Issue: Volume 36 Issue 5: (July/August 2013)

SIGGRAPH 2013: 40 Years in the Making

By: Karen Moltenbrey

Karen Moltenbrey

Anniversaries, especially those marking milestones, call for celebration. This year, SIGGRAPH turns 40. Last year, SIGGRAPH began a multi-year theme centered around art and science, and 2013 continues to embrace this concept, which seems to describe today’s attendees so well. Here we talk to Mk Haley, SIGGRAPH 2013 chair, about her thoughts on this big event.

What can attendees expect differently in this second year with the Art/Science theme?

I am thrilled that we are working across three years (2012, 2013, and 2014) with a theme that celebrates not just our community of hardcore Art or Science – and for 2013 specifically, Left Brain/Right Brain – but also the intersections with each other, and those that resonate equal parts both! It has encouraged some really great conversation among our attendees and contributors who identify with, or want to collaborate with, the diverse makeup of attendees.

How does this year’s theme resonate with you on a personal level?

I feel it’s a more honest depiction of what is so great about our community than just the idea that we ‘serve everyone.’ We are a mix of subject matter experts with deep knowledge in specific arenas, who seamlessly connect at SIGGRAPH, as well as people who straddle both worlds, or meander in and out of each across their career. It celebrates our diversity across so many other areas by just planting the idea in your head in the first place. Pioneers and Students, Exhibitors and Contributors, Local and World Travelers. Our strength is not that we are all the same, it’s that we are very, very different, and share ourselves freely.

In what ways are you “Art”?

I have a BFA and an MFA in Computer Animation/Design. I am certified ‘Art.’

In what ways are you “Science”?

For about 11 of my 19 years with Disney, I have worked within R&D, starting with an experimental virtual reality project in 1994, and currently as a research producer. I am paid ‘Science!’

How has SIGGRAPH influenced you personally and professionally?

In 1997, I welcomed a team of over 600 student volunteers, a large subcommittee team, and contractor partners. That opportunity would be highly unlikely to otherwise surface for me professionally at that age, but immediately led to more senior leadership positions professionally because I had the SIGGRAPH experience under my belt. As I moved professionally from animation and design work to interactive technologies, I was qualified to support and then chair the Emerging Technologies venue at the conference.

I have been welcomed and mentored by industry legends, as well as trusted by students to mentor them. I started teaching smaller workshops with SIGGRAPH, and moved to faculty positions at a university level. I am honored to have made lifelong friends and professional allies, both collecting tickets at a reception and serving on teams alongside quality people. So both my personal and professional interests have been intertwined in the opportunities that SIGGRAPH has provided me, as well as the expertise I have been able to contribute right back.

What specifically are you looking forward to most at the show?

Whichever trailer, paper, proposal, or submission I most recently saw. I look at the accepted and anticipated content and find myself thinking, ‘Yes! I am totally going to see that!’ or ‘They are doing what?!’ Each piece of content has such potential, and they are all raising the anticipation levels pretty high right now. Today, it’s the Technical Papers Fast Forward session. (At the time of this interview) We just released the Technical Papers trailer, (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JAFhkdGtHck), and I have watched it over and over already. It’s a treat to see so many ideas so quickly, and the Papers Fast Forward session onsite is a similar delight. (You have to be there to see it!) Oh wait, I also just saw the first draft of the Computer Animation Festival trailer, mostly my jaw was hanging open for that, so that is also going to be amazing, and inspiring. I better stop now before I see something else and change my mind.

What is the mark you hope to leave on SIGGRAPH 2013?

I hope that my team has helped set a precedence for caring about the community, the conference over time, and then their individual venues, in that order – because it has allowed them to shape an experience far larger and with more of an impact than focusing on just their own tiny piece ever could. We are baby-stepping on some initiatives that are only possible because of presumed growth over time and a partnership with the 2014 team already. We are taking our lead from some experiments last year, and handing off seedlings to next year. And, of course, awesome stuff. I want as few distractions as possible related to operations or other necessary details, and more time to celebrate and engage in and learn and share the best in computer graphics and interactive technologies, and each other.

Read the whole interview here.

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