CHI Vs. YouTube: Two Paradigms of Influencing the Field

I’ve been reflecting recently on the Johnny Chung Lee phenomenon. As probably anyone reading this already knows, Lee is the Ph.D. student at CMU whose work in HCI has gone viral. For example, his head tracking trick for the Wii has been viewed on YouTube, as of now, 1.6 million times.

What has struck me most about this is the sheer number of people–friends, former and current students, even family members–who have sent me links to his videos over the past several months. As far as my inbox is concerned, he’s outgunned the Numa Numa kid. I realized that he has probably touched (directly at least) more people in HCI than perhaps anyone ever has via CHI.

This is not, of course, a rabble-rousing call for doing away with peer-reviewed venues, but it does demonstrate the fact that it is possible to wield influence in our field with a good idea and a $30 web cam. (I suspect Lee is using a real camera, but that’s not the point. His films are amateurish as documentary shorts, and yet they are serving their purpose just fine.)

In Benkler’s Wealth of Networks, the author argues that Web 2.0 offers its own peer review mechanisms. You’re seeing one of them in motion right now: the fact that I am blogging about and linking to Lee’s work adds one more bit of credibility to it. For this paradigm to work, perhaps more of us should be making videos of our work and posting them (hint hint graduate students!). I wonder how viral HCI grad student portfolios will affect grad students, our program, and our field.


  1. Tyler Pace

    Even more important than the sheer number of people who see Lee’s work is the type of people. It’s one thing to share your ideas with like minded CHI attendees, but Lee is making interaction design cool, accessible and exciting for everyone else.

    Seriously, Nintendo, if I don’t see at least one of Lee’s applications officially supported and developed by you within 1 calendar year …. well, you don’t want to know the alternative.

  2. nkdewitt5376

    If he sat down and explained calculus to me, I think I’d actually understand it.

    He even made it look cool to wear.

    I am speechless at this point. Must reflect.

  3. mingxian

    maybe someday we could play WOW by using Nintendo remotes! We run on our own floor, and fight with others, wow…


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