I got back from my first trip to the States to face huge coursework assignments and sorting out my MSc thesis proposal, but now I finally have some time to get back to you on the amazing experience that was my virgin trip to CHI. Here’s a top 10 moments breakdown:
1. Hugh Herr’s closing plenary: Herr delivered an excellent keynote on designing intelligent orthotics and prosthetics. A truly inspirational talk that was both personal and humble, yet powerfully illustrated the amazing achievements of his research. It made me appreciate even more the potential of combining science and design into creating things that may change people’s lives.
2. Talks, talks, and more talks: from morning to afternoon, there were endless streams of presentations, ranging from using tangible objects to communicate to children the concept of time; to providing healthcare support for #insomnia on Twitter; to IllumiShare, using camera projection to share and manipulate activities on remote surfaces (future Mummy Susie was particularly excited about this one.). ‘It’s the experience’, alright – the immersive experience of living and breathing HCI in all its multidisciplinary and forward-looking splendor.
3. All the famous people: repeatedly bumping into HCI legends, such as Don Norman, Ben Shneiderman, and Alan Newell, turned me into a starstruck fangirl. Aside from the celebrity names, it was also an amazing experience attending the various parties and receptions, giving me a chance to chat with numerous big names in research and industry. I particularly enjoyed the moment when, in a bar in downtown Austin, my personal tutor and lecturer popped up next to me to enthusiastically exclaiming ‘That’s Scott McKenzie, as in Fitts’ Law-McKenzie, sitting next to me at the bar!’, before hurrying back to his seat.
4.The industry fair: freebies! Lots and lots of them! Who doesn’t love freebies? Aside from scavenging numerous more or less useless (but nevertheless weight-adding) items labelled with Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Bloomberg, etc., I also got a chance to chat with UX professionals, sharing my enthusiasm for the field and providing me with some tips for the inevitable job hunt that awaits me.
5. Ron Paul rally: while my coursemates and I were walking around playing (/being) tourists in downtown Austin, a couple of Republican ladies drove past us urging us to attend the rally up the road (i.e. outside the famous Texas State Capitol). As I was the only one of my friends having heard of Ron Paul (he’s my favourite Republican to the extent that I like Republicans at all), I was the only one immediately jumping up and down, urging us to run up the hill to the rally. Lots of fun, lots of ‘God bless you, sweetheart’ in Texan accents, lots of cheering Texan Republican (yes, I see the redundancy in that term), lots of awe on my part (now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a crazy Tea Party person who don’t believe in abortion or homosexuality – I’m just fascinated by US politics). Got a picture of Mr Paul himself, but not on my own laptop, shall try to remember to add later.
Oh, and the food.
Roasted salmon, wild arugula, eggplant caviar, almonds, feta, and garlic-mint pesto with a side of broiled asparagus, truffle aioli, and grana padano. Sauvignon Blanc. At Second Bar & Kitchen.
One of the best salads I’ve ever had. ‘Capitol City Cobb’: romaine, grilled chicken, hard-boiled egg, crumbled blue cheese, roma tomatoes, bacon, avocado, and blue cheese dressing (I omitted the black olives). At Leaf.
My paleo-friendly version of a burger. ‘The Ladybird’: turkey burger topped with cheddar, avocado, lettuce, and tomato (no bun). At Austin Java.