the same concern of costs overall.

"The annual conference is very important. However, it is usually too expensive to attend for most educators. ... Yet, attendance at the annual conference is vital ... SIGGRAPH needs to consider an educator's price. There is not enough money through the educator's grant program to support everyone who would like to attend." -Cary Laxer

"Make education and knowledge highly accessible." - John Fujii

Some respondents have found it hard to get involved in the organization for political reasons and on volunteer levels. This was the third reason SIGGRAPH is inaccessible.

"I think SIGGRAPH suffers from the 'insider' syndrome, in which the same group of people reappear every year or every other year. While this leads to the level of professionalism I was admiring earlier, it also has the disadvantage of excluding some very talented people. Basically, to get in, you have to know someone. ... I think SIGGRAPH would benefit from creating some roles that would enable people to participate and have a chance to 'prove themselves'." - Wendy Mackay

"People repeatedly ask why they can't volunteer to work the conference ... Perhaps we could (do we do this already?) put a volunteer form in Computer Graphics magazine as well as having it in the call for participation each year." -no name

"How does one stop SIGGRAPH from being so full of cronyism? This is perhaps one of the most crippling aspects of the SIGGRAPH community. There is a great deal of posturing and status seeking that I have witnessed personally, and I think the old guard should be aware of the adverse affects of this behavior. Such 'exclusivity' and the discovery of how 'political' SIGGRAPH can be discourages the participation of members and future leaders. - Lynn Finch

Overall, there were many different opinions about the appropriate emphases of future conferences. These opinions are obviously slanted to the respondents' fields of interest. The innovation and "show" is appealing to most people but not to all.

" SIGGRAPH should continue to support the creative evolution of the technologies by supporting the presentation of innovative art and design, in addition to the presentation of superb technical exhibitions." Garry Beirne

Some respondents also felt that SIGGRAPH should help other organizations to run more as it does. And some wanted to separate themselves from organizations like ACM, especially financially.

"I believe that SIGGRAPH should encourage experimentation and that the SIGGRAPH EC just has to serve as the buffer between the weird and the reality imposed by ACM and finances. The EC must do this well and gracefully. The EC must not be primarily concerned with its image, its mental health, its place in history, its relationship to anyone but its creative s. As soon as SIGGRAPH becomes boring, it is history." - Tom DeFanti

"I hope that SIGGRAPH will continue working with the SIGCHI and "SigMultimedia" groups in the future -- all will benefit." - Rosalee Wolfe

"... pressuring ACM to get their hands out of our pockets." - Tom Wright

"I think SIGGRAPH is missing a real opportunity to influence ACM for the better. The computer industry needs a strong professional society and some of what SIGGRAPH has learned would be really beneficial... but I think SIGGRAPH would benefit aswell." - Wendy Mackay

Some members were concerned with missing the multimedia trend and felt SIGGRAPH should capture it under its umbrella. Likewise, some respondents wanted to make sure SIGGRAPH was "on top" of new technology in fields like virtual reality.

"So the big question is: what is the next wave? There are two that I can see. The first is re-inserting SIGGRAPH into the application of graphics in industry, especially the PC and workstation environments. The second is providing innovation in surfing the information explosion through graphical information synthesis." -Dave Kasik

"SIGGRAPH must now plunge headlong into the virtual. Our community has, to a large extent, made interactive computer graphics a worldwide communication medium. It's appropriate to play this new medium for all it's worth. This means continuing to pioneer electronic and CD distribution of papers, tutorials, notes, images and animation, pushing the limits of electronic publishing HARD. It means the creation of a"multimedia" journal with the fastest possible turnaround for new work, even if that undermines the physical conference and printed journal." - Lance Williams

There was a concern that all areas and programs handled by volunteers have quality standards and that the ball is not dropped.

"Improve: EC monitoring of programs it initiates. SIGGRAPH's history is littered with approved programs that fell into the hands of a volunteer who lost interest and did nothing, or at the other extreme into the hands of a volunteer or vendor who went overboard. More regular tracking is needed to keep things under control. Require written status to EC quarterly for all approved projects (but don't spend EC time on the ones where the reports show things are progressing OK). - Tom Wright

Some respondents suggested better organization of volunteers and existing programs to further improve SIGGRAPH.

"Find work for everyone who wants to volunteer. ... Have more'co-'jobs. Job sharing can make volunteering a much more manageable thing to do." - no name

Some respondents alluded to wanting more community bonding.

"A sense of community is much harder to feel at the annual conference than it was when there were fewer people (say even 10,000). There is a need to focus on opportunities to bring smaller communities together at the annual conference and/or to facilitate meetings of the more focused areas in the rest of the year. There is a danger of "dumbing-down"the conference with emphasis on sessions which will improve the local draw to the exhibits. We shouldn't forget that this is the technical conference of the field and that the three-ring circus operates around the core of technology." - Mary Whitton

A pattern of respondents felt that SIGGRAPH needs vision and to understand its members' needs.

"I think ACM and SIGGRAPH are out of touch with its community." - no name

"I think that SIGGRAPH should have a very clear focus--well beyond its own survival--and base its actions and decisions on the service role that it can play in the community. The success that SIGGRAPH has achieved in the past can be eclipsed if it will discover what is important for the members of the community, and strive to meet their needs for a glimpse of what is dreamed, thought and possibly to come." - MarkResch

Other thoughts:

"SIGGRAPH accepts great papers and rejects good papers. SIGGRAPH should start a journal where good papers rejected from the conference can be further refereed (as opposed to reviewed) into great journal papers." - John C. Hart

"Most important: understand the cultural significance of computer graphics as a creator of opinions and attitudes. This is new, computer graphics has only just crossed this threshold to becoming a major cultural force. This implies some social responsibility." -Simon Penny

"I'd like to see SIGGRAPH focus on how people create and use graphics technology, rather than on particular pieces of technology. This would emphasize the continuity between education, research, development, marketing and use within the organization." - Meredith Bricken

"There should be mandatory participation in the conference by EC members. If they can't be creative and add to the show,they should either not run or give it up. SIGGRAPH should be run by those with dreams and plans." - Tom DeFanti

"I occasionally see massive quantities of wasted food, or other inefficient uses of money. ... I think we should look very closely at what gets 'wasted' at each conference. I again stress that we should not cut quality, but instead focus on effective use of resources and finances to avoid waste. Recycling bins would also be an environmentally responsible thing to do." - Bonnie Mitchell

"As 'aging' forerunners,instituting programs for young members is one way to ensure the future success of SIGGRAPH. Through community outreach, SIGGRAPH could also encourage the participation of more minorities and women." - Lynn Finch

Survey Demographics

56 responses in total

0    <20
4     20-29
23    30-40
26   >40

13   Female
41   Male
 2   No answer

SIGGRAPH member   
46   Yes
 8   No
 2   No answer

SIGGRAPH conference attendance
 0   Never/seldom
 6   Once in a while
47   Almost always
 3   No answer

Are you primarily a
 9   User
11   Developer
10   Educator
14   Researcher
 1   Student
 1   Developer & researcher
 4   Educator & researcher
 3   All of the above
 3   No answer

Is your use primarily
10   Artistic/creative
31   Technical
11   Both
 4   No answer

Complete the SIGGRAPH Survey, and Make Your Voice Heard!

The survey that follows was distributed electronically in April. It is being printed here in order to reach all SIGGRAPH members. Take the time to complete the survey, and return it in one of the following ways.
Via email
Via FAX (919) 460-8355
Via regular mail
c/o Sun Microsystems, Inc.
P. O. Box 13447
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-3447


1. Think of a time when you felt most excited about being a member of/associated with SIGGRAPH. Describe that time or event. Consider both the annual conference and other SIGGRAPH activities.

2. What is there about SIGGRAPH that made this time or event possible?

3. What is there about you that permitted such an experience to occur?

4. As you think about SIGGRAPH,what qualities or capabilities does it have when functioning at its best that you believe will sustain it in the future?

5. What should SIGGRAPH improve,stop doing or start doing in the future--either improving existing programs or embarking on new ones?


Please select one response in each category.

Age < 20____ 20-29____ 30-40____ >40____

Sex Female___ Male___

SIGGRAPH member? Yes_____ No_____

SIGGRAPH conference attendance

never/seldom___ once in a while___ almost always___

Are you primarily a

User____ Developer____ Researcher____ Educator____ Student____

Is your use primarily

Artistic/creative___ Technical___

Name (optional) _____________________________________

May we include your name if we choose your response as an example?

Yes_____ No_____