Computing Profession

Contributing to Humanity

SIGGRAPH 2014 logo

This is my first time attending SIGGRAPH, and it is only the first day of the conference, and I am already struck by the spirit of teamwork, volunteerism, and contributing to humanity underlying much of that I have seen.

That spirit is as pervasive as the many youngsters bedecked in brightly colored shirts patrolling the halls, ballrooms, and meeting rooms of the Vancouver Convention Centre, who have donated their time to provide information and directions to those of us new to the venue. It was notable in each of this year’s recipients of ACM SIGGRAPH Awards, but none more than Scott Lang, an educator now at the Bergen County Academies, whose association with SIGGRAPH began as a volunteer many years ago. It was blatantly obvious in the keynote remarks of Elliot Kotek, co-founder of Not Impossible Labs, a firm whose founding tenet was "Technology for the sake of Humanity," and which brings together "people with technical savvy" in multiple disciplines to develop open source assistive technologies to help people who are paralyzed to communicate, those missing limbs to walk and feed themselves, the silent to speak.

Dave Shreiner, this year’s ACM SIGGRAPH conference chair, observed that the themes exemplified by the Special Interest Group on Graphics and Interactive Techniques include how technology can be used to enhance people’s lives; compassion, in using technology to help make people’s lives better, and "bridging as collection of communities" across computer and other scientific disciplines to cross-pollinate or innovate useful technologies.

ACM SIGGRAPH president Jeff Jortner discussed the value of volunteering in an organization like SIGGRAPH, including the opportunity to network with mentors and peers, developing leadership skills, interacting with a wide range of disciplines, making friends from all over the world, and contributing to the larger community. 

Quite an unexpected perspective, for a group best known for its development of complex computer graphics and special effects for blockbuster motion pictures.

ACM president Alex Wolf noted that SIGGRAPH is just one of ACM’s 36 special interest groups. ACM, he said, is actively "building and nurturing communities of excellence in computing."  That seems a very apt description for SIGGRAPH.

Lawrence M. Fisher is Senior Editor/News for ACM Magazines.

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