It was in July 2012 that Steve Mann and I corresponded on the possibility of hosting a conference on wearable computing in Toronto, Canada. Steve had just returned home from a family holiday to France and publicly blogged about an unfortunate incident that had happened to him while away. On 17th July 2012 he posted: “Physical assault by McDonald’s for wearing Digital Eye Glass”. I could not be helped but to be reminded of that exchange during Star Wars between Luke Skywalker and the bartender:
We both knew the timing was right for such an event that was not just a technical engineering or applied orientation on the theme of smart worlds, but an event that would grapple with the dichotomies of transparency and human rights, privacy and security, and of course technology and society more broadly. If I could credit Mann for one thing, beyond his savvy inclination toward innovation, it is that he has multiple dimensions to his thought, seeing the same problem through different lenses- not just eyetaps but the big picture view.
The basic premise for ISTAS13 was- if the numbers of people wearing cameras grew substantially by 2015 what would be the ensuing social implications? Rather than wait to answer that question in 2015, we decided to begin proactively with our intent, so as outcomes from the conference would be considered as viable feedback into the design process of these emerging devices that would be worn on the body much like a watch or arm band.
The opportunity to deliver the proposed conference under IEEE SSIT’s annual conference, the IEEE Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS), was an opportunity we could not pass up, and after gaining approval from the board of governors of SSIT in October 2012, we went full steam ahead.
I don’t know too many people who would bravely put an international conference of standing together within a 9 month timeframe but I was astounded by the passion of everyone I came into contact with- from Ryan Janzen our youthful and switched on Organising Chair, to Steve Mann our powerhouse engineer who seemed to be available all day and all night at times as General Chair, our absolutely dedicated dynamic duo Alexander Hayes and Susannah Sabine as publicity chairs and web developers/masters, to Russell Verbeeten who managed to seal some very important and outstanding patronage and exhibits for us to enjoy at the conference. I also cannot forget the amazing volunteerism of members of the EyeTap Laboratory, most of them students of Steve Mann. These young men and women are our future, and it has been refreshing to see firsthand their approaches to philosophy, deep thinking about society, and how they will contribute both great innovations and imagination to the tech sector. I also thank Doug Nix who was there at the vital beginning and organized all our sponsors and submitted IEEE paperwork, and former chair Rabiz Foda enthusiastic within IEEE Toronto Chapter, and Purav Patel our former treasurer who left us in excellent condition before some personal matters presided in priority. Thanks also to the patient staff at IEEE Conferences.
Of my program committee, I say especially a thank you. You never tired of my messaging to you, for additional reviews when they were needed, and in re-reviewing on occasion to ensure that the appropriate changes had been made. Despite that we have 80 or so papers on the program, 40 full papers were finally accepted, and another 40 abstract only papers through invitation, plenary or otherwise. We received over 110 submissions for the conference which was substantial given the timelines. To our ad-hoc reviewers, I thank you too- even when you could not offer substantial commentary you did provide us with feedback which in turn helped our authors submit stronger pieces of work.
Thank you to the keynotes of Steve Mann, Marvin Minsky, Ray Kurzweil, Gordon Bell, and David Brin. On occasion I have had to pinch myself to remind myself that such a line up was possible. To our top class invited and plenary speakers- (I): Thad Starner, Ann Cavoukian, Colonel Lisa Shay, Isabel Pedersen, Cathal Gurrin, Monique Morrow, Teemu Leinonen, Natasha Dow Schull, Jeremy Pitt, Jean-Gabriel Ganascia, Carolyn McGregor, Emil M. Petriu, Ori Inbar, Nikola Serbedzija, Clint Zeagler, Rob Manson, Helen Papagiannis, (P): Matthew Schroyer, Jeff Robbins, Martin Kallstrom, Susan Herman, Daniel Kish, Ellen M. McGee, Corey Manders, Leigh Blackall, and Pia Waugh… I am privileged to call you friends. You all share one amazing quality- of course your expertise goes without saying, but you all wanted to be a part of this debate from the instant I asked you to be a part of the event. I will also say openly to the academic community, that you paid your own way to get to ISTAS13, and that goodwill won’t be forgotten especially during these economic times.
Our program represents diversity- on day 1 at Hart House we have a day dedicated to engineering; day 2 and 3 will be at the Bahen Centre respectively addressing topics to do with application development/design methods and the socio-legislative implications of wearables.
As an indication of the internationalization of this conference delegates and paper submissions have come from the following nation states: Australia, Canada, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United States of America, Uruguay. We also have representation from a full range of sectors including commercial, government, non-government organisations, and users. We appreciate the participation of the Privacy and Information Commissioner of Ontario, the American Civil Liberties Union, companies like EPSON, APX Labs, META, CISCO, Microsoft, ESRI, Memoto, Autographer, buildAR, Streamfolio, Augmate and Infinty Augmented Reality, Institute for Infocomm Research; as well as institutions and industry research and development units, such as the University of Wollongong, uberveillance.com, Optinvent, Singularity Weblog.
Our co-sponsors and technical sponsors also need to be acknowledged including: IEEE SSIT, IFMBE (International Federation of Medical and Biological Engineering), University of Wollongong, University of Toronto, PSES (Product Safety Engineering Society). The breadth and depth of the patrons and sponsors indicates the growing importance of such dialogue today. Our delegate list also welcomes participation from Sony, Samsung, Qualcomm, Gartner, Verizon, Blackberry, Thalmic Labs, Ambient Ease, Telepresence Systems, OMG Life, Myplanet Digital, BMC Software, Smart Street Worlds, Illuminating Concepts, KIWI Wearables, LG Electronics. It is great to see this industry involvement and we hope we can really provide some substantial food for thought as we all contribute to technologies with ever-changing impacts on our life.
A note on the peer review process that was followed in this conference. Authors had the opportunity to either submit “abstract only” presentations, short papers of no more than 2,000 words or full papers of 5,000 words or more. Papers were sent to external reviewers and each paper received at least two blind reviews. Where there was a discrepancy in opinion an individual author may have received three or even four reviews. A list of reviewers can be found in this booklet. A note, that full papers were the only papers to undergo peer review. Abstracts and short papers were however vetted by an individual member from the program committee for technical accuracy.
What the general chair, organizing committee, and program committee can promise you all, is that this is just the beginning of the discussion on VEILLANCE. With Roger Clarke’s dataveillance conception, Steve Mann’s sousveillance conception, and MG Michael’s uberveillance conception, the stage is set for “watching”. All of these perspectives are vital and their historical contributions must reflect a new language of understanding, as technology far outstrips our current laws and value systems. Where to next? We hope you will join the discussion!
Citation: Katina Michael, "Welcome Message from The Program Committee Chair", International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS13), 27-29 June 2013, University of Toronto, Canada, Info7-Info9, DOI: 10.1109/ISTAS.2013.6613093