SIGGRAPH 2009 Report 8/7(Day5)

Today marks the unofficial end to one of the most eye-opening holidays I have ever had. 

It is my first trip to the United States, my first time flying alone – and having to cope with the sense of uncertainty that came with missing a connecting flight to new Orleans – and of course, the first time attending SIGGRAPH. It had been a fruitful, if exhausting, week, and I feel sad to have to end it before the others.

I like to think that I have matured in some ways through the many experiences that this trip brought me; that I have learnt something through the conversations with others; that I have seen the bigger picture that is outside what I know of the world of computer graphics, and that I would use the knowledge to hopefully improve myself to become a better adult. 

I believe that it is through observation and communication with other people that one learns the most. How different speakers at the event arouse interest in their audience – or not – is something to observe and learn from. Irregardless of the topic being covered, the speaker's level of self-confidence is even more important than his ability to articulate the English language, as his confidence will too affect the amount of trust that the audience place in his research. There was a Korean speaker for the talk “Contact-Aware non-linear control of dynamic characters” who I compared to a Japanese speaker for a talk the previous day. The Korean speaker's accent was as strong as the Japanese's, and equally difficult to comprehend without the aid of the presentation slides. However, I found myself making an effort to understand him. It was probably because he spoke fluently, unlike the Japanese.

Being in a social event as big as SIGGRAPH, or even a simple dinner with a small group of friends has its worth in observing. For example, sitting at the edge or at the end of a table will tend to result in being left out of some of the conversations. Whether one chooses to look attentive (as if listening to everything that is going around) or whether one chooses to look bored makes a lot of difference to the mood of the people seated nearby. It is impossible to disappear out of sight even if one remains silent, after all.

There is a Chinese proverb, and also a Japanese equivalent, about a frog living in the well thinking that the circle of sky he sees above him is all that there is to the sky. I was that frog, content to compete in the well I was in. Until now. There is a different, bigger world outside the four walls of the classroom, and much more to learn than what is being taught in school. Even in the same field of 3D computer graphics, what I am learning now is only usage of the software. There are still space-time optimisation and other concepts that are foreign to me, which is common sense to others who are also learning the same subject. Comparing with others in the same environment gives only a rough gauge where I stand relative to the others around me, but it is not enough. There are much more people who have more experience, knowledge and even talent, and it is that larger playing field that matters.