In 2009, four CACM Viewpoint articles discussed a crisis in Computer Science centered on conferences and reviewing. In one, Cornell systems professors Ken Birman and Fred B. Schneider identified problems so severe they termed it a death spiral. None of the authors identified causal forces in the transformation of Computer Science in North America, and thus could offer only implausible calls to return to the past. In this presentation, intended to promote a discussion, I will provide evidence that the central issue is our sense of community, not our conferences, and that technology was a major factor in producing the changes and could offer a way out. Although my illustrations are mostly from the field of HCI, the table below, and the CACM Viewpoints, suggest that erosion of community is a general phenomenon.
Jonathan Grudin is a Principal Researcher in the Adaptive Systems and Interaction group at Microsoft Research. Prior to joining Microsoft, he was Professor of Information and Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine. He has also worked as a software engineer and in government research. He has been involved in CHI and CSCW conferences since each began. With Ron Baecker, Bill Buxton, and Saul Greenberg, he co-write and co-edited the second edition of Readings in Human-Computer Interaction. He was Editor of ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction from 1997-2003, is ACM Computing Surveys Associate Editor for HCI, and writes and edits an ACM Interactions column on HCI history.