Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A Little Personal Democracy and a Write In Campaign for SIGGRAPH in 2015


I am now asking Siggraph for the details and deadlines associated with the process of getting write-in votes to be allowed to run for the Executive Committee of Siggraph.

I am certain that I have missed the deadline for the next election, so any signatures that I gather at Siggraph next week will presumably be for the election after this one.

I plan to run on a very specific platform and if I get elected, I will consider that a mandate to research the state of non-academic employment in computer graphics and animation in order to determine, or attempt to determine, how many are employed and where, what the categories of employment are, what the stability and projected future of these positions are, to what extent are these positions overseas, and to what extent unemployment has affected the field. And other issues along the same lines as well. The general idea here is, what should we tell young people if they express a desire to go into this field?  What should we tell them about the likelihood of employment and what terms and conditions come with that employment.  Let me give you two examples: first everyone who comes into this field should understand that it is considered a niche field and no experience in it will qualify you for anything else and second, on the entertainment side of things, people are never hired for more than a project no matter what they are told.

These are very large issues and one person without resources is not likely to get definitive answers to these and related questions. However, I can use the position on the committee to get what information people are willing to share with me and write up whatever I learn.

I also plan to report back to the membership the ideas, concerns, and perceived limitations on the part of members of the committee, many of whom have told me that there is nothing that Siggraph is empowered to do on these issues. Although I may not agree with them, I can certainly admit that they have much more experience than I do at that level of the organization and I can, I think, be of help by reporting to the membership what the concerns are and what people believe. I would hope to do this in a professional and collaborative manner that causes no concerns or offense to anyone to the best I can manage.

I doubt that my efforts would result in any sort of official statement or report from Siggraph on these topics, but maybe we can achieve some lesser goals. At the least I would hope I could convince the EC, or most of the EC, that we can not just encourage people to bet their careers on this field without significant warnings and statements of concern. It should not be all rah rah rah the future is bright, which has been the story from Siggraph to date.

There seem to be a lot of miserable and unemployed people out there. This is guesswork on my part because no official or unofficial statistics exist to the best of my knowledge. Yes there are many people who are gainfully employed and doing good work, but I am also aware of many who are constantly moving from project to project in a way that is disruptive to their lives, and others who are not employed and have not been for a while and wonder what they are going to do. No doubt I have sampling error, how could I not? Yes maybe this is normal, or the “new normal” and that could be the case. But if so, we should make sure people know that.

Whether we like it or not, Siggraph was part of the movement that created this industry segment, the use of computer animation and synthetic imagery in the creation of film and related media, both full length computer animated films and live action films with visual effects. This movement started in large part by idealists who used Siggraph as a venue through the 1980s, when no one believed us, and the 1990s, when they started to believe, into the next century when things exploded. I was a part of this movement and I contributed and I was there, so I know Siggraph helped. But now that the industry is very large, and yet with so much turmoil, and so much unemployment, that it is our responsibility to do what we can to make things better and at the very least make it clear to those who would bet their lives and their careers on the field what the situation is as we understand it.

If you are attending Siggraph next week and you are a member of Siggraph, I hope you will find me and sign my petition so that I can be considered for election to the EC.

You should also feel free to send comments or concerns, hopefully in a postive and cordial manner, by either leaving a comment here or sending me email at the address below. If you do send email, please put something in the subject field about what it is about so I know to read it.

Thank you.
M. Wahrman

michael.wahrman at

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