Thursday, July 3, 2014

SIGGRAPH, Suggestions and Misunderstandings

But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good:Oh Lord! Please don't let me be misunderstood.  (1)

I have had some useful feedback from two different people with impeccable credentials at the national level of SIGGRAPH and they both had a similar message: many of the things I “propose” (or seem to be proposing) in my writings about SIGGRAPH are just not possible for an educational institution. End of discussion.

I have no doubt that they are in part completely correct (although I do not know the details I am willing to believe that those details are there) but I have also been misunderstood. Terribly misunderstood. You see, I have made no recommendations. None whatsoever.

What I have done, though, is to say that SIGGRAPH needs to consider what, if anything, needs to change to avoid contributing to the disaster which is employment in computer animation in this country and the unthinking boosterism of the entertainment uses of computer animation that I have witnessed over the last few decades and where possible change their behavior and see what can be done to improve the situation. If the answer is “Nothing can be done”, then at least we will have understood the situation and turned over every stone. But I am quite sure that there are things that can be done.

But let me for the record reassure everyone of the following points:

1. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a bomb throwing anarchist.

2. I do not expect nor would I encourage SIGGRAPH to do anything that would violate ACM or other rules of behavior and endanger their not-for-profit status or good standing with ACM.

3. Were the membership of SIGGRAPH to agree with my program points (2) and see fit to elect me to the executive committee, they should know that I would be a voice for these points at the committee but would expect to act in consensus with the wishes of the committee and never act unilaterally.

4. I am very confident that very reasonable changes could be made at the national SIGGRAPH level that would address many of the issues I have brought up in other essays to my satisfaction at least. Remember, I am not arguing that SIGGRAPH should stop encouraging people to take risks involving their future employment, I am arguing that SIGGRAPH should stop the unthinking boosterism and temper the rah-rah glamourization (sic) of the entertainment industry with some basic facts about the nature of that industry and the likelihood of serious long-term employment.

5. I am quite aware that organizations such as SIGGRAPH have constraints on them that are different from those on private corporations or individuals, although some of the specific details of the constraints in the case of SIGGRAPH may be a surprise to me. I am however an adult with serious and relevant experience, e.g. running a laboratory at the RAND Corporation, and I know something about these matters.

6. All that we are discussing here is whether I can be allowed to be considered for memebership to the EC, to put my name before the membership of SIGGRAPH and let them decide whether they want someone such as me to represent them.

7. Frankly I am concerned that I might be biting off more than I can chew.  I am one person, unaffiliated, mostly unemployed and without resources.  Perhaps the people on the EC need to have a large corporation or University behind them to support them?   Stranger things have occurred.  No one has mentioned this to me however.

Keep in mind that I have had serious trouble getting in touch with the committee in a way that leads me to believe that they understand the issues and are taking steps to correct them.   Whoever runs national SIGGRAPH seems oddly distant and abstract.  My self-nomination for the EC is in response to that.

I hope that I have addressed any concerns that anyone might have about my suitability for nomination, and that if they need any more details about my qualifications and agenda that by all means they send me an email so that we can address their concerns. (3)

I appreciate very much the time and diligence that people have put into this matter and I am hopeful that they are easily resolved.

For all I know, no one else at SIGGRAPH is concerned about these matters and thus would not be elected to the EC, which would be fine.

Its probably the red hair. I have noticed over the years that it really does seem to freak some people out.


1. Lyrics for the first stanza are:

Baby, do you understand me now?
Sometimes I seem a little mad.
Dont you know that no one alive can always be an angel?
When things go wrong, I seem a little bad.
But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good:
Oh Lord! Please don't let me be misunderstood.

Wrjitten by Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell, Sol Marcus
Original cover by Nina Simone
Most famous cover by The Animals.
Live performance of the song by the Animals is here

Particularly noteworthy here is that the drummer wears a very narrow black tie. Lets return to the days when our rock & roll musicians showed a little respect for their audience by dressing more formally.

2. Program points are: A. Be realistic about the state of employment in computer animation, whether internationally or this country, B. Avoid the boosterism that has occurred regarding the entertainment industry and deal with that industry more realistically (e.g. the industry has no long term employment a priori and does not finance research except in the most extreme circumstances), C. Broaden SIGGRAPH to include other application areas beyond entertainment such as the two session panel on cultural heritiage of a few years ago (I note in passing that cultural heritage has employment issues of its own) and D, See what can be done to increase employment in the areas covered by computer animation and/or see what programs can be developed to help people who have made the commitment to computer animation and are now suffering hardship because of it make a transition to other industries, and finally E. See what can be done to make it easier for people to connect to the formal programs and individuals in computer science at SIGGRAPH, something I have found very difficult to do in the last decade or more.

3. Send email to michael.wahrman at gmail dot com.

No comments:

Post a Comment