Report from CBMI 2022

The 19th International Conference on Content-based Multimedia Indexing (CBMI) took place as a hybrid conference in Graz, Austria, from September 14-16, 2022, organized by JOANNEUM RESEARCH and supported by SIGMM. After the 2020 edition was postponed and held as a fully online conference in 2021, this was an important step back to a physical conference. Probably still as an effect of the COVID pandemic, the event was a bit smaller than in previous years, with around 50 participants from 18 countries (13 European countries, the rest from Asia and North America). About 60% were attending on-site, the other via web conference. 

Program highlights

The conference program included two keynotes. The opening keynote by Miriam Redi from Wikimedia analysed the role of multimedia assets in a free knowledge ecosystem such as the one around Wikipedia. The closing keynote by Efstratios Gavves from the University of Amsterdam showcased recent progress in machine learning of dynamic information and causality in a diverse range of application domains and highlighted open research challenges.

With the aim to increase the interaction between the scientific community and the users of multimedia indexing technologies, a panel session titled “Multimedia Indexing and Retrieval Challenges in Media Archives” was organised. The panel featured four distinguished experts from the audiovisual archive domain. Brecht Declerq from meemoo, the Flemish Institute for Archive, is currently the president of FIAT/IFTA, the International Association of TV Archives. Richard Wright started as a researcher in speech processing before he became a renowned expert in digital preservation, setting up a series of successful European projects in the area. Johan Oomen manages the department for Research and Heritage at Beeld en Geluid, the Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision. Christoph Bauer is an expert from the Multimedia Archive of the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ORF and consults archives of the Western Balkan countries on digitisation and preservation topics. The panel tried to analyse why only a small part of research outputs makes it into productive use at archives and identified research challenges such as the need for more semantic and contextualised content descriptions, the ability to easily control the amount vs. accuracy of generated metadata and the need for novel paradigms to interact with multimedia collections beyond the textual search box. At the same time, archives face the challenge of dealing with much richer metadata, but without the quality guarantees known from manually documented content.

Panel discussion with Richard Wright, Brecht Declerq, Christoph Bauer and Johan Oomen (online), moderated by Georg Thallinger.

In addition to five regular paper sessions (presenting 16 papers in total), the 2022 conference followed the tradition of previous editions of special sessions addressing the use of multimedia indexing in specific application areas or specific settings. This year the special sessions (nine papers in total) covered multimedia in clinical applications and for the protection against natural disasters as well as machine learning from multimedia in cases where data is scarce. The program was completed with a poster & demo session, featuring seven posters and two demos.

Participants enjoyed the return of face-to-face discussions at the poster and demo sessions.

The best paper and the best student paper of the conference were each awarded EUR 500, generously sponsored by SIGMM. The selection committee quickly found consensus to award the best paper award to Maria Eirini Pegia, Anastasia Moumtzidou, Ilias Gialampoukidis, Björn Þór Jónsson, Stefanos Vrochidis and Ioannis Kompatsiaris for their paper “BiasUNet: Learning Change Detection over Sentinel-2 Image Pairs”, and the best student paper award to Sara Sarto, Marcella Cornia, Lorenzo Baraldi and Rita Cucchiara for their paper “Retrieval-Augmented Transformer for Image Captioning”. The authors of the best papers were invited to submit an extended version to the IEEE Transactions on Multimedia journal.

Best student paper award for Sara Sarto, presented by Werner Bailer.
Best paper award for Maria Eirini Pegia and Björn Þór Jónsson, presented by Georges Quénot.

Handling the hybrid setting

As a platform for the online part of the conference, an online event using GoTo Webinar has been created. The aim was still to have all presentations and Q&A live, however, speakers were asked to provide a backup video of their talk (which was only used in one case). The poster and demo session was a particular challenge in the hybrid setting. In order to allow all participants to see the contributions in the best setting, all contributions were both presented as printed posters on-site and as a short video online. After discussions took place on-site in front of the posters and demos, a Q&A session connecting the conference room and the remote presenters took place to enable also discussions with the online presenters.

Social events

Getting back to at least hybrid conferences also means having the long missed opportunities to discuss and exchange with both well-known colleagues and first-time attendees during coffee breaks and over lunch and dinner. In addition to a conference dinner on the second evening, the government of the state of Styria, of which Graz is the capital, hosted a reception for the participants in the beautiful setting of the historic Orangerie in the gardens of Graz castle. The participants had the opportunity to enjoy a guided tour through Graz on their way to the reception.

Concert by François Pineau-Benois (violin), Olga Cepovecka (piano) and Dorottya Standi (cello).

A special event was the Music meets Science concert, with the support of SIGMM. This is already the fourth concert which has been presented in the framework of the CBMI conference (2007, 2018, 2021, 2022). After a long conference day, the participants could enjoy works by Schubert and Haydn, Austrian composers which gave an aspect of local Austrian culture to the event. Reflecting the international spirit of CBMI, the concert was given by a trio of very talented young musicians with international careers from three different countries. We thank SIGMM for its support which made this cultural event happen. 

Matthias Rüther, director of JOANNEUM RESEARCH DIGITAL, welcomes the conference participants at the reception

Outlook

The next edition of CBMI will be organised in September 2023 in Orleans, France. While it is likely that the hybrid setting is here to stay for the near future, we hope that the share of participants on site will move back towards the pre-pandemic level.

Diversity and Inclusion in focus at ACM IMX ’22 and MMSys ’22

The 13th ACM Multimedia Systems Conference (and its associated workshops: MMVE 2022, NOSSDAV 2022, and GameSys 2022) took place from the 14th – 17th of June 2022 in Athlone, Ireland.  The week after, the ACM International Conference on Interactive Media Experiences took place in Aveiro, Portugal from the 22nd – 24th of June. Both conferences are strongly committed to creating a diverse, inclusive and accessible forum to discuss the latest research on multimedia systems and the technology experiences they enable and have been actively working towards this goal over the last number of years.
While this is challenging in itself, demanding systematic and continuous efforts at various levels, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic introduced even more challenges. As it has repeatedly been coined (and shown), restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have had a significant impact on many scholars, such as female academics [1,2], caregivers [3], young scientists [4] and may have exacerbated existing inequalities [5], despite the increased participation possibilities introduced by fully online conferences.
The diversity and inclusion chairs of both IMX and MMSys were therefore highly motivated to adopt a set of measures aimed at stimulating the inclusion of underrepresented groups, offering various possibilities for participation, and raising awareness of diversity (and implications of a lack of diversity) for community development and research activities.

Relevant support and activities

With the generous support from the ACM Special Interest Group on Multimedia (SIGMM) and ACM, the provided support at MMSys’22 and IMX’22 included the following:

  • SIGMM student travel grants:  any student member of SIGMM is eligible to apply for such a grant, however, the students who are the first author of an accepted paper (in any track/workshop) are particularly encouraged to apply. The grants can cover any travel expenses such as airfare/shuttle, hotel and meals (but not conference registration fees).
  • SIGMM carer grants: the carer grants are intended to allow SIGMM members to fully engage with the online event or attend in person. These grants are intended to cover extra costs to help with caring responsibilities — for example, childcare at home or at the destination — which would otherwise limit your participation in the conference.
  • SIGMM-sponsored Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) travel grants: these grants aim to support researchers who self-identify as marginalized and/or underrepresented in the MMSys community  (e.g., scholars who come from non-WEIRD – Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Developed – societies). The EDI grants have also been used to support researchers who lack other/own funding opportunities, as well as scholars from relevant yet underrepresented research areas.
  • Paper mentoring: this instrument was primarily aimed at those who are new to submitting an academic paper. In particular, those in circumstances which are particularly adverse, like for example those for whom English is a second language or those who are authoring a particularly novel submission which may require additional input, could apply for paper mentoring. 

In addition to the above measures, MMSys’22 also offered excellent mentoring activities for both PhD students and postdocs and more advanced researchers. The PhD mentoring was organized by the doctoral consortium chairs Patrick Le Callet and Carsten Griwodz and PhD students had the possibility to give a short pitch about their PhD research, have discussions with the MMSys’22 mentors and wider community, and have a 1 on 1 in-person talk with their assigned mentor. The postdoc mentoring was organized by Pablo Cesar and Irena Orsolic. Postdocs in the MMSys community were invited to give a lightning talk about their research and were invited to a dedicated networking lunch with other members of the MMSys community. 
IMX’ 22 on the other hand, featured an open application process for program committee membership and an active reasonable adjustment policy to ensure that registration fees are not preventing people from attending the conference. In addition, undergraduate and graduate students, as well as early-career researchers could also apply for travel support from the SIGCHI Gary Marsden travel awards and PhD students could benefit from interaction with and feedback from peers and senior researchers in the Doctoral Consortium. Finally, both for MMSys and IMX, participants had to actively agree with the ACM Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment.

Activities at the conference

At the conference, additional activities were organized to raise awareness, increase understanding, foster experience sharing and especially also trigger reflection about diversity and inclusion. MMSys ’22 featured a panel on  “Designing Inclusivity in Technologies“. Inclusive Design is an approach used in many sectors to try and allow everyone to experience our services and products in an equitable way. One of the ways we could do this is by celebrating diversity in how we design and take into account the different barriers faced by different communities across the globe. The panel brought together experts to discuss what inclusive design looks like for them, the charms of the communities they work with, the challenges they face in designing with and for them and how other communities can learn from the methods they have used in order to build a more inclusive world that benefits all of us. 
The panellists were:

  • Veronica Orvalho: Professor at Porto University’s Instituto de Telecomunicações and the Founder/CEO of Didimo – a platform that enables users to generate digital humans.
  • Nitesh Goyal: Leads research on Responsible AI tools at Google Research.
  • Kellie Morrissey: Researcher & Lecturer at the University of Limerick’s School of Design.

IMX ’22 featured a panel discussion on “Diversity in the Metaverse”. The Metaverse is a hot topic, which has many people wondering both what it is, and more importantly, what it will look like in the future for immersive media experiences. As a unique space for social interaction, engagement and connection, it’s essential that we address the importance of representation and accessibility during its time of infancy. The discussion intended not only to cover the current scenario in virtual and augmented reality worlds, but also the consequences and challenges of building a diverse Metaverse by taking into account design, content, marketing, and the various barriers faced by different communities across the globe.

The panel was moderated by  Tara Collingwoode-Williams  (Goldsmiths University) and had four panellists to discuss topics related to research and practice around “Diversity and Inclusive design in the Metaverse”:

  • Nina Salomons – (Filmmaker, diversity advocate and XR consultant, XRDI, AnomieXR co-founder UK – London)
  • Micaela Mantegna – (TED Fellow. Video Games Policy/Artificial intelligence, creativity & copyright Professor. AI, XR and Metaverse researcher. BKC Harvard Affiliate. Diversity & Inclusion advocate. Founder of Women In Games, Argentina – Greater Buenos Aires) 
  • Krystal Cooper -( Unity : Emerging Products – Professional Artistry / Virtual production * Spatial Computing * XR researcher * , USA – LA)
  • Mmuso Mafisa – (XR consultant, Veza Interactive and Venture Chain Capital, SA – Johannesburg Metropolitan Area)

Short testimonials by two of the EDI grant beneficiaries

Soonbin Lee is a PhD student at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) in Korea, who would not have been able to attend MMsys ’22 without the SIGMM support (due to a lack of other funding opportunities). Soonbin wrote a short testimonial.

“The conference consisted of the presentation of a keynote and regular sessions by various speakers. In particular, with the advent of cloud gaming, there are many presentations, including: streaming systems specialized in game videos; haptic media for realistic viewing; and humanoid robots that can empathize with humans. During the conference, I enjoyed the spectacular views of Ireland and the wonderful traditional cuisine that was included in the conference program. Along with the presentations during the regular sessions, demo sessions were also presented. Participants from the industry, including Qualcomm, Fraunhofer FOKUS, INRIA, and TNO, were engaged during the MMSys demo sessions. Being able to participate offered also an excellent opportunity to witness the outcomes of real-time systems, including user-interactive VR games, holographic cube matching instructions, and a mobile-based deep learning video codec decoding demo. I was also able to hear the presentations of various PhD research proposals, and it was very impressive to see many PhD students present their interesting research.

At the MMSys conference, there were also a number of social events, like Viking boat and beer-brewing in Ireland, so I was able to meet with other researchers and get to know them better. This was an amazing experience for me because it is not easy to meet the researchers in person. On the last day, I gave a presentation at the NOSSDAV session on the compression processing of MPEG Immersive Video (MIV). Through this discussion and the Q&A, I was able to learn more about the most recent trends in research. 
More importantly, I made many friends who studied with the same interests. I had a fantastic chance and a wonderful experience meeting other scholars in person. The MMSys Conference was a really impressive conference for me. With the travel grant, I fully enjoyed this opportunity!”

Postdoctoral researcher Alan Guedes also wrote a short reflection:
“I am a researcher from the Brazilian multimedia community, especially concentrated at the WebMedia event (http://webmedia.org.br). Although my community is considerably large and active, it has little presence at ACM events. This lack prevents the visibility of our research and possible international collaboration. In 2022, I was honoured with ACM Diversity and Inclusion Travel Award to attend two ACM SIGMM-supported conferences, namely IMX and MMSys. The events had inspiring presentations and keynotes, which made me energetic about new research directions. Particularly, I had the chance to meet researchers that I only know by their citing names. At these events, I could present some research done in Brazil and collaborate on technical committees and workshops. 

This networking was invaluable and will be essential in my research career. I was also happy to see other Brazilians that, like me, seek to engage and strengthen the bonds of SIGMM and Brazilian communities.”

Final reflections 

Both at IMX and MMSys, there were various actions and initiatives to put EDI-related topics on the agenda and to foster diversity and inclusion, both at the community level and in terms of research-related activities. We believe that a key success factor in this respect is the fact that there are valuable support mechanisms offered by the ACM and SIGMM, allowing the IMX and MMSys communities to continuously and systematically have goals related to equality, diversity and inclusion on the agenda, e.g., by removing participation barriers (e.g., by having adjusted prices depending on the country of the attendees), triggering awareness, providing a forum for under-represented voices and/or regions (e.g., focused workshops at IMX focusing on Asia (2016, 2017), Latin America (2020), .., supported by the SIGCHI Development Fund).

Based on our experiences, it is also important that defined actions and measures are based on a good understanding of the key problems. This means that efforts to gain insights into key aspects (e.g., gender balance, numbers on the participation of under-represented groups, …) and developments  over time  are highly valuable. Secondly, it is important that EDI aspects are considered holistically, as they relate to all aspects of the conference, from the beginning until the end, including e.g., the selection of keynote speakers, the matter of who is represented in the technical committees (e.g., have an open call for associate chairs as has been done at IMX since the beginning), or who is represented in the organizing committee, which efforts are done to reach out to relevant communities in various parts of the world that are currently under-represented (e.g., South-America, Afrika,…). Lastly, we need more experience sharing through both formal and informal channels. There is a huge potential to share best practices and experiences both within and between the related conferences and communities to combine our efforts towards a common EDI vision and associated goals. 

References

Students report on ACM MMSys 2022

The 13th ACM Multimedia Systems Conference (and associated workshops: MMVE 2022, NOSSDAV 2022, GameSys 2022) happened from 14th – 17th June 2022 in Athlone, Ireland.  The MMSys conference is an essential forum for researchers in multimedia systems to present and share their latest research findings in multimedia systems. After two years of online and hybrid editions, MMSys was held onsite in the beautiful Athlone. Besides the many high-quality technical talks spread across different multimedia areas and the wonderful keynote talks, there were a few events targeted especially at students, such as mentoring sessions and the doctoral symposium. The social events were significant this year since they were the first opportunity in two years for multimedia researchers to meet colleagues, collaborators, and friends and discuss the latest hot topics while sharing a pint of Guinness or a glass of wine. 

To encourage student authors to participate on-site, SIGMM has sponsored a group of students with Student Travel Grant Awards. Students who wanted to apply for this travel grant needed to submit an online form before the submission deadline. The selected students received either 1,000 or 2,000 USD to cover their airline tickets as well as accommodation costs for this event. Of the recipients, 11 were able to attend the conference. We asked them to share their unique experience attending MMSys’22. In this article, we share their reports of the event.


Andrea M. Storås, PhD student, Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway

I am grateful for receiving the SIGMM Student Travel Grant and getting the opportunity to participate at the MMSys’ 2022 Conference in Athlone, Ireland. During the conference, I presented my research as a part of the Doctoral Symposium and got valuable advice and mentoring from an experienced professor in the field of multimedia systems. The Doctoral Symposium was a great place for me to get experience with pitching my research and presenting posters at a scientific conference. 

In addition to inspiring talks and demos, the conference was filled with social events. One of the highlights was the boat trip to the Glasson Lake House with barbeque afterwards. I found the conference useful for my future career as I got to meet brilliant researchers, connect with other PhD students and discuss topics related to my PhD. I really hope that I will get the opportunity to participate in future editions of MMSys.


Reza Farahani, PhD student, ITEC Dept., Alpen-Adria-University Klagenfurt, Austria

After two years of virtual attendance in ACM MMSys, I had the opportunity to be in Athlone, Ireland, and present our work in front of the community. Like previous years, I expected a well-organized conference, and I witnessed everything from keynotes to papers sessions was perfect. Moreover, the social events were one of the best experiences I achieved, where I could discuss with community members and learn many things in a friendly atmosphere. Overall, I must express that the MMSys 2022 was excellent in all aspects, and I appreciate the SIGMM committee once again for the nice travel grant which made this experience possible.


Xiaokun Xu, PhD student, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA

The MMsys2022 was my first in-person conference, and it was very well organized and far more than my expectation for an in-person conference since in the past 2 years I participated in some virtual conferences and they were not very good experiences. I thought the in-person conference would be similar. The fact is that I was totally wrong. MMsys2022 was a wonderful experience, the first time I built a real connection with the community and peer researchers.
Many things impressed me a lot. For the papers and presentations, I found the poster #75 “Realistic Video Sequences for Subjective QoE Analysis” was really interesting to me. The presentation from the author was very helpful and I talked a lot with the author. Now he is one of my new friends I made from the conference and we still keep in communication through email.
Besides the papers, social events were another part that impressed me. All the social events were highly organized and made communication easier for us. I got the opportunity to talk with the authors and ask some questions that I didn’t ask during the presentation, and made some new friends who are doing similar research as me. I also got the chance to talk with some professors who are the top researchers in specific fields. Those are really precious experiences for a PhD student.
Overall, MMSys 2022 was an amazing conference and now it’s an encouragement for me to attend more academic communication in future. I’m really grateful to the SIGMM committee for the travel grant, which made this wonderful experience possible.


Sindhu Chellappa, PhD student, University of New Hampshire, US

I am really happy to be part of MMSys at Athlone, Ireland. This is the first in-person conference I have attended after the pandemic. The conference was organized seamlessly, and the keynotes were very interesting. The keynote “Network is the Renderer” by Dr Morgan from Roblox stole the entire show. Along with that, the keynotes by Dr Ali and Dr Mohamed Hefeeda on Low latency streaming and DeepGame respectively were very interesting. The social events were very relaxing and well organized. I had to travel from the US to India and to Ireland. It was a breathtaking trip, but with the student travel grant, it was a boon to attend the conference in-person.


Tzu-Yi Fan, master student, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan 

I am grateful to receive the student grant for MMSys 2022, which was my first in-person conference. I learned a lot at the conference and had a wonderful experience in Athlone, Ireland. 
Initially, I felt nervous when I arrived in a distant and unfamiliar place, but the kind and welcomed organization calmed my mind. The schedule of the conference was fruitful. I enjoyed the presentations and keynotes a lot. I presented my paper about high-rise firefighting in the special session. Although I did not speak smoothly at the beginning, I still enjoyed interacting with the audience. Keynote given by Professor Mohamed impressed me a lot. He spoke about the challenges of cloud gaming and introduced a video encoding pipeline to reduce the bandwidth. I also loved the coffee break between sessions. During that time, people worldwide could discuss each other’s research, which I could not do in virtual participation. It was an excellent opportunity to practice demonstrating our research to people from different backgrounds.
Moreover, the social events at night were also exciting. I tasted several kinds of beer at the welcome party. Ireland is famous for beer. I was glad to try the local flavour, which I never thought beer could be.
Thank the MMSys 2022 organization for holding such a splendid conference and expanding my horizons. I look forward to carrying on my new research and joining more conferences in the future.


Kerim Hodžić, PhD student, University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

My name is Kerim Hodžić, and I am a PhD student at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, Computer Science Department at the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. It was my pleasure to attend the ACM/MMSYS 2022 conference held in Athlone, Ireland where I presented my paper „Realistic Video Sequences for Subjective QoE Analysis” which is part of my PhD research. In addition to that, I had an opportunity to learn much from attending all the conference sessions with very interesting paper presentations and also from the special guests who provided us with interesting information about the industry. In social events, I met many people from industry and academia and I hope it will lead to some useful cooperation in the future. This is the best conference I have attended so far in my career and I want to congratulate everyone who organised it. I also want to thank the SIGMM committee for their travel grant, which made this experience possible. Till the next MMSYS! All the best.


Juan Antonio De Rus Arance, Universitat Politècnica de València, Spain

MMSys’2022 was an amazing experience and a great opportunity to discover other research works in my field. It gave me the chance to meet colleagues working in the same area and discuss ideas with them, opening the doors to possible collaborations. Moreover, participating in the Doctoral Symposium was very didactic.
It wouldn’t have been possible for me to attend the conference if it wasn’t for the SIGMM Student travel award and I’m very grateful.


Miguel Fernández Dasí, PhD student, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Spain

I am a PhD student at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, and MMSys 2022 was my first in-person conference. I attended the Doctoral Symposium to present my paper, “Design, development and evaluation of adaptive and interactive solutions for high-quality viewport-aware VR360 video processing and delivery”.
It was a great experience meeting fellow PhD students and sharing ideas about different topics, especially with those working in the same area. Furthermore, everyone at the conference was always willing to talk, which I have significantly appreciated as a PhD student and that always led to fascinating conversations.
All the keynotes were engaging. I was particularly interested in Prof. Mohamed Hefeeda’s “DeepGame: Efficient Video Encoding for Cloud Gaming” keynote, a topic related to my PhD thesis. I also found Prof. Nadia Magnenat Thalmann’s keynote on “Digital and Robotic Humanoid Twins: for Which Purposes” interesting, a topic I didn’t know about but found great interest in.  I am thankful to SIGMM for receiving the Student Travel Grant, which made my attendance at this conference possible.


Melan Vijayaratnam, PhD student, CentraleSupelec, France

I am delighted to have been given a grant for the MMSys conference in Athlone, Ireland. This was my first in-person conference that my supervisor Dr Giuseppe Valenzise really wanted me to attend to meet with the Multimedia community. I went there by myself and it was scary at first to go to the conference without knowing anyone at first. However, being on the doctoral symposium track, my mentor Dr Pablo Cesar helped me with his advice and introduced me to many people and I got to meet other fellow PhD students. It was definitely an incredible experience and I am grateful to have been introduced to this welcoming community.


Chun Wei Ooi, PhD student, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

It was my first time attending the MMsys conference this year. I would like to thank the committee for awarding the travel grants to students such as myself. I presented my research topic at MMVE and received some good suggestions from senior researchers. It was a very fruitful conference where I met different researchers from different backgrounds and levels. I also benefited tremendously from attending the conference because my latest work is partly inspired by the research talk I attended. One of the highlights of attending MMsys in person is its many social events. Not only did they show the best side of the venue, but more importantly I was able to make friends with fellow researchers. Overall MMsys community is a very talented and friendly bunch, I am glad to be a part of it.   


Jingwen Zhu, PhD student, Nantes university, France

I was very disappointed that I didn’t receive my visa until the day before the MMSys. However, I got a call from the embassy on the first day of the conference, telling me that my visa application was approved. I shared the news with my supervisor Patrick Le Callet, who insisted that I should buy the next plane to come to the conference and present my research proposal in person.

MMSys is the first conference for me since the beginning of my PhD. As a first-year PhD student, it was a very good opportunity for me to know this excellent community and exchange my research with more experienced researchers. I really appreciate the breakfast with my mentor Dr Ketan Mayer-Patel. He gave me very nice suggestions for my PhD during breakfast. After the conference, he still sent me a good tutorial about how to make a good academic poster. I would like to thank the conference organizers and the travel grand for giving me the opportunity to meet everyone in person. Thanks to everyone who exchanged ideas with me during the conference and especially my DS mentor Ketan. I hope that I can continue to attend MMSys next year!

ACM SIGMM Executive Committee Newsletter – 1, 2022


The Special Interest Group in Multimedia of ACM, ACM SIGMM, provides a forum for researchers, engineers, and practitioners in all aspects of multimedia computing, communication, storage, and applications. We do this through our sponsorship and organization of conferences and workshops, supporting student travel to such events, discounted registrations, two regional chapters, recognition of excellence and achievement through an awards scheme, and we inform the Multimedia community of our activities through the SIGMM Records, social media and through mailing lists. Information on joining SIGMM can be found at https://www.acm.org/special-interest-groups/sigs/sigmm.

The SIGMM Executive Committee Newsletter in SIGMM Records periodically reports on the topics discussed and the decisions assumed in the Executive Committee meetings to improve transparency and sense of community. 

SIGMM Executive Committee Meeting 2022-03-16

Attended: Alberto Del Bimbo (Chair); Phoebe Chen (Vice-Chair); Miriam Redi (Conference Director); Changsheng Xu, Ketan Mayer-Patel, Kiyoharu Aizawa, Pablo Cesar, Prabhakaran, Balakrishnan, Qi Tian, Susanne Boll, Tao Mei, Abdulmotaleb El Saddik, Alan Smeaton (SIGMM Executive Committee members); Xavier Alameda Pineda (Invited guest)

Sent justification and comments: Lexing Xie (SIGMM Executive Committee member). 

We discussed the 2022 SIGMM budget. The SIGMM budget is in a good shape, and we foresee room for new initiatives to strengthen and expand the SIGMM community and improve our communication via existing and new channels.  

We approved a revision of SIGMM bylaws (proposed by Susanne Boll) to improve diversity: the chair and vice-chair will run for the offices in pairs; a way to encourage diversity without necessarily having to put quota. The proposal has been sent to ACM for approval. 

We approved three proposals for special initiatives that will improve inclusion. In late 2021, the SIGMM Executive invited SIGMM Members to apply for funding for new initiatives building on SIGMM’s excellence and strengths, nurturing new talent in the SIGMM community, and addressing weaknesses in the SIGMM community and in SIGMM activities. The fund can support auditable expenses incurred and necessary for the completion of the initiative. The proposals received were evaluated based on impact and contribution to the SIGMM community, and cost-effectiveness of the proposed budget. The three special initiatives approved so far are:

  • Multi-City PhD-School (proposed by the Steering Committee Co-Chairs of MM Asia)
    This is a two-half day program which is planned to be implemented in ACM MM Asia and eventually applied to other conferences in the future. The program is hosted in 3-5 satellite sites located in different Asian cities. Each site will physically gather 30-50 PhD students plus 1-2 senior researchers in a local venue. Different sites are virtually connected by online meetings. Invited student speakers will deliver a 3-minute lightning talk in turn followed by QA talks with mentors. The program allows students to physically attend the event, talk to senior researchers, while increasing the impact of satellite events among young researchers. Students are encouraged to register for the satellite events and attend virtually. This could involve more students and minority attendees with satellite events bringing students from multiple cities for idea exchange and research training
  • MMSys inclusion initiative (proposed by the MMSys’22 General Chairs & Diversity Chairs)
    The goal of this initiative is to improve diversity and inclusion in the MMSys community. The proposal includes 1) Travel support for non-student participants who self-identify as marginalized and/or underrepresented, lacking other funding opportunities; 2) an EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) panel aiming at increasing visibility and recognition of minorities and under-represented researchers in SIGMM fields, stimulating new collaborations; and promoting networking and mentoring between junior and senior researchers.
  • IMX Inclusion initiative (proposed by the IMX’22 Diversity Chairs)
    The goal of this initiative is to promote the participation of groups of students and researchers that have historically been underrepresented in the IMX’s community. The proposal includes funding for 1) a panel discussion on diversity in the metaverse; 2) travel support for individuals who self-identify as marginalized and/or underrepresented in terms of gender, race, and geographical location and who lack the financial resources to attend an international conference.

The SIGMM Executive also discussed two other initiatives, namely the opportunity of using Open Review in the SIGMM flagship conference ACM Multimedia (this year it is adopted on an experimental basis in ACMMM 2022), and the project of a reproducibility platform for open streaming evaluation and benchmarking (proposed by Ali Begen) eventually extendible beyond streaming media.  They both will be further discussed and evaluated in the next future.

The Chairs of the SIGMM Executive Committee

Encouraging Scientific Collaborations with ConfFlow 2021

Introduction

We often find other collaborators by chance at a conference or by looking for them specifically through their papers. However, sometimes hidden potential social connections might exist between different researchers that cannot be immediately observed because the keywords we use might not always represent the entire space of similar research interests. As a community, Multimedia (MM) is so diverse that it is easy for community members to miss out on very useful expertise and potentially fruitful collaborations. There is a lot of latent knowledge and potential synergies that could exist if we were to offer conference attendees an alternative perspective on their similarities to other attendees. ConfFlow is an online application that offers an alternative perspective on finding new research connections. It is designed to help researchers find others at conferences with complementary research interests for collaboration. With ConfFlow we take a data-driven approach by using something similar to the Toronto Paper Matching System (TPMS), used to identify suitable reviewers for papers, to construct a similarity embedding space for researchers to find other researchers. 

In this report, we discuss the follow up to the 2020 ConfFlow edition which was run at MMSys, MM, ICMR in 2021. We created separate editions of ConfFlow for each conference, processing 2642 (MM), 272 (MMSys), and 494 (ICMR) accepted authors from each conference.

Both the 2020 and 2021 editions of ConfFlow were funded by the SIGMM special initiatives fund.

New Functionality

In the 2020 edition of ConfFlow, we created an interface allowing authors at the MM 2020 conference to browse the research similarity space with others. Each user needs to claim their Google scholar account in the application before using it. We implemented a strict privacy-sensitive policy allowing data of individuals only to be shown if they consented to use the database; even public data was not shown as the processed public data might be considered a privacy invasion. Unfortunately, because of this strict policy, and very little uptake of the application, the full experience of the application was not possible for any user. In the 2021 edition, we updated the privacy policy to be more permissive, whilst still secure (see discussion in the Privacy and Ethical Considerations section below).

From our experiences from the 2020 edition, we identified some bottlenecks that could be improved upon. To that end, we made the following augmentations:

  • Improved frontend design: We did an overhaul of the interface to make it more modern, visually appealing, and user-friendly. The design was also slightly changed to accommodate new functionalities
  • New embedding options: We added two more options to choose how the similarity space is formed; word2vec (tf-idf weighted mean word2vec embeddings: w(eighted)-m(ean)o(f)w(ord)e(mbeddings)) and doc2vec (see Figure 1)
Figure 1. Screenshot showing the new embedding functionality (m-mowe and doc2vec)
  • Interactive tutorial for onboarding: We included an interactive tutorial that showcases the full range of functionalities to the users when they first log in (see Figure 2)
  • Direct messaging functionality: We added direct messaging to ConfFlow, allowing direct communication between attendees (see Figure 3)
  • Scaling ConfFlow and making it cheaper to run in the future: There is an economy of scale to only needing to update the ConfFlow database with conference newcomers. We made the following steps to make the process more efficient:
    • Generating a database of verified authors from the lists of SIGMM conference attendees listed on the ACM website in the last 6 years.
    • A helper tool for finding google scholar profiles of newcomers quicker as they needed to be manually verified for security reasons.

Deployment

Method

ConfFlow was rolled out to 3 conferences starting with MMSys 2021 (Istanbul, Turkey)  in September, Multimedia 2021 (Chengdu, China)  in October, and ICMR (Taipei, Taiwan) 2021 in November rather than just ACM MM in 2020. All MMSys and MM conferences were organized as hybrid events whilst ICMR was finally organized virtually after having to be rescheduled twice.

We asked all general and program chairs of each respective conference to provide the author lists of the accepted papers in the conference at least 1 month before the conference started. This was in the end a compromise between obtaining just the actual conference attendees (which would have made social connection easier if the conferences had been in-person only) and being able to get conference relevant participants sufficiently ahead of time in order to disambiguate identities and start the time-consuming computations of the embedding spaces. Given the added complication that MMSys and Multimedia were hybrid, the problem of waiting for the final conference registration list was that we would need to wait until very close to the conference itself to get the latest attendee list. In any case, even if we knew, the hybrid nature of the conference made virtual social connection still the more viable option. Use of the attendee list would also make it harder to pre-announce the application just before the conference started. Given also that the conference organizers were very occupied with handling the many uncertainties of conference organization during the pandemic, we decided that obtaining the author lists was the least risky approach.

Aside from getting the author lists, we also asked the conference organizers for support in disseminating the application to the conference attendees. A separate edition of ConfFlow needed to be generated for each conference. The following strategies were used for disseminating the application via the conference directly and from a personal account:

  • MMSys: slack channel, Twitter (conference, personal, and sigmm), weixin, weibo, facebook, presentation slides during conference general announcements
  • ACM MM: Twitter (conference and sigmm), whova, presentation slide during the conference banquet
  • ICMR:  Twitter (conference, personal, and sigmm).

We tried a different strategy compared to last year to catch people’s attention to the application by a more comprehensive dissemination strategy and also short catchy explanatory videos to communicate the functionalities of the application. These were embedded in our social media dissemination campaigns.

Following on from that, we issued an online survey to gauge how people in the community at large felt about social interaction and, if they had used ConfFlow, how was their experience of the app. This was sent shortly after the conference by email to all those that used the application and then also 1 week later as a reminder. Posts were also sent out on Twitter and Facebook to encourage people in the community to fill in the survey even if they had not used ConfFlow. The survey was divided into questions related to collaboration in general, their experience using ConfFlow, and questions about how the application experience could be changed. Further details about the questions are shown in the Appendix. 

Privacy and Ethical Considerations

The first edition of ConfFlow (2020) had a very restrictive opt-in only policy. This made the visualization hard to use for interested users, thus severely hindering the user experience. Users unanimously asked for visualization of the other researchers in the community. Therefore, any already publicly available information from a user’s google scholar account or ACM website and derived visualizations were displayed to everyone. Information that is not available publicly online such as their individual usage behavior, their visualization options, whether their ConfFlow account is activated or not etc is not shown publicly. 

Application Realization

For security reasons, each user cannot use ConfLab until they have claimed their account. This is needed because each account has preferences related to the ConfFlow interface – settings such as hiding particular researchers, having researchers marked as ‘favourites’ as well as the direct messaging functionality. We used very strict security procedures for the building of ConfFlow and this also meant that to retrieve a user’s preferences in the application, a user’s identity needed to be verified when a user claims their account. We do this by associating the author’s name and affiliation with a Google scholar profile and then a user needs to verify their identity with respect to their Google scholar account. In some cases, it is necessary to manually assign an author to a Google scholar profile because there are too many profiles with the same name; sometimes many author names can be associated with the same Google scholar account. To this end, one of the main new functionalities was the creation of a database of all SIGMM community members who had published at the MM conference recently. That way, their name and google scholar profile only needs to be associated once and can easily be re-used in future editions of ConfLab. This manual effort aspect of the process varied across the three different conferences in which ConfLab was created. We elaborate on this below. An additional helper function was created to allow faster manual verification in cases of ambiguity.

ConfFlow at ACM SIGMM

We describe some statistics for each edition of ConfFlow at the three conferences of SIGMM in 2021: MMSys, MM, and ICMR. We list them in chronological order of when the conference occurred in the calendar year.

ACM MMSys

The author list provided by General Chairs of MMSys had 272 unique authors. As shown in Figure 4.,  we were able to identify Google Scholar accounts of 158 authors. 145 of these accounts were identified automatically using the provided author information: name, affiliation, and e-mail domain. 13 accounts identified by the automatic process were tagged as ambiguous and required manual validation.

Figure 4. Author statistics for ACM MMSys‘21

We created ConfFlow accounts for 145 identified authors. As shown in Figure 5, 18 users claimed their accounts and used ConfFlow during the conference. Further analysis showed that 7 out of 18 users were newcomers to MMSys i.e., it was their first publication at this conference. 

After sending out the survey request to the 18 users after the conference, we obtained 1 survey response from a PhD student. Due to the low response rate, we do not report the responses.

Figure 5. User statistics for ConfFlow-MMSys‘21

The similarity space visualized in ConfFlow is based on the publications of authors in the last two years. Figure 6 shows the distribution of the number of papers MMSys authors published in the last two years. We show this because for each identified author, we take all the papers they published in the last 2 years to generate the latent representation of their research interests. What was particularly interesting to see is how many researchers were publishing 30 or more papers in the last 2 years. They account for a significant proportion of the authors of the conference who may be too busy to find new research connections. However, there is also a significant proportion of researchers publishing less than 30 papers a year who could find Conf Lab useful.

Figure 6. Histogram of the number of publications in the last 2 years for MMSys’21 authors.

ACM Multimedia

We realized that users without a Google scholar profile could not use ConfLab at all so for the Multimedia edition, we added a view-only (guest account) option of ConfLab and advertised it on social media accordingly. This view-only account also allowed researchers who did not want to claim their account to browse the embedding space. The disadvantage of this approach is that the application does not immediately centre on the user in the embedding space. Given the large number of authors at Multimedia, this made it extremely hard for view-only users to find themselves, which may have made it harder for them to appreciate the utility of the application. 

As shown in  Figure 7,  the author list provided by General Chairs of Multimedia had 2642 unique authors. We were able to identify Google Scholar accounts of 1608 authors. 1213 of these accounts were identified automatically using the provided author information: name, affiliation, and e-mail domain. 225 authors were already identified in the previous iterations of ConfFlow for ACM MMSys ‘21 and MM ‘20. We then manually analyzed the remaining 1204 authors that were either tagged as ambiguous matches by the automatic process or returned no matches at all. We were able to identify an additional 170 accounts with the manual search. This highlights how challenging it is to establish an online identity for all authors in order for them to use ConfFlow, despite manual intervention.

Figure 7. Author statistics for MM’21

We created ConfFlow accounts for the identified authors. As shown in Figure 8, 16 users claimed their accounts and used ConfFlow during the conference. Further analysis showed that 9 out of 16 users were newcomers to MMSys i.e., it was their first publication at this conference. 5 attendees requested access to the guest account.

Figure 8. User statistics for ConfFlow-MM’21.

Figure 9 shows the distribution of the number of papers.  Multimedia 2021 authors published in the last two years. It is interesting to see a more skewed distribution towards people with fewer publications compared to the MMSys edition. This would suggest that there are potentially more researchers who would find ConfFlow interesting as a social connection tool. However, both MMSys and Multimedia had very similar numbers of users despite Multimedia being almost 10 times bigger. This may be related to the fact that we were able to be in closer communication with the general chairs of MMSys who gave us access to more channels of communication (including a slide announcement during the conference opening). Meanwhile, at MM, the initial dissemination via Whova (which was the first line of attack) did not yield any new users at all and the Multimedia social media feed (Twitter)  had very few followers – this could be explained by the fact that Twitter is not used by many of our colleagues in Asia and Multimedia was being run in Chengdu. We do not have statistics on the proportion of hybrid vs. in-person attendees which may also have affected usage. 

Figure 9. Histogram of the number of publications in the last 2 years for all identified authors of MM’21.

ICMR

The author list provided by the General Chairs of Multimedia had 494 unique authors. As shown in Figure 10, we were able to identify Google Scholar accounts of 286 authors. 162 of these accounts were identified automatically using the provided author information: name, affiliation, and e-mail domain. 67 authors were already identified in the previous iterations of ConfFlow. We then manually analyzed the remaining 265 authors that were either tagged as ambiguous matches by the automatic process or returned no matches at all. We were able to identify an additional 57 accounts with the manual search. 

Figure 10. Author statistics for ICMR ‘21

None of the users claimed their ConfFlow account during ICMR’21. Figure 11 shows the distribution of the number of papers MMSys authors published in the last two years. It is interesting that despite being almost double the size of MMSys and 5 times smaller than Multimedia, 

Figure 11. Histogram of number of publications in the last 2 years for all identified authors of ICMR ‘21.

Discussion and Recommendations

This section describes some key points of reflection on the running of ConfFlow this year. 

One of the main issues relates to the low number of users despite conference participants being aware of the application. The survey on collaboration and experience with ConfFlow did not yield sufficient responses. 

It is interesting to see in all conferences that a significant proportion of the users of ConfFlow were newcomers. Unfortunately, without the statistics from the survey we put out, it is not clear if this reflects the distribution of the conference attendees in general or whether more newcomers are interested in using ConfFlow due to its promise of helping people to connect socially. 

The reasons for this could be multiple: The hybrid format and virtual formats of the conferences made it difficult to provide time to think about collaborations whilst being in the middle of preparing to go to a conference or during the conference itself. For virtual participants, in particular, the benefit of not going physically means that one can continue with day to day duties in the person’s normal job. However, this does take away opportunities for social networking that one might have in the in-person setting. In addition, the challenges of running the conference in the hybrid format may also have led to fatigue for in-person as well as virtual participants. Another possible explanation is that in the general Multimedia community there is no obvious intrinsic value in changing the way collaboration is already carried out. The additional barrier of needing to claim their account due to privacy and ethical reasons may have been confusing (it could appear that an account needs to be created, which can be a barrier to usage). 

We reflect that the fact that more users were obtained for MMSys could have been related to the closer access we had to social media channels e.g. the conference slack channel, which helped to keep a centralized reminder for participants of what was going on in the conference. It could also be a reflection of the openness of the community to finding social connections. On the other hand, the Whova app used for MM is a more complex interface with multiple purposes beyond just communication, which may have made it harder for attendees to see the ConfLab announcement, embedded in other announcements.

Finally, we also considered that the ConfFlow interface takes time to browse and reflect on. Given that the intrinsic value of the application is not immediately obvious to many (this is our interpretation of the low interest in application use). It could make more sense to have a SIGMM  community-wide edition of ConfFlow that is available all year round, allowing for the dissemination of the application and its purpose to be made clear outside of the pre-conference rush. Then conference-specific editions could be generated. This, however, comes with its own logistic issues as every new identity added to the database would either require the entire embedding to be recomputed, or their latent research interest representation would need to be projected directly onto the existing embedding, which does not necessarily accurately represent their closeness to others in the existing database. The rate at which updates (new authors) are added would also require significant manual attention (and may not be easy to resolve as shown in the statistics in Table 1). Given also the popularity of the Influence Flowers (http://influencemap.ml/), a previously funded SIGMM initiative, we suspect that a more ego-based strategy may be more effective in encouraging researchers in the community to start engaging with the ConfFlow application.

ConfLab Factors\ Conference: MMSys MultimediaICMR
#authors2722642494
#previously identified authors0225286
#authors with automatically identifiable Google scholar158121367
#authors without Google Scholar Match131204265
#authors with manually identified Google Scholar.1317057
#users18160
#survey respondents100

Table 1.  Summary statistics for each of the three conferences.

Conclusions

The ConfFlow 2021 edition generated new functionalities to allow researchers to browse their research interests with respect to others in a fun and novel way. More effort was given this year to improve the advertising of the application and to try and understand the community’s struggles with collaboration. Steps were also taken to make the running of ConfFlow less labour-intensive. 

Our conclusions from the many efforts made in ConfFlow 2021, the surrounding social media presence, and the survey is that for the SIGMM population at large, encouraging more social connections outside of the normal routes is unfortunately not perceived to have significant value. It seems that for now, more immediate forms of social interaction encouragement e.g. initiatives during the conference to help newcomers to integrate may be a more effective route to enable social integration. Another option is to consider a hybrid approach where ConfFlow can be used to e.g. identify groups for going to dinner together during the conference or sitting at the same table during the conference banquet. However, this would still require a sufficient uptake of the application. Given the myriad of different motivations community members have to attend conferences, it remains an intriguing and open challenge to encourage more diverse research output from this highly interdisciplinary community. 

Acknowledgements:

ConfFlow 2021 was supported in part by the SIGMM Special Initiatives Fund and the Dutch NWO-funded MINGLE project number 639.022.606. We thank users who gave feedback on the application during prototyping and implementation and the General Chairs of ACM MMSys, Multimedia, and ICMR 2021 for their support.

References:

Ekin Gedik and Hayley Hung. 2020. ConfFlow: A Tool to Encourage New Diverse Collaborations. Proceedings of the 28th ACM International Conference on Multimedia. Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 4562–4564. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3394171.3414459

Appendix:

List of Survey Questions used for our google form:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdcj1B-fOFmEG8mFvcUbd91ysYkEapm_zVvNcJMaFS5ETgFkQ/viewform

  • Context Questions
    • I am attending these conferences in 2021
    • I am publishing in these conferences in 2021
    • Please indicate the job description that best describes you.
  • General Questions about Scientific Collaboration
    • I tend to initiate collaborations with people I already know well.
    • I tend to initiate collaborations with people at the same experience level as me.
    • I am very interested in finding collaborators from a different discipline.
    • I find it very hard to identify relevant collaborators from a different discipline.
    • I find it very hard to initiate interdisciplinary collaborations even when I know who I want to work with.
    • What are the common problems you face when trying to initiate a collaboration?
    • Do these problems influence how or whether you initiate collaborations?
  • Initial contact with ConfFlow:
    • I saw announcements encouraging me to try ConfFlow
    • Did you have problems in getting in to ConfFlow? e.g. the system could not find your Google Scholar account?
    • On how many separate occasions have you used ConfFlow?
  • Motivation for using ConfFlow
    • I did not use ConfFlow because I did not have time.
    • I did not use ConfFlow because I did not find it interesting.
    • I would be interested in trying ConfFlow in the weeks leading up to or following a conference.
    • Despite not using ConfFlow, I could see how it might help advance my research work.
    • We would be very grateful for any comments or feedback on your experience of ConfFlow so we can make it more useful. Please feel free to share any remarks you might have on this topic.
  • Experience using ConfFlow
    • The visualization matched who I would expect to be close to me.
    • The visualization matched who I would expect to be far away from me.
    • ConfFlow helped me to find interesting people that I did not know before.
    • ConfFlow helped me to connect with interesting people that I did not know before.
    • ConfFlow encouraged me to think more deliberately about making connections with researchers in a different discipline.
    • I think that ConfFlow could help to advance my research work.

Reports from ACM Multimedia System 2021

Introduction

The 12th ACM Multimedia Systems Conference (MMSys’21) happened from September 28th through October 1st, 2021.  The  MMSys conference is an important forum for researchers in multimedia systems. But, due to the ongoing pandemic, the event was held in a hybrid mode – onsite in Istanbul, Turkey, and online. Organizers and chairs (Özgü Alay, Cheng-Hsin Hsu, and  Ali C. Begen) worked very hard to make sure the conference was successful, both for the on-site participants (around 50) and the online participants (with a peak of 330 concurrent viewers).  For a small description of the event, take a look at the text written by Ali Begen, one of the general chairs.
To encourage student authors to participate on-site, SIGMM has sponsored a group of students with Student Travel Grant Awards. Students who wanted to apply for this travel grant needed to submit an online form before the submission deadline. Then, the selection committee chose 7 travel grant winners. The selected students received either 1,000 or 2,000 USD to cover their airline tickets as well accommodation costs for this event. We asked the travel grant winners to share their unique experiences attending MMSys’21. The following are their comments.

Minh Nguyen

It is my honour to receive the SIGMM Student travel award that gives me a golden opportunity to attend the MMSys’2021 conference on-site. This conference is the first one I have attended during the Covid pandemic. I attended the whole conference, and I really appreciate the organizing committee who tried their best to organize this conference in a hybrid mode. It was a very interesting and well-organized conference where many innovative papers were introduced. The venue of the conference is a great place with professional staff and comfortable accommodation and meeting rooms. The local Turkish food attracted me. They were delicious. At this conference, I was happy to meet, connect, and discuss with experts working in multimedia systems, which is close to my PhD thesis. I was interested in informative and passionate keynotes about cutting-edge technologies and their open discussion. Especially, many novel papers motivated me and gave me some ideas for my future work in my PhD thesis. Also, their enjoyable social events brought me a chance to visit Istanbul and experience new things. I look forward to attending future editions of the conference.

Lucas Torrealba A.

I found the conference very interesting. It was my first experience of an in-person conference and it was amazing. The research articles presented seem very relevant to me and the organization did a wonderful job as well. In addition, it seems to be quite a good idea for the future to always leave hybrid ways to participate in the conferences.

Paniz Parastar

The MMsys2021 was my first in-person conference, and since it was highly organized, it raised my expectation of future conferences. Overall, many interesting topics were covered, and I only mentioned a couple of instances here. 
AI/ML are the hot topics as of today. I believe it’s enjoyable to see them applied in the various aspects of multimedia streaming and other areas as well as in computer vision. Notably, I liked the papers in NOSSDAV sessions on the last day of the conference adapting learning methods to improve the QoE of users. Since I’m working on distinguishing IoT devices and their traffics on the network these days, video clustering papers and mainly the paper that classifies the 360 videos from regular ones based on the traffic features (.i.e., flow and packet level features) were educational to me. Also, comparing subjective and objective quality assessment metrics alongside the various network conditions as they do in the paper may not be a new topic, but it is always interesting to explore. 
Plus, one of the most exciting talks for me was ‘Games as a Game Changer’, which was part of the Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Workshop. It changed my perception of games as an entertaining tool that also can help us better understand situations that don’t usually happen in our daily lives.

Ekrem Cetinkaya

MMSys’21 was my first in-person conference experience, and I can gladly say that it was above my expectations. We were welcomed by a fantastic organization, given how difficult the situation was. Everything went so smoothly, from the keynotes to paper presentations to demo sessions, and of course, social events.
Personally, two things were the most impressive for me. First, the keynote by Caitlin Kalinowski (Facebook) was given in person, and she had to fly from the U.S. to Istanbul just for this keynote. Second, the hybrid organization was thought through. There was a team of five whose duty was to make sure the conference was insightful for those who could not make it to Istanbul as well.
Moreover, the social events and the venues were really lovely. I learned that the MMSys community has a long history, and you could feel that, especially in those social events where it was an amicable environment, meaning that it was also easy for me to do some networking. Overall, I can say the MMSys conference was amazing in all aspects without any doubt. I want to thank the SIGMM committee once again for their travel grant, which made this experience possible.

Ivan Bartolec

The ACM MMSys’21 conference held in Istanbul, Turkey, was an excellent opportunity to meet, interact, and discuss ideas with researchers who are working to develop new and engaging multimedia experiences. This was my first MMSys conference, and it was an excellent environment for both learning and networking, with a thoughtfully selected collection of presentations, engaging keynotes (especially the one from a representative of Facebook), and fun social events. I found the sessions based on video or video streaming to be the most interesting and informative for my field of study. The demo sessions concept was also pretty unique, and by being on-site and seeing the demos and asking questions, I learnt a few things about practical implementations that I find incredibly useful. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to present my PhD research as part of the Doctoral symposium and to receive feedback from conference attendees as well as offline comments and ideas via email, which I gladly responded to. It was an absolute pleasure to attend MMSys’21 on-site, courtesy of the Student Travel Grant, and I look forward to visiting future editions of the conference and continuing to interact with the MMSys community.

Jesus Aguilar Armijo

It has been a pleasure to attend MMSys’2021 in person. This would not have been possible without the SIGMM Student travel award.
At the conference, I had the opportunity to attend four keynotes, where I would like to highlight the keynote from Caitlin Kalinowski (Facebook). She presented in person and showed the Virtual Reality devices of her company and future projects with emerging technologies.
I found truly engaging the different sessions of MMSys as they were related to my work in network-assisted video streaming. For example, the NOSSDAV session named “Session #1: Yet Another Streaming Session” contained the paper “Common Media Client Data (CMCD): Initial Findings” which I found especially interesting as I use some features of this standard in my work. Moreover, the paper entitled: “Beyond throughput, the next generation: a 5G dataset with channel and context metrics” (from MMSys’20 but presented in MMSys’21) in the open dataset session was particularly interesting for me as I use their previous dataset with 4G as a radio traces for my last paper.
During the conference, I had the opportunity to discuss and exchange ideas with different researchers, which I found valuable and insightful. I would also like to highlight the good organization of the conference and the social events.
Finally, I presented my work in the Doctoral Symposium session, and I received some interesting questions from the audience. It was a great opportunity, and I am grateful to SIGMM, which allowed me to participate in this extraordinary experience.

Report from ACM Multimedia Systems 2021 by Neha Sharma


Neha Sharma (@NehaSharma) is a PhD student working with Dr Mohamed Hefeeda in Network and Multimedia Systems Lab at Simon Fraser University. Her research interests are in computer vision and machine learning with a focus on next-generation multimedia systems and applications. Her current work focuses on designing an inexpensive hyperspectral camera using a hybrid approach by leveraging both hardware and software solutions. She has been awarded as Best Social Media Reporter of the conference to promote the sharing among researchers on social networks. To celebrate this award, here is a more complete report on the conference.

Being a junior researcher in multimedia systems, I must say I feel proud to be part of this amazing community. I became part of ACM Multimedia Systems Conference (MMSys) last year in 2020, where I published my first research work. I was excited to attend MMSys ’20 in Istanbul, which unfortunately shifted online due to COVID-19. I presented my first work online and got to learn about other researchers in the community. This year I was able to publish another work with my team and got selected to present my ideas and research plans in Doctoral Symposium (thanks to reviewers). MMSys’21 gave me hope to have a full conference experience, as we all were hoping to start our lives back to normal. But, as the conference date was approaching, things were still not clear and travel restrictions were still in place. But on the good note, MMSys ’21 became hybrid to provide an opportunity to the people who can travel. It was at the very end I decided to travel and attend MMSys’21 in person. And I am glad I made that decision. My experience was overwhelmingly rich in terms of learning interesting research findings and making inspiring connections in the community. As the recipient of the “Best Social Media Reporter” award, enjoy the highlights of MMSys’ 21 through my lens. 

In the light of the ongoing global pandemic, ACM MMSys ’21 was held in hybrid mode – onsite in Istanbul, Turkey and online jointly on September 28 – October 1, 2021. Ali C. Begen (Ozyegin University and Networked Media, Turkey) opened the conference onsite with a warm welcome. MMSys’21 became the first-ever hybrid conference where participants presented onsite as well as remotely in real-time. There were participants joining from 38 different countries. The organizing team did an amazing job in pulling off this complex event. This year the research track implemented a two-round submission system, and accepted papers included public reviews in the proceedings. This, however, was not the only first, MMSys ’21 had its first Doctoral Symposium targeting the PhD students and aiming to find their mentors. In addition, there were postponed celebrations for the 30th anniversary of NOSSDAV and the 25th anniversary of Packet Video.

The conference program was very well scheduled. Each day of the conference started with a keynote. There were four insightful and inspiring keynotes from researchers working in cutting edge multimedia technologies. The first day started with a talk titled “AI-Driven Solutions throughout Games’ Lifecycles Leveraging Big Data” by Qiaolin Chen from Tencent IEG Global. Chen discussed how AI and big data are evolving the gaming industry, from intelligent market decisions to data-driven game development. On the second day, Caitlin Kalinowski presented an interesting keynote “Making Impossible Products: How to Get 0-to-1 Products Right”. Caitlin heads the VR Hardware team at Facebook Reality Labs. She shared insights about Oculus and zero-to-one products. The next day, Chris Bregler (Google) talked about “Synthetic Media: New Opportunities and New Challenges”. He discussed recent trends in generative media creation techniques that have opened new possibilities for societally beneficial uses but have also raised concerns about misuse. Last day, Sriram Sethuraman and Deepthi Nandakumar (Amazon) provided insights about “Role of ML in the Prediction of Perceptual Video Quality”. Keynotes are available on youtube to watch on-demand.

This year the conference attracted paper submissions from a range of multimedia topics including immersive media, live video, content preparation, cloud-based and mobile media processing and computer vision systems. Apart from the main research track, MMSys ’21 hosted three workshops:

  • NOSSDAV – Network and Operating System Support for Digital Audio and Video
  • MMVE – Immersive Mixed and Virtual Environment Systems
  • GameSys – Game Systems

These workshops provided an opportunity to meet those who are working in focused areas of multimedia research. This year MMSys conducted the inaugural ACM workshop on Game Systems (GameSys ’21). This workshop attracted research on all aspects of computer/digital games, emphasizing networks, systems, interaction, and applications. Highlights include the work presented by Mark Claypool et. Al (Worcester Polytechnic Institute) which conducts a user study measuring attribute scaling for cloud-based games. 

In addition to area focussed workshops, MMSys’21 also conducted two grand challenges:

Another main highlight of the conference is the EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) workshop. The workshop was tailored towards PhD students, assistant professors and starting researchers in various research organizations. The event openly discussed core topics about parenthood, work-family policies, career paths and EDI aspects at large. Laura Toni, Mea Wang and Ozgu Alay opened the workshop on the third day of the conference. Miriam Redi shared goals to achieve an equitable and inclusive multimedia community. Susanne Boll talked about the target strategy “25 in 25” to increase the participation of women in SIGMM to at least 25% by 2025. Other guest speakers also highlighted some strategies to achieve target diversity and inclusion in MMSys.

Last but not the least, amazing social events. Each day of the conference ended with a well-planned social event providing a great opportunity to the in-person attendees to meet, discuss, and develop professional and social links throughout the community in a more relaxed setting. We had visited some historical venues like Galata Tower and Adile Sultan Palace and enjoyed a Bosphorus boat tour with a live music band. This year MMSys planned the first inter-continental socials. We travelled from the European side to the Asian side of Istanbul (by bus and by boat). As a token of appreciation, in-person participants received Turkish delights and coffee, a set of traditional towels (peştemal), Istanbul-themed puzzles and a hand-made Kütahya Porcelain vase/coffee set as souvenirs. For me, the best part was sitting together and dining with peers, discussing prospects of your own research or multimedia systems research, in general.

Closing the conference, Ali C. Begen opened with the announcement of the awards. The Best Paper Award was presented to Xiao Zhu et. Al for the paper “Livelyzer: Analyzing the First-Mile Ingest Performance of Live Video Streaming”. See the full list of awards here. The conference closed with the announcement of ACM Multimedia Systems 2022, which will be happening in Athlone, Ireland. Looking forward to seeing everyone again next year.

Reports from ACM Multimedia 2021

Introduction

Due to the COVID-19, the annual ACM Multimedia Conference (https://2021.acmmm.org) was held in a hybrid mode – onsite in Chengdu, China, and online jointly this year. The organizers have made meticulous preparations for this conference and totally more than 1000 researchers from all over the world participated. 

Besides, there are also AI companies, e.g., Huawei and ByteDance on site trying to attract researchers. It is worth mentioning that in order to prevent the COVID-19, staff and volunteers make a lot of efforts, such as testing the body temperature and providing free masks for attendees.

To encourage student authors to fully engage with the event, SIGMM has sponsored 39 students with Student Travel Grant Awards this year. Students who wanted to apply for this travel grant needed to submit an online form (https://acmsigmm.wufoo.com/forms/sigmm-student-travel-application-form/) before the submission deadline and then the selection committee has chosen the travel grant winners according to selection criteria. The selected students received up to 1000 USD to cover their airline tickets as well accommodation costs for this event. We interviewed some travel grant winners to share their wonderful experience of attending the conference. The following are comments from them.

Students interviewed at ACM Multimedia 2021

Shaoxiang Chen (Fudan University)

It was such a great pleasure to receive the student travel grant and attend the ACM MM 2021 conference in Chengdu. The organizers have devoted a significant amount of effort to ensure the attendees have a nice experience, and in fact, we did. The prepared check-in gifts including masks, an umbrella, and small notebooks were considerate. The onsite covid-19 test was convenient for us to travel back. The keynote talks were closely related to the popular topics in the multimedia community, and I have learned a lot about deep learning and multimodal pre-training. As for the doctoral symposium, I have met excellent PhD students from all over the world and received helpful suggestions from the mentors during my own presentation. Finally, the wonderful performances at the dinner banquet made the entire conference experience even more perfect.

Yuqian Fu (Fudan University)

It is the second time that I attend ACM Multimedia onsite. The first time was in Nice, France in October 2019. That is also a very nice trip. Another thing that I want to share is that I have one long paper accepted by ACM Multimedia in 2020. The conference was supposed to be held in Seattle, USA. However, due to the COVID-19, we had to attend the conference online, which is a big pity. Therefore, it is really a happy thing to participate in this year’s conference in Chengdu. During the conference, I have the opportunity to talk with other researchers face-to-face, and I also presented my work actively to them. I learned a lot in the past few days and had a good experience. Finally, I would like to thank SIGMM for the travel grant, thank the organizers for all the efforts they made to ensure the progress of the conference, and the volunteers for their kind help.

Zheng Wang (Fudan University)

It has been a wonderful experience for me at the ACM Multimedia 2021 in Chengdu this October. Owing to the COVID-19 outbreaks in the past two years, we were so lucky to be together again. Many thanks to the local organizers for their tremendous efforts to hold the conference onsite. At the poster sessions, I was able to present my paper for video moment retrieval to attendances and discuss my idea with them. I could also stop by others’ work, and understanding their work gives me a direct observation about what is going on in the multimedia community. I enjoy the poster session since it helped me know the research trades better. One issue is that the hall for the poster session is relatively crowded, and some walls have two posters arranged one above the other, making the communication a bit inconvenient. In the keynote sessions, I was able to see diverse research areas gathered under the same topic, which let me see a problem from different aspects. As I am in my last PhD year, I could talk with several researchers from university institutions and companies, and I got valuable advice on what should I get prepared for pursuing a career in research or business. Thanks to the local organizers for arranging trips to see cute pandas, which makes visiting Chengdu a delight and unforgettable memory.

Yang Jiao (Fudan University)

It was a great honour to attend the ACM Multimedia in Chengdu this year. This year’s ACM Multimedia is a special conference, for it is the first top conference held onsite since COVID-19. It was the first time that I attended this conference and I enjoyed the academic atmosphere there. I have met a lot of friends with similar research interests as well as famous teachers to share research experiences. What excites me most is the best paper session, where a great number of outstanding works investigate interesting frontier tasks in multimedia society, such as generating music according to visual motion, estimating postures based on one’s speech tune, etc. Moreover, the dinner banquet surprises me a lot. Besides the regular host introduction and dining time, organizers also elaborately prepare wonderful shows as well as a lucky draw. I, fortunately, won the third prize. In summary, thanks for all the efforts of the organizers and excellent talks given by outstanding researchers in this year’s Multimedia. It was a really impressive experience for me!

Yechao Zhang (Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST) )

It was such an honour for me to receive the student travel grant. Frankly, I am merely a grad student in my second year in HUST, and it was the first time for me to attend any academic conference ever. The acceptance from ACM Multimedia 2021 is a major inspiration for me, which had inspired me to apply for a PhD program just so I could keep contributing to the academic research in the area of Multimedia in the future. During the conference, I had very much enjoyed my time visiting Chengdu. Apart from the amazing food adventure, I had the most beneficial conversations with researchers from all over the world. All these wonderful experiences would not be possible if there wasn’t for the travel grant from SIGMM. Many thanks for the recognition and support from SIGMM. I sincerely hope ACM Multimedia will gain more international influence.

Jingru Gan (University of Chinese Academy of Sciences)

The ACM Multimedia held this year is an extraordinary conference in terms of the organization and attending experience. I am most impressed by the refined arrangement of hybrid oral sessions which accommodates onsite and online presenters from everywhere on earth. The great importance of this meeting is that it intensifies the bond of researchers from pages of papers to face-to-face meetings. To get a chance of knowing how others go through months of trial and error before achieving a satisfactory result is inspiring, which encourages me to completely dedicate myself to my future work.

Yanqiao Zhu (University of Chinese Academy of Sciences)

Although this was not my first time attending international conferences, my experience at ACM Multimedia 2021 was still very exciting and unforgettable, especially after a long-time travel block due to COVID-19. This year, the diverse program not only makes me feel more connected with the multimedia research community but really broadens my vision. During the conference, I presented my paper on multimedia recommendation, met with many prestigious scholars from both academia and industry, and exchanged many interesting ideas. I believe most of the discussions will spur sparks for future research directions. I also participated in social networking programs, during which I made a lot of friends in related research areas. Overall, it was a great honour for me to receive the SIGMM travel grant that supports me attending ACM Multimedia 2021 physically. I would like to sincerely thank all organizers for their effort in making this year’s ACM Multimedia a great success.

Yudong Wang (University of Electronic Science and Technology of China)

As an undergraduate who received the student travel grant, this is my first time attending an international conference. According to the 2019-nCoV, the attendees onsite are almost Chinese and the room for the poster is a little crowded, but fortunately, people are orderly. At the conference, I stand on my poster and share my work with some researchers in the same field. Apart from that, I talk with some people who work on recommendation algorithms. They help me get to know the other AI application and brand new methods to realize intelligence. I listen to some oral work from a different area of the world and learned a lot about the other field of multimedia. The most impressive thing is the banquet. Although from different schools, the atmosphere among strangers on the table is harmonious. We talk about our daily life in our school and enjoy the performances on the stage. By the way, the gifts prepared for the attendees are surprises. If there are any regrets, it must be that I was not a volunteer to help others and failed to draw a lottery. In summary, thanks to the committee, I had a great experience on ACM Multimedia 2021.

Peidong Liu (Tsinghua University)

I am pleased to attend ACM MM 2021 conference onsite in Chengdu, China. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the conference adopts a hybrid form, i.e. both onsite and online, to make most of the people participating in the academic exchange. It is noted that this is my first time to attend the onsite international conference in the last few years and I find it more convenient to exchange ideas onsite than online. There are several points worth talking about. First off, this conference utilizes an app called Whova in the procedure of the conference and we can complete personal research interests and affiliated institutions to communicate more conveniently with other researchers. Besides that, volunteers are patient to help us with the check-in process and give us a nice experience at the conference. Finally, thanks to the support from the conference community, I gain the opportunity to communicate with the researchers onsite all around the globe.

Haoyu Zhang (Shandong University)

This was my first time attending an international conference, and I was very happy to participate offline in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. The feeling of participating in the offline conference was something that cannot be experienced online. The volunteers at the conference were very enthusiastic and answered some questions about attending the conference for me. The ACM Multimedia was very caring, prepared many exquisite gifts for each participant, and provided dinner with very local characteristics. The delicious food made me linger. In the daily meeting, I watched and browsed the reports and posters that I was interested in, and had detailed exchanges with the authors, which not only broadened my horizons but also inspired my thinking. In short, I was very honoured to be able to attend this ACM Multimedia conference, and it was a very impressive experience. Finally, I wish the ACM Multimedia better and better.

Summary

Overall, almost everyone has a high evaluation of the experience of participating in this conference. Besides, we can tell that the travel grant does help a lot to the students. To summarize, this conference was held successfully and left a very good impression on the participants.

Report from ACM IMX 2021 by Lingyuan Li

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has forced international researchers and practitioners to share their research at virtual conferences, ACM Interactive Media Experiences (IMX) 2021 clearly invested significant time and effort to provide all attendees with an accessible, interactive, and vibrant online academic feast. Serving on the Organizing Committee of IMX 2021 as the Student Volunteer Chair as well as a Doctoral Consortium student, I was happy and honoured to take part in the conference, to help support it, and to see how attendees enjoyed and benefited from it. 

I was also delighted to receive the ACM SIGMM Best Social Media Reporter Award which offered me the opportunity to write this report as a summary of my experiences with IMX 2021 (and of course a free ACM SIGMM conference registration!!).

OhYay Platform

IMX 2020 was the first time for the conference to go entirely virtual. In its second year as an entirely virtual conference, IMX 2021 collaborated with OhYay to create a very realistic and immersive experience for the conference attendees. On OhYay, attendees felt like they were in a real conference venue in New York City. There was a reception, lobbies, main hall, showcase rooms, rooftop, pool, and so forth. In addition to the high-fidelity environment, IMX 2021 and the OhYay development team added many interaction features into the platform to help attendees have a more human-centred and engaging experience: for example, attendees were able to “whisper” to each other without others being able to hear; they could send reactions, like applause emoji with sound effects; they could join some social events together, such as lip-sync, jigsaw.

Informative Conference

IMX 2021 contained a high number of inspiring talks, insightful discussions, and quality communication. On Day 1, IMX hosted a series of workshops: XR in Games, Life Improvement in Quality by Ubiquitous Experiences (LIQUE), DataTV and SensoryX. I had a three-hour doctoral consortium (DC) in the morning on Day 1 as well. 8 PhD students presented ongoing dissertation research and had 2 one-on-one sessions with distinguished researchers as mentors! I was so excited to meet people in a ‘real’ virtual space and the OhYay platform also enabled DC attendees to take group pictures in the photo booth. I could not help but Tweet my first-day experience with lots of photos.

My Tweet of DC in IMX 

On Day 2 and Day 3, with artist Sougwen Chung’s amazing keynote “Where does ‘AI’ end and ‘we’ begin?” kicking off the main conference, a set of paper sessions and panel discussions regarding mixed-reality (AR/VR), AI, gaming and inclusive design brought inspiration, new ideas and state-of-the-art research topics to attendees. Admittedly, AR/VR as well as AI technology as the focus of the current development of science and technology, lead the progress of civilization of the times. IMX helped us to see this trend of balance and integration of AI, AR, VR and MR in the future: the downstream of the hyper-reality terminal products dips into various fields, including games, consumer applications, enterprise applications, health care, education and others. With the increase of downstream application scenarios, the market space is expected to further expand. This opens up a broader world for all researchers, designers and practitioners including IMXers to explore how we can put warmth into products delivered by the developing technologies which come with many unknowns and create a need for establishing best practices, standards, and design patterns for as many people as reasonably possible.

My Tweet of the IMX main conference: Enjoyed a great deal of quality discussion and amazing interactive social events.

Every time I tweeted, I picked up representative screenshots, made them into a pretty collage, and gave infectious enthusiasm to the text. That may be my secret of winning the Social Media Award to help disseminate IMX information.

Novelties

Social Events

In addition to the world-leading interactive media research sessions, panels, speakers and showcases presented, IMX 2021 also aimed for some interactive fun for networking and chilling for attendees. There was a virtual elevator that could be seen as an events hub for attendees to select which event they wanted to join. Various social events were provided to enrich breaks in between research sessions: Mukbang, Yoga, Lip Sync, Jigsaw, etc. For example, attendees sometimes needed to collaborate with Jigsaw, which spontaneously enhanced mutual understanding through the interactive collaborative engagement even if IMX was a virtual conference. 

In this sense, IMX 2021 succeeded in its aim to allow attendees to have an “in-person” and immersive experience as much as possible because there were many opportunities for attendees to communicate more deeply, network, and socialize.

Doctoral Consortium

IMX 2021 DC provided an opportunity for 8 PhD students to present, explore and develop our research interests, under the mentorship of a panel of 14 distinguished researchers, including 2 one-on-one sessions. The virtual conference enabled mentors from all over the world to make exchanges views with students without geographical limitations. We were also able to have in-depth communication to obtain valuable instruction on dissertation research in such an immersive environment. Moreover, each student not only gave a presentation at the DC before the main conference but also presented a poster at the conference, enabling wider visibility of our work. 

Doctoral Consortium Reception Room

Accessibility

It is noteworthy that IMX 2021 made accessibility design an integral part of the conference. Except for closed-caption for ready-made videos, IMX 2021 had a captioner to provide an accurate real-time caption for a live discussion. In addition, some attendees were excited to find out that an ASL option was also offered! 

Optional ASL and live caption

IMX also took efforts to make the platform more friendly to screen-reader users. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, IMX 2021 was an excellent example of an engaging, interactive, fun, informative and nice virtual conference. The organizing team clearly not only made significant efforts to represent the diversity in which interactive media is used in our lives but also already presented an amazing show of how interactive the media could be to even benefit our online communication. I look forward to IMX 2022!

Encouraging more Diverse Scientific Collaborations with the ConfFlow application

Introduction

ConfFlow is an application to encourage people with similar or complementary research interests to find each other at conferences. How scientific collaborations are initiated, how people meet and how an intention is developed to work together is an open question. The aim of this follow-up initiative to ConfLab: Meet the Chairs! held at ACM MM 2019 (conflab.ewi.tudelft.nl) is to help people in the multimedia community to connect with potential collaborators.

As a community, Multimedia is so diverse that it is easy for community members to miss out on very useful expertise and potentially fruitful collaborations. There is a lot of latent knowledge and potential synergies that could exist if we were to offer conference attendees an alternative perspective on their similarities to other attendees. As researchers, we typically find connections through talking to people at the conference either through scientific presentations, personal introductions, or by chance.

The aim of ConfFlow is to allow attendees to browse their similarity to other attendees by harvesting publicly available information about them related to their research interests. Depending on the richness of experience that users are looking for, ConfFlow aims to offer an alternative way for researchers to make new research connections with a similar space. At the basic level, we define the similarity of attendees with an approach similar to paper-reviewer assignment tools, such as the Toronto Paper Matching System (TPMS). Usually, TPMS is used to match reviewers to papers. In an analogous way, ConfFlow creates a visualised similarity space using the publications of the conference attendees. This will allow attendees to interactively explore and find new connections with researchers with complementary research interests (or similar ones).  More details about ConfFlow can be found in the associated demo paper [1]. An example snapshot of the application is shown in Figure 1 below.

ConfFlow was funded by the SIGMM special initiatives fund which supports initiatives related to boosting excellence and strength of SIGMM, addressing opportunities for growth in the community and SIGMM related activities, as well as nurturing new talent. The aim of ConfFlow is to target building on excellence, strengths, and community. 

Figure 1: Visualisation of ConfFlow

This report records our experience and practical issues related to running ConfFlow at ACM Multimedia last year.

Method

Privacy and Ethical Practices

The aim of ConfFlow was to adhere to the highest levels of ethical practice. One of the debates online relates to what is considered private data. One could consider that deriving novel information from publicly available data can still be considered an invasion of privacy [2]. So ConfFlow was proposed and designed to be opt-in only. This means that unlike the visualisation seen in Figure 1, all the identities for anyone visiting the ConfFlow application appeared as just an icon unless the person had activated their account and gave permission for others to see it. While this might seem quite strict, there can be unforeseen privacy related questions when social information is extracted from publicly available information as those who do not choose to opt-in can still become exposed. 

Due to this opt-in strict procedure, we needed to find an active way to engage conference attendees by advertising the application through the conference and also getting access to the conference attendee list so we could target and encourage those people to activate their accounts. This required close coordination with the General Chairs of ACM Multimedia 2020.

Application Realization

ConfFlow was rolled out at ACM Multimedia 2020 for conference attendees. Shortly after the building of this application was approved, the Corona Virus pandemic hit and ACM Multimedia became a virtual conference. Since the embedding space of ConfFlow needs to be built apriori, we needed to have access to the conference attendee list. The workload for the conference organisers increased significantly as a result of the pandemic so we did not manage to get the logistical support to optimise the impact of the application. Since we could not get this, we defaulted to visualising the much larger accepted author list. Each identity in ConfFlow needs to be manually verified which also takes considerable effort.

However, there remained the issue that the application was opt-in. For those who tested the application, they were disappointed because many people were not visible. Many of the authors in any case did not attend the conference, which exacerbated the sparsity issue. Advertising ConfFlow and encouraging participants to activate their account was extremely hard due to the virtual format of the conference and because it was hard to reach the actual conference attendees. 

The demo paper for the application was presented at ACM Multimedia 2020 and received positively.

Discussion and Recommendations

The instantiation of the app was well-received by community members and the SIGMM board. There were some teething problems that we aim to resolve in a follow up to the 2021 edition where we will revise the opt-in policy to something that can allow for a better user experience whilst being careful with individual privacy. We also want to make the possibility for users to connect with people they see in the embedding space directly in the app so that the use of ConfFlow as a social connector tool becomes more explicit. We also plan to focus on different ways to advertise and communicate the application for a wider userbase. Finally, due to the considerable effort required to verify the identities of all individuals in the visualisations, we would like to build a more efficient procedure to make visualisations in future years less manually intensive. To this end, the SIGMM board has funded a second edition of ConfFlow in order for these improvements to be made so we can realise the full potential of the idea while also minimising too much additional logistical support from conference general chairs. We look forward to seeing its impact on future research collaborations.

Acknowledgements

ConfFlow was supported in part by the SIGMM New Initiatives Fund and the Dutch NWO funded MINGLE project number 639.022.606. We thank users who gave feedback on the application during prototyping and implementation and the General Chairs of ACM Multimedia 2020 for their support.

References

[1] Ekin Gedik and Hayley Hung. 2020. ConfFlow: A Tool to Encourage New Diverse Collaborations. In Proceedings of the 28th ACM International Conference on Multimedia (MM ’20). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 4562–4564. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1145/3394171.3414459.
[2] Townsend, L., & Wallace, C, 2016. Social Media Research: A Guide to Ethics.