Saturday, January 30, 2016

My Platform Should I Run for the Executive Committee of SIGGRAPH


For many years I have attended the national conference of SIGGRAPH and been amazed that as far as I can tell the conference is totally unaware that there is vast unemployment in this field and that those who have managed to continue working have had to move overseas to do so. Yet SIGGRAPH keeps on pushing the field as a sensible one to go into without knowing or caring whether or not these new people will be able support themselves or their families by doing so.

I happen to also believe that computer animation is unusually blessed or cursed with the intangible glamour of the various entertainment industries which acts as a lure to the unwary. (1)  I can tell you that when I made the choices to go into this field I had no idea, no one told me and I did not understand, that I was going into a niche industry and very likely would experience long periods of unemployment.  Had I realized that, I would not have gone into this field. Such a choice would have been completely irresponsible on my part.

And yet we keep on encouraging young people to go into this field without a hint of caution even though we do not even know the size of the disaster that has already occurred.  I believe that this is both irresponsible and morally wrong.

After years of complaining and trying to figure out how to change things I came to the conclusion that the only way to be heard was to become a member of the Executive Commitee of ACM SIGGRAPH (the EC).  Although the EC is nominally elected by the membership of SIGGRAPH, in reality to be allowed to run for the EC one must be approved by the Nominating Committee and the Committee lost no time making it clear to me that they had no interest in my contribution.

There is however in the By Laws of ACM SIGGRAPH a provision for write-in candidates to be nominated and were I to wish to persevere it would be through this mechanism. Unfortunately, the details of this mechanism are undocumented as far as I can tell, but a friend has done a lot of work and seems to be able to extract the needed information from the relevant people.

Were I to run a write-in campaign for nomination, I would need approximately 70 signatures of people who were both current members of ACM and of SIGGRAPH. Those signatures would have to be on a form that is of yet undefined and whose original is provided on paper, as I currently understand it.

The number of signatures would not have been a problem "back in the day", but now most of the people I know who work or have worked in computer animation are not, to the best of my knowledge, members of SIGGRAPH as SIGGRAPH has worked very hard to make itself completely irrelevant to the production community. It may be one of the ironies of this campaign that I am able to get a dozen or two "new" members for SIGGRAPH as most of the people I know who would support me in this foolish endeavor would have to become members to do so.

Why should you bother to go through this trouble merely to make me eligible to run for a “position at large” on the Executive Committee?  In other words, even if the write-in campaign is successful, I would still have to run for election.  The best answer I can give is to itemize what my platform would be should I run for office and let you decide for yourself.

Let me preface these platform notes by saying that many people I have talked to who are more knowledgeable than I am about how SIGGRAPH at the national level actually works believe that there is either (a) nothing SIGGRAPH can do in any of these areas and/or (b) SIGGRAPH should not even try.

Let me also note that apparently the EC of SIGGRAPH thinks that it is not important that several thousand people (the number is unknown) who were undoubtedly encouraged by SIGGRAPH to make the questionable choice to go into this field. I would be a minority of one on the EC and likely have very little or no influence.

I would however be a voice for the disenfranchised and be certain that their plight was at least discussed at least to some small extent.

So were I to run, I would run on the following platform (certain to be revised).

1. To the extent possible, see to it that the program and events of SIGGRAPH do not encourage people to go into this field without a good understanding of what the possibility of employment in this field is.

2. To the extent possible, attempt to understand what the real employment in the fields associated with SIGGRAPH actually are and what the current unemployment is.

3. To the extent possible, make it possible for those who have dedicated a substantial portion of their career to this field are enabled to attend the national conference. The current rules and procedures do not in any way go far enough to permit this.

4. To the extent possible, make allowances for those who are unemployed or economically challenged have access to the full body of SIGGRAPH publications without fee or at a reduced rate.

5. To the extent possible, address the issues of ageism in computer animation, at least by having reminders at relevant conference events of the illegality of ageism as it applies to employment.

6. To the extent possible, attempt to assess the amount of hardship caused by the off-shoring of computer animation production to other countries and what remedies there may exist for this.

7. In the likely event that no suitable remedies exist for the problem of 6, to the extent possible see what can be done to train members of SIGGRAPH for other fields where employment is possible.

8. To the extent possible, encourage and try to organize outreach programs to try and encourage industry to create jobs that need the skills that computer graphics and animation provides.

A few more points and then we will wrap this up. It is not clear to me that I can afford to be a member of the Executive Committee should I be elected since I am so chronically un- and under-employed. However, we can probably cross that bridge when and if we get there, and something can probably be worked out.

It is equally unclear to me whether my efforts would result in any tangible benefit to anyone and whether or not it would be a good use of my time.


1. One year SIGGRAPH has a panel celebrating 25 years of Rhythm and Hues.  The next year R&H is out of business, 1000 people are dumped on the street, and SIGGRAPH says nothing. Dreamworks lays off all of their Nothern California studio, but SIGGRAPH does not notice or mention it. Last year, SIGGRAPH had a presentation about 30 years of ILM. Not a word about all the people ILM has laid off as they downsized. A young person attending SIGGRAPH might draw the conclusion that this was a glamourous and rewarding field to be in and that unemployment was not an issue. Pixar is huge, right? It never lays off people, right?

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