I am in New York attending ACM Multimedia 2004 and affiliated workshops. The conference was for three days and was finished on Thursday, October 14. It was a great experience both professionally as well as personally, On the personal side, I was very touched by number of people who personally expressed their concern about my health and expressed pleasure to see me. I was really overwhelmed by the sentiments expressed by so many people. It was very touching.
This is a premier conference in Multimedia and some of the best academic research is presented here. Only about 15% of the submitted papers are accepted for includion at this conference. It will not be wrong to say that the best research in the world is presented at this conference. This year was no exception. Nevenka Dimitrova of Philips Research and Henning Schulzerine of Columbia University were the co-general chair of the conference. They put together a great team. This year there were many new sections introduced at the conference and the attendance at the conference was significantly higher than expected – 400 in place of about 275. Combine this with the fact that the conference was organized on a university campus when the academic session is in progress. With all these challenges, there were many things that could go wrong, but very few things did. Most things worked out very well. The banquet on a cruise was particularly a good idea. The cruise was very enjoyable and the view of Manhattan at night is really something that one should not miss, if possible.
Next year¡¯s conference is in Singapore. Since Asia is particularly active in multimedia, it will be interesting to see how this conference goes in Singapore. Tat-Seng Chua and Hog Jiang Zhang are both seasoned professionals and they are incharge of the conference in Singapore. I expect that to be an exciting conference.
Multimedia is an interesting field. It has enormous potential. It appears, however, that researchers in the field are really missing on a great opportunity to revolutionize this area. It appears to be an area where hardware is progressing much faster than the supporting concepts, techniques, and software to utilize the progress being made in hardware. Clearly everything in computing is influenced by multimedia, but multimedia is still not a strongly recognized discipline, like operating systems or databases, in computing. A major reason for that is the diversity of the field. It appears, however, that many researchers in the field do not really realize the basic fundamentals behind using multimedia and how it is the synergy among media that makes this field interesting. Most research is still focused on single medium. It is definitely important to understand each single medium in depth, but the real progress is in utilizing the synergy among them. And this is the weakest area in not only ACM Multimedia conference, but all Multimedia conferences.
It does appear that a major problem is our reward system. Most researchers are really interested in publishing a paper, not in solving a problem. Research papers were suppose to be a report on successful solution approaches, but like many symbols in human society, became the goal rather than the means to report about the goal. Our reward system at universities and industrial research labs really encourages researchers to find the minimal publishable unit of research and work against a deadline for submitting a paper. And once a paper is published, the goal is accomplished. This is definitely not true for all researchers, but is true for a very large percentage of them. What I find disturbing is that many senior people who do not have to worry about tenure and promotions also continue in this approach. I have thought about it a lot, but it is a social problem that is not very easy to solve in only one discipline. I wrote a paper long time ago – I believe in 1991 – about similar situation in Computer Vision and I find the same thing in most disciplines.
Overall I enjoyed this conference in academic, professional, and personal respects. Personally, it was very satisfying that for four full days I could work from 8 AM to evening 9 PM or even later doing different things related to the conference. Since this was the first conference after my surgery and I had to be quite busy during all these days, it was very satisfying that I have recovered enough to do this. Of course there were times when I was really tired. But overall, I could manage.
I have to travel quite a lot over the next few weeks. It will be a good test of my recovery.