Towards a Virtual IndiaHCI 2020
While we may no longer be able to meet physically in the beautiful city of Indore for IndiaHCI 2020, the organisers and student volunteers have been working hard to virtually recreate the essential aspects of the conference, and give participants a unique and enjoyable IndiaHCI experience. We also hope that the move to a virtual conference makes the conference more accessible to participants who might not have been able to attend otherwise. Many of you who have already registered for the conference, or are considering registering for it, would have questions about what a virtual IndiaHCI is going to look like, and through this post, we hope to address just that.
Keeping with recent editions of the conference, IndiaHCI 2020 will also have a full-fledged program, with two days of Courses and Workshops, followed by two days of main conference sessions including Keynotes, Paper Sessions, Invited Talks, and much more. You can find more details about the same on the Conference Program page. We have tried to ensure that the virtual nature of the conference does not compromise on the substance and diversity of our program. The schedule for the sessions runs through the day, but we will be including sufficient breaks between the sessions, and hope to wrap up each day’s proceedings by the evening (6:00 PM – 7:00 PM). The full details of the schedule will be released shortly.
We have also built upon learnings from several other conferences that have successfully made the shift to an online event, including UIST, CSCW, ICER, and UBICOMP. There are many similarities between our program structure and that of these conferences, and we hope to implement the best aspects from all of them.
Now coming to the platforms upon which IndiaHCI 2020 will be run, we will be using
- Zoom, for the main sessions of the conference
- Gather, for interactive poster & demo sessions, and
- Discord, for conversations about and around the conference, and
Main Conference Sessions
All of the main conference sessions (except for the Posters & Demos track) will take place on Zoom. The larger sessions (such as Keynotes and Invited talks) will be run in Webinar mode, and participants will be able to view the presentations and ask questions through the inbuilt Q&A features. The smaller, more interactive sessions (such as Courses, Workshops, and Student Competitions) will use the conventional video call format, allowing participants to interact through voice and video. These main conference sessions will also be streamed to YouTube and archived. The conference organisers will be following a defined protocol to ensure that the sessions proceed smoothly, with minimal issues of privacy and security.
Image 1: A screenshot from a Zoom presentation about IndiaHCI.
Participants will also be given access to an online conference program website with further details about each session. In case participants are unable to attend a particular session, they can use the program website to asynchronously ask questions to the speakers. We will also be uploading the recordings of the talks to this website, and it will be made available to all participants for a few days after the conference as well.
Interactive Posters and Demos
For the Posters and Demos track, we will be trying out a more unconventional platform called Gather. Gather allows for the creation of a virtual, 2-dimensional environment in which participants can move around and have dynamic video calls with people around them (more information about its features can be found here). This was successfully used by the UBICOMP 2020 conference (which you can find out more about here). For IndiaHCI 2020, we are building a unique virtual environment where participants will be able to move between the various Posters and Demos, interact with the presenters, and view related videos and submissions. We will be unveiling this virtual conference hall soon, and are excited for all participants to try it out.
Image 2: Screenshots from the Gather application, depicting the map and video call interface.
Fostering Social Interactions
Finally, any IndiaHCI conference would not be complete without the social interactions that take place around the main program. For this, we plan to use Discord, which is a platform for communities to talk to each other through text messages, voice, and video calls. Discord has much of the same functionality as apps like Slack, with the added benefit of being able to support group video calls. Discord has proven to be quite a successful ‘official backchannel’ for social interactions at recent conferences like ICER, and UIST. We believe that Discord would be a great place for participants to catch up with friends and colleagues, as well as meet and get to know new people – all under one virtual roof. Discord will also be our main platform for addressing any questions and tech-support requirements from participants in real time.
Image 3: Screenshots from the Discord website and desktop application, depicting interactions in text channels (left) and video rooms (right).
A virtual conference may not compare to a physical one in many aspects, but there are many advantages to having an online event as well. We are already seeing an increase in the number of participants registering for the conference, and have speakers joining in from all around the globe. The digital format of presentations allows us to make content more accessible to all, and also better supports asynchronous discussions. With everyone attending the conference safely from the comfort of their homes, we are confident that IndiaHCI 2020 will be as seamless an experience as possible, one that all participants will find memorable and worthwhile.
We will be sending further instructions about the virtual conference program (and each of the platforms) to registered participants over the coming weeks. If you haven’t registered yet, early registrations for the conference close in a few days time, so do check it out soon! In case you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re really looking forward to meeting you all (virtually) at IndiaHCI 2020!