Historical CHI Video Project

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Working with ACM SIGCHI, we are digitizing and archiving historical videos from the CHI Conference, the premier international conference for the field of Human-Computer Interaction.

Short url: ter.ps/chivideos

Goals

  • Long term: Digitize all the CHI videos and archive them in the ACM Digital Library – and possibly on a CHI YouTube Channel. We want to preserve the CHI Technical Video Programs, but also CHI special programs and recordings of keynotes.
  • Medium term (90% DONE): Process the Technical Video Programs, which were produced between 1983 to 2002.
  • First step (DONE): Process the CHI’92 video from beginning to end (digitization, collecting permission for each video – which is required by ACM, and submitting the files and metadata to the Digital Library.)
Photo of VHS tape
The VHS tape of the 1999 Video Program and Video Proceedings (i.e. papers’ video figures )
None of those videos was on the Digital Library at the start of the project

Team

  • Catherine Plaisant, Senior Research Scientist at the University of Maryland, and INRIA International Chair.
  • Natalie Dementhon, a graduate student in the Human-Computer Interaction Master program.
  • you, helping us find authors or obtain corporate permissions

Numbers

  • 20 years during which the CHI Conference only used VHS tapes for videos (1983 to 2002)
  • 322 video segments currently in the process of being preserved
  • 236 permissions obtained (as of 2/11/2020)
  • 80 % of permissions returned for the Tech Program videos (as of 2/11/2020)
  • 253+302 emails in one month – containing “video” and “permission” (in the Inbox+Sent folders of Catherine between January 10 and February 10, 2020 – a pretty intense month…)

Status Update

  • February 10: All the CHI Tech Programs videos are in digital form. We are close to 80% of permission forms returned. Still processing videos segments. Prepared documents with photos of the “artifacts”: boxes, labels, covers, booklets.
  • January 7, 2020: Still missing 2 tapes but they have been located. All others digitized with the best possible quality. We will be processing videos in January (i.e. splitting segments, adding titles, etc).
  • October 8, 2019: we now have 1992 to 2002 digitized. Some VHS tapes have age-related sound problems, so we will try again with other copies of the tape. Still gathering permissions. It is hard and slow to get 100’s of permission forms signed. The 1992 videos (our initial test videos) are still on hold at ACM because the digital library is being upgraded.
  • July 11, 2019: 11 tapes (starting from the 92 Special program to the CHI 2002 Technical Video) were picked up by George Blood LP for processing.
  • July 3, 2019: All the materials for the 1992 video have been submitted to ACM, and we hope they will be posted soon. Unfortunately, we have not been able to secure the permission for one of the segments (from Bellcore).
    The tapes of the 1993 to 2002 technical programs are awaiting a pickup by the digitization vendor, and we have started collecting permission forms from corresponding authors. The most challenging cases are the ones where a company holds the copyright, such as Xerox, Apple or IBM. Colleagues within the companies are helping us, but it might take a while before we obtain those permissions. Sometimes multiple companies are involved: for example, Bellcore was acquired by Telecordia which was later acquired by Ericsson, but Ericsson is not convinced that they own the copyrights of the Bellcore videos so it all comes to a stop.
  • June 11, 2019: We prepared several versions of two challenging clips using different vendors and methods, then asked colleagues and friends to compare the different versions. The difference between the versions was subtle, but one of the vendors stood out as being preferred by more people.
  • May 2, 2019: Received the files for our test (CHI’92), digitized by several preservation experts.
  • April 2019: we are searching for contact emails for ALL the authors of the technical videos, from 1983 to 2002. Our list of missing authors is dwindling after we solved many puzzles… We are guessing that for about one-third of the videos Catherine knew an author, for another one third a simple web search found one of the authors’ personal or work page fairly easily, but for the remaining third it was quite challenging. The ACM Digital Library or other scientific paper databases helped find what topic the authors worked on later in life, and where they worked when, but sometime we found no further publications at all. After that, LinkedIn became very useful. Catherine had many connections to CHI folks already helped her find more. In a few cases, we found people through Facebook, or because they posted their own video on YouTube or Vimeo. Finding authors who changed the name when they married was tricky. White Pages and other person-search tools may mention relatives’ names, which helped unlock a couple of those hard cases. Sometimes we sent postcards to a likely personal address to find an author with no identifiable web presence. We are now reaching out to current employees of companies where missing authors worked, to try to track them down – or get the company itself to sign. Many remaining puzzles…
    The saddest moments are when we learn that colleagues have passed away.
  • Sent our test tape (CHI ’92) for digitization to vendors with expertise in video preservation. It is taking a while for them to get to our small project but we hope that they can achieve better quality than your average tape conversion service.
  • March 2019: Completed the catalog of all the tapes and video segments we know about. We will start with 20 tapes or about 400 video segments – so 400 authors to locate! Quite daunting.
  • Obtained from ACM the permission forms we need to use.
  • Natalie Dementhon joins the team.
  • March 2019: Start of the project. Thanks, SIGCHI.

Missing people

ACM needs the authors permission to post the videos.
Some authors are hard to find.

If you know them, tell them to get in touch with Catherine Plaisant.

  • Jan Walker, at Symbolics circa 1985 but also worked at DEC and BBN: sole author of the video “The Document Examiner” in CHI ’85.
  • Mayer Schwartz – at Tektronix circa 1985, sole author of the “Magpie” video in CHI ’85
  • >>FOUND John (Thanks Peter Lucas) John Kolojejchick, Joe Mattis, Mei C. Chuah – CMU students circa 1995, co-authors of “SageTools: an intelligent environment for sketching, browsing, and customizing data-graphics” in CHI ’95 (along with Steven F. Roth who passed away in 2005)
  • >>FOUND Gary (Thanks Abbe Don)<<: Carmen Egido, Gary Herman, Craig Reading at Bellcore circa 1987, authors of “Multimedia technology in collaborative writing” in CHI ’87
  • >> Found Beth: Beth M. Lange, Mark A. Jones, James L. Meyers, at Anderson Consulting circa 1998, authors of “Insight lab: an immersive team environment linking paper, displays, and data” in CHI ’98
  • Erik Rutten, David Ziedman, Doris Pelger, Bill McCarthy, Duncan Prior, with Technology Partners, Amsterdam circa 2001, “Building international web sites for the financial market” in CHI ‘2001
  • Diane Tacito, Easel, for “Graphic Design of an Executive Information System” in 92 Special Program
  • Sinead Bomba, at Henry Dreyfuss Associates circa 92, contact for “Computer Interface Design” in 92 Special Program
  • Lisa Dreger, Microsoft circa 1992, contact for “An Object-Oriented Evolution of Windows: Information at your Fingertips” in 92 Special Program – but we contacted Microsoft directly.
  • for others we are still following leads, and we will post more names here as we run out of leads or ideas

A bit of history…

From the start, CHI had a Technical Video Program (i.e., the video was one of the submission categories of the technical program).

Things vary from year to year but here is the example of 1992:

  • Authors submitted their videos to the Video Chairs, who put together a committee to review and select videos for publication. The conference published a VHS tape with a series of 13 video segments.
  • At the conference, there was a room dedicated to the video program, which ran in a loop during the entire week.
  • In addition, the videos could be watched on TV in every room of the conference hotels. There was a special channel for our videos 🙂
  • A 2-page abstract was published in the Proceedings so the 1992 abstracts exist in the ACM Digital Library (but not the videos themselves).
  • Registrants could pre-order a VHS tape with all the videos.
  • ACM made the VHS tapes available for purchase after the conference, in NTSC format but also PAL and SECAM for international viewers.
  • The Copyright of the videos was retained by the authors.
photo of the box of a VHS tape
Example of VHS tape, here the Issue 76 and 77 of the SIGGRAPH Video Review, which contains the CHI ’92 Technical Video Program.

Some dates

  • From 1983 to 1993: VHS tapes were published as part of the SIGGRAPH Video Review Series, sometimes much after the conference.
  • 1983: Sara Bly is the first “Film and videotape Chair”. The issue #8 of the SIGGRAPH Video Review also includes “Excerpts from CHI ’83” with two videos, about Xerox’s Smalltalk and Apple’s Lisa interface; then issue #12 and #13 include 15 peer-reviewed video segments from CHI ’83. Those SIGGRAPH issues were published in 1984 instead of 1983 which can be confusing.
  • 1984: no video because… no CHI ‘84! (CHI was originally planned to run every other year).
  • 1986: no video seem to have been published, even though some videos were presented at the conference.
  • 1990: a list of video titles and authors appears in the Proceedings for the 1st time (p. 469)
  • 1991: each video now has a 2-page abstract, published in the proceedings, therefore the videos are represented in the ACM Digital Library but the videos are still not included…
  • 1991 is also the start of the World Wide Web.
  • 1995: SIGCHI starts its own series of videos (i.e. CHI’95 is not an issue of SIGGRAPH Video Review)
  • 1996: Catherine is the video chair, and for the 1st time the VHS videotape is distributed to all attendees of the conference as part of the Proceedings. Video Figures are introduced (i.e. videos as supplementary materials to the printed papers).
  • 1997: The ACM Digital Library is created (Date uncertain, even if retrieved from the Library of Congress catalog). Slowly after that ACM will digitize all the papers of the past CHI conferences, but NOT the videos.
  • 1998: UNC starts working on the first ever video digital library: the Open Video Project
  • 2002: the Technical Video Program ends. After that researchers post their videos on the web or submit them as supplementary materials to their paper.     
  • Recent past: Many researchers pressed ACM to digitize the videos but the masters of the videos were lost, ACM only retained copies of a subset of the videos, and – more importantly – ACM did not hold the copyright of the videos so posting videos was not possible.
  • 2017: A new video program reappears at CHI with the start of the CHI Video Showcase.
  • 2019: The videos from 1983 to 2002 are still NOT in the Digital Library. It is time to change that. In fact, it is urgent because many of the authors of the early videos are long retired or just cannot be located. The oldest VHS tapes are also reaching the end of their expected lifespan.

How the tapes were used

The early CHI videos were used extensively for teaching, and by researchers and practitioners to stay up-to-date. Many of the videos played a major role in patent litigations (see one example here).
The tapes required the use of VHS tape players but everyone had one at home then, and many classrooms too.
Catherine remembers giving talks with transparencies and a bag full of videotapes for demonstrations. That was before we all had laptops or the internet…

Related history resources

What happened in 1986 ?

There is no 1986 Technical Video to be found… even though the Proceedings list a Video Chair. What happened? Unfortunately, we cannot find Janet (Jan) Walker who was the video chair. Here are some photos of Jan in Ben Shneiderman’s photo archive.
But later we learned of a video which was presented in the CHI 1986 Video Program so there must have been a program, but it was never published.

Existing sites that have CHI videos

  • The Open-Video Project: the 1st video digital library, a project of Gary Marchionini at the University of North Carolina. Like many old prototypes, the library is unmaintained and could stop working any day. The search is not working well, and there are no author names included. Best is to search for a specific year e.g. 1993, expand to see all the results – not just the top 10 – and you can search in the text of the results.
  • Collection of Nicolas Roussel (INRIA Bordeaux).  An extensive subset of the CHI videos is there.
  • A subset also lives at the Delft University of Technology
  • if you know of other places let us know… (besides specific videos being on YouTube and Vimeo)

Acknowledgments

We want to thank Loren Terveen and Helena Mentis for seeing the importance and timeliness of getting this project underway. At ACM, we thank Ashley Cozzi (Project Manager), Barbara Ryan (Intellectual Property Rights Manager), Craig Rodkin (Publication Manager) and Anna Lacson (Bibliographic Processing Coordinator). Saul Greenberg’s help has been invaluable to get us started with a solid catalog of the CHI conferences, and DVD copies of most tapes so we could review them. Brad Myers provided access to his precious collection of original CHI videotapes, complementing the ones we had in hand at Maryland. A couple of issues were still missing so we obtained Siggraph Video Review issues relevant to CHI (issue 8 from 1983 and 40-41 for the CHI’88 Art Show) from Dana Plepys (UIC) who provided mp4 versions. Finally Gary Marchionini’s Open Video Project saved us when we realized no-one had issue 65 from CHI’90.
Many people provided assistance with corporate or institutional permissions: John Richards, Stu Card, Raj Minhas, David Suski, Alexandra Kahn, Brian Amento, Shiz Kobara, Michael Kuniavsky, Brian Johnson, Andrew Harrington, and many more who were contacted directly by the authors. Ben Shneiderman and other friends and colleagues provided leads to locate hard to find authors who often had retired.
As the project progresses, there will be more people to thank for their help. We will do our best to add their names, but let us know if we forgot someone.