Volunteer Spotlight: Jonathan Gratch

Jonathan Gratch

The IEEE Computer Society's Publishing Services Department continues its "Volunteer Spotlight" series with our interview of Jonathan Gratch, inaugural EIC of our new IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing, who in his interview explains how this new title establishes a focus on advancing research and technology that recognizes, interprets, simulates and stimulates human emotion. Look for the first issue this summer!

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Q. As the first Editor in Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Affective Computing (TAC), what is your vision for the journal?

A. My goal is to establish TAC as the premier outlet for research on affective computing, and more generally, as a linchpin in efforts to amplify the quality and visibility of work in this nascent but rapidly growing scientific enterprise. Towards this goal, TAC is the first high-quality journal on this topic and we've assembled an impressive editorial board including most of the recognized leaders in the field. My hope is that the journal will become an essential resource for disseminating key findings and training the next generation of leaders in the field.

Q. For those who are not familiar with this field of study, can you explain what affective computing is and how it relates to everyday life?

A. Affective Computing is the field of study concerned with understanding, recognizing and utilizing human emotions in the design of computational systems. Research in the area is motivated by the fact that emotion pervades human life—emotions motivate human behavior, they promote social bonds between people and between people and artifacts, and emotional cues play an important role in forecasting human mental state and future actions. Technology is less efficient if it perturbs human emotions; more efficient if it engages with them productively; more attractive if it appeals to human emotions; and often it is primarily concerned with enabling humans to experience particular emotions (notably happiness). Since the coining of the term by Picard in 1997, affective computing has emerged as a cohesive sub-discipline in computer science with its own international conference (the International Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction) and online research community (emotion-research.net).

Q. With your busy schedule, why was it important for you to get involved with the launch of a new journal?

A. Sometimes I ask myself the same question :). But essentially, my motives are selfish. In its current state, research in affective computing is scattered across a diversity of specialized conferences and scientific disciplines (e.g., human-computer interaction, human-robot interaction, cognitive science, computer games). I believe that in creating a strong central venue for high-quality publications, TAC will act to pull together these separate threads, increase mutual awareness of related methods, facilitate more rapid advances, and ultimate help reduce the number of conferences I feel obliged to attend. Of course, in the short term, quite the opposite is true, but I'm ever hopeful.

Q. TAC is an online-only journal, can you explain the benefits of this format?

A. The future of publishing is online. The online format facilitates more rapid turn-around of submissions, increasing their relevance to the field when compared with traditional archival journals in the computational sciences. Further, the online format affords greater flexibility in including supplementary materials (e.g., videos or data) that are impossible in traditional media.

Q. Why do you think it is important to get involved with nonprofit organizations?

A. Thinking beyond oneself is intrinsic rewarding; something that is well-understood by researcher in emotion. In the United States, community service is undervalued and under-practiced across all spheres of life, not because people find it onerous, but because we've lost the tradition of service: people simply don't try. Participating in nonprofit organizations not only improves one's research environment, but helps us grow as individuals.

Q. What are you passionate about?

A. Collaborating across disciplines, working with students, and my daughter's soccer team.

Q. How do you balance life and work?

A. Not very well.

Q. What is your favorite book or movie?

A. Favorite Book: Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. It is a fascinating exploration of how humanity both shapes and is shaped by its physical and social environment. Although not specifically about computational technology, it begs the question about the long-term implications of technology that senses and engages our emotions.