XX.2 March + April 2013
Page: 82
Digital Citation

User experiences from the land of a thousand lakes

Tuomo Kujala, Jonna Häkkilä

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In 2013, SIGCHI has 34 active local chapters in 21 countries on five continents. The total number of local chapter members is more than 3,000. The chapters are doing valuable work in gathering together locally students, academics, and practitioners in the field of HCI. As the vice president for SIGCHI Local Chapters, I would like to take the opportunity to promote our local chapters worldwide through a series of chapter introductions in Community Square. Sentimental as I am, I will begin the series with the introduction of my own chapter, SIGCHI Finland, written together with Jonna Häkkilä, the current chair. It is fascinating to observe that despite (or because of?) the harsh climate and long, dark winter season, there is a highly active group of people with a common interest in making the world a little better place.

Finland is a small country in Northern Europe, inhabited by 5.4 million people who are often characterized as silent, solemn folk who open up only while in a sauna. So how come the silent, results-driven, allegedly asocial Finns are one of the world's most active publishers per capita in user experience research and have such a vibrant and active SIGCHI community?

In 2000, a group of 40 people met in Tampere, Finland and agreed that something should be done to organize the growing number of HCI professionals in both academia and industry. Roope Raisamo, the first chair of the chapter, commented that even though there were many CHI activities and strong groups in Finland, the country was a blank spot on the ACM SIGCHI map. Another reason for getting organized was that national CHI events in Finland were few, leading to the situation in which the Finnish CHI researchers often met only at conferences abroad instead of in their own country. The practical Finns decided it was time to correct this situation and set up a chapter to support local meetings by launching workshops, seminars, and sauna evenings. This led to the establishment of SIGCHI Finland in February 2001.

Now 12 years later, SIGCHI Finland has approximately 150 members and more than 450 people on its email list. The list shares information not only about the chapter activities but also on job opportunities and non-commercial, HCI-related conferences, workshops, and other events. Spring and autumn seminars are the cornerstones of the annual cycle in the chapter's calendar. The latter is organized on World Usability Day in November, fostering the tradition of announcing the winner of the national master's thesis competition put together annually by the chapter. During the past few years, seminars have often taken the form of SIG meetings. Currently three SIGs—User Experience, User Centered Design, and Sound—come up with about 10 seminars every year, organized in alternating cities. In a small country, the relationship between HCI people in industry and academia has always been close, and seminars and events bring together colleagues from both sides. SIGCHI Finland reaches out to the international HCI community by inviting speakers from all over the world, and by organizing the renowned CHI reception collaboratively with Nordic countries.

SIGCHI Finland continues its active work with enthusiasm and a bit of Finnish flavor, and welcomes international visitors to take a look at our activities. We will organize an audience for you.

—Tuomo Kujala, Vice President for Local Chapters, ACM SIGCHI

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©2013 ACM  1072-5220/13/03  $15.00

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