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Virtual networking at ICTIR

When this crowd invites to a digital conference on information retrieval, the good ideas will flourish in the virtual meeting room.

Vinay Setty (left), Trond Linjordet and Krisztian Balog are ready for ICTIR. Vinay Setty (left), Trond Linjordet and Krisztian Balog are ready for ICTIR.

ICTIR (International Conference on the Theory of Information Retrieval) is an annual international conference for research related to search technology and information retrieval. This year, the conference will be held in Stavanger, more specifically from the office of Krisztian Balog at the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

When Balog, Vinay Setty and Trond Linjordet got to know that Stavanger was to host the conference, they began planning how to attract participants to the city. Great nature photos on the website, trip to the Pulpit Rock and gala dinner at the Concert hall restaurant Spiseriet. Two and a half years later, everything looks different. This year's conference will be fully digital, and everything will be managed from Balog's office.

Virtual meeting place

How can you mingle, exchange ideas and start new research projects when you are sitting in front of your own computer screen in different parts of the world? The hosts of ICTIR offer a digital meeting place, gather.town, where all conference participants create their own avatar. This avatar can move around in a digital meeting place - it is easily controlled using the arrow keys. At this meeting place you will find an information desk, where you can see the programme and speakers. In addition, you can go to mingle zones. You always have an overview of the other conference participants, and you can easily arrange video meetings with each of them.

“We would definitely have preferred a physical conference, and held out hope as long as we could before we decided on a fully virtual solution. This is new for everyone. I've been to a couple of digital conferences lately, and I miss the interaction part. The solution we have chosen for our conference is the closest you can get to a physical meeting,” says Krisztian Balog, general chair in the steering committee for the conference.

Google and Bloomberg

The organizers have managed to attract big names from companies such as Google, Bloomberg and Spotify on the list of speakers.

“We have large companies with us, both as keynote or industry speakers and as sponsors. We are proud of that,” says Balog.

Although the conference is theoretical, it includes lessons drawn from applied research. And it is no coincidence that University of Stavanger was chosen as a host.

“We have a lot of activity in this field of research here at the University of Stavanger. The fact that we were selected to host the conference is a nice recognition of the work we do,” says Balog.

Trond Linjordet adds that although this field of research does not have the largest community, the work carried out has a great impact on people's everyday lives.

“And the pioneers in the field will be present during the conference,” says Vinay Setty.

The conference is arranged September 14-17th.

Tekst og foto: Kjersti Riiber