ACM SIGMM Chair's Message

I would first like to thank the members of SIGMM for electing me to this prestigious and important role.  I am grateful for the trust you have put in me and the other members of the elected SIGMM Executive and we shall strive to continue to make SIGMM an important part of our professional research community.  I would also like to thank the previous elected members of the SIGMM Executive Committee — Shih-Fu Chang, Rainer Lienhart and Nicu Sebe — for their extraordinary service, thank you all.  I’m also delighted that Nicu will provide continuity by serving on the Executive Committee as vice-Chair and I look forward to working with him, with Gerald Friedland as Conference Director and the other members of the Executive.
I’ve waited for a while after my appointment to this position before completing this Chair’s welcome because I wanted to spend some time learning more about our SIG. Like you, I thought I knew about SIGMM from attending (some of) our conferences, from reading our newsletters and journals and from attending our annual business meeting at our MULTIMEDIA Conference. I’ve realised that what I thought I knew is just the tip of the iceberg as there is a lot more to know.
SIGMM is in very good shape as a result of the excellent stewardship from our previous leadership.  Our finances are very healthy and we already carry out a lot of activities and provide excellent value for our members.  Our financial position should allow us to comfortably address any unexpected events and also to undertake new initiatives. We are not a bank and there is no sense in holding on to a large funding balance if there are things we can do for the benefit of our research community. 
Each year we sponsor or co-sponsor 10 international conferences plus at least as many workshops, with a combined attendance of thousands of delegates. Those conferences feature things research papers and posters, tutorials, panels, brave new ideas, open source competition, grand challenges, interactive arts, doctoral symposia, women/diversity lunches, a maker’s program, a video program and more, and they run smoothly thanks to the massive volunteer contributions of organisers, chairs, reviewers and more.  We provide travel grants for students to attend some of our conferences. We already have plans for increasing the number of conferences we organise or co-sponsor and this should allow us to grow the collaborations we have with other areas.  In my candidature statement for this position I said I would seek to reach out to other areas for collaborations because multimedia technologies are now a foundation stone in many applications and increasing our conference involvement will help to do this.
We have two SIGMM local chapters in the Bay Area, and in China.  Each of these is very active in different ways — the Bay Area chapter hosts a regular series of workshops and seminar presentations while the China chapter is planning a new major conference.
We ran two full-day Rising Star workshops in 2015 and in 2016 which have helped to develop and showcase the work of our next generation of leaders. We shall repeat this activity, probably in 2018.
We recognise excellence in our field through our prestigious awards for best technical achievement, best PhD thesis, and rising star, in addition to the contributions as best papers, posters, etc. at our conferences.
Our SIGMM Records is now seeing a major amount of traffic to its website showing the value of the content published on the site, complimented by our SIGMM social media activities, all led by Pablo Cesar and his team of volunteers, and to them many thanks.
So with all these activities already ongoing its clear that SIGMM is already quite a busy professional group, but it can’t all be perfect, so are there issues and where are they ?
The first issue that I see is to do with identity as to what constitutes multimedia.  Under the previous leadership we adopted a T-shaped vision for multimedia, striving to achieve strengths in both technical depth and breadth of applications. But how do we continue to foster integrated research that takes advantage of the strong pillars we have in key areas like content, systems, human centered design, engagement, experience and others ?  Reaching out to work with other SIGs will help a bit in that direction, but we need to do more.
We also have an issue with diversity and inclusion within our field, including within our own SIG.  Going forward we will build diversity, in many of its forms, into things like how we select people for roles in our conference and in our own organisation.  We will be undertaking several initiatives to improve the gender balance and diversity in our sponsored conferences, covering panel speakers, keynote speakers, raising the importance of the women and diversity lunch event, supporting our early career researchers as much as we can and examining a role for a Diversity Chair in our sponsored events.
Multimedia, and the areas covered by SIGMM, continue to remain exciting areas for research and development including foundational, theoretical, and application aspects. Multimedia technologies are now a foundation stone across many application areas, from digital humanities to educational technologies, from gaming to healthcare.  It is exciting and rewarding to be working in this field, so join us and help to explore how we can push boundaries and create an exciting future for us all.
Alan Smeaton