Prix Ars Electronica


ORF Oberösterreich

Inspired, Educated and Entertained

Pete Barr-Watson

Last year the Jury statement for these categories opened with the statement:

“And so it has come to this: the bubble burst, dotcoms drying up, lost in a haze of burn rate, the very Internet itself returning to a quaint network of chums and we can at last happily return to the old order … Uh Uh, WRONG SCRIPT! In fact, quite the opposite ...”

Well, in the twelve months since then, one could’ve been forgiven for thinking that maybe the sentiment expressed above was a little premature. After all, since then, creative companies whose work is predominantly Web-oriented have still continued to fall by the wayside. But was it premature? Your opinion on this will very much depend on your own involvement in the whole affair, good or bad. But the situation has created an unusual and unique situation in some respects, and that’s purely down to the creative sparks that were ignited by all the possibilities the dotcom years offered.

A lot of people found work in those years and at those companies. Later on of course, a lot of people at those companies found there was no more work left. But in the intervening period a good majority of them found new skills and new ways to release their creative energies and when they found they had time on their hands they started on a journey to ‘beautify’ the Web.

Personal sites have become the new Web art. Their numbers increase every day and offer us, the viewer, an insight into the minds of the creators. Something that probably just wouldn’t have been possible a very short while ago. The opportunity to create, innovate and push back the boundaries that have sprung up around the Internet has proven to be an inspirational force to be reckoned with. Ask any personal site owner why they do what they do and you’ll more often than not hear the words, “to do something different, to show what can be done.” The personal site phenomenon has inspired books, articles and showcases around the world and continues to be one of the more accessible methods of promoting yourself, your skills and your creativity. Take a look around at some of the more prolific sites like Matt Owen’s „Volume_One“ (www.volumeone.com), Niko Stupmo’s ‘Abnormal Behaviour Child’ (www.abnormalbehaviourchild.com) or Daniel Achilles’ ‘Precinct’ (www.precinct.net) and you’ll see some of the most amazing designs on the Web today. However, these are by no means the final word in personal site design. It’s become a bit of a cliché to say that the Web enables anyone to publish anything, but the sentiment is invariably true. Whatever your taste in design, there’s an arena for you to experiment and create. An arena where thousands of people around the globe can see your work.

So in a sense, the Web has been handed back to the people. e-Commerce is no longer the ‘Holy Grail’ of Internet development. It exists, for sure, but it isn’t the be-all and end-all of the Internet any longer. Corporate websites are as important now as they ever were, but they aren’t considered to be the only reason why there should actually be an Internet these days. More and more practical uses for the Web are springing up. There are a lot more things you can do today to help make your life easier by using the Web. Mapping sites for instance. No, all things considered the Internet is becoming a much more interesting place to reside and explore.

So the selected jury members of the Net Vision / Net Excellence all entered the Jury session this year with high expectations. We had high hopes for the level of entry and we were expecting a difficult time in choosing our selections. And, those high hopes were met by a number of the projects entered, and our choices were difficult to reach. Heated discussion about the individual merits of projects dominated our meeting days. But, overall we felt that there is serious room for the diversification of next year’s entries. There were many projects that followed similar themes – predominantly data visualization – and we feel that there is much more out there that deserves consideration as well. This category is split into two separate sections which are aptly named. Net Vision and Net Excellence cover a vast arena of online creativity and innovation, next year we hope that this is better reflected in the scope of the entries. So, tell all your friends, acquaintances and colleagues, the gauntlet has been thrown down and awaits the challenge.

This year’s prize winners and runners-up are, without fail, the cream of the crop. The quality of these projects is easy to see, and the creativity is hard to match. The wide variance of technologies used shows that the Internet is an ever-changing place and open to new innovation all the time. From the social comments made by „They Rule“ to the excellent use of currently available technologies by „Bot Fighters“ it’s easy to see why they were chosen. Please review the list of winners and runners-up, and look at the projects in turn – online if possible. Be inspired, educated and entertained – just as we were.

Radical Softwar Group, RSG (USA): „Carnivore“

„Carnivore“ is a project that ‘perverts’ an existing technology. Derived from a snooping application that monitors and reports back on all network traffic, „Carnivore“ fulfills an almost identical role. The monitoring of network traffic using „Carnivore“ however, provides an interesting new viewpoint on all things ‘connected’. Data transfer is a fact of life and is one of those things that’s normally quite invisible to the user, but using this software you can change that. And it provides for some interesting viewing.

„Carnivore“ is in actual fact an application that resides on your server. It’s freely downloadable from the project’s site and can be installed on your own machine in very little time. The graphical interface (Client) can be developed using other technologies such as Macromedia Flash, which is widely available. This allows for almost anyone with an interest to develop a „Carnivore“ client of their own. This is a very interesting project using complex technology, but the way it’s been developed allows for many people to engage with it in a non-exclusive way.

The mental concept of data traffic is one which will have different connotations for many people. The wide and varied number of Clients that can be developed will make for some interesting insights into people’s perception of the ‘connected world’ where the visual currency, if you like, is data. Ones and zeros. A black and white, binary world brought to life by representing it with visual elements that morph and change before your very eyes.

We liked the way in which technology had been absorbed, re-written and recycled into something else. It shows that just as in the real world, things can be re-used by someone else to good effect, even if they were originally destined for an altogether different use. Ingenuity and lateral thinking have made this project a reality and it is to be applauded for that.

Josh On, Futurefarmers (USA): „They Rule“

Following on from the data visualization theme that was so prominent this year, „They Rule“ is a project that immediately got our attention. Capitalism and globalization are sensitive subjects right now and this project captures that in an interesting yet sophisticated way.

The Internet certainly has allowed this kind of information to be more readily available to the masses. It’s hard to imagine another form of media that would present the information contained in „They Rule“ in such a manner.

The project successfully attempts to demonstrate the way in which corporate America is so closely intertwined, with many examples of executives sitting on many different boards. Sometimes the links can be quite astonishing. The way in which the visualization is handled also makes for a very intuitive navigation method. For instance, the ‘fatter’ the person’s online representative is, the more boards they are connected with.

The user is able to interrogate the database and form visual maps of their own. They can then save that map for future use if they so choose. This makes the experience much more engaging and makes the research of these people an interesting proposition on more than one visit. Alternatively, if the research isn’t your thing, then you can view the previously saved searches and maps at will, again providing some eye-opening facts.

This kind of data could easily have been overly dramatized and used in a sensationalist manner. Conspiracy theorists would’ve had a field day. But, „They Rule“ manages to completely avoid that, focusing instead on the facts and allowing the user to investigate them at their own pace. The usability of the project has been very well thought out and this just serves to add to the rich experience the site offers.

It s Alive! (S): „Bot Fighters“

It’s a common sight in the technology magazines – amazing new ways to use technology that doesn’t yet exist! Ideas and whole articles devoted to what you will be able to do in the future! Well, the reason that „Bot Fighters“ was chosen to receive an Award of Distinction is because what they promise is here today, and it uses technology that the majority of people already have access to. mobile telephone handsets.

Engaging mobile gaming is something of a Holy Grail at the moment. Using the handsets that are widely available very much limits what can be done with them. A 3.5 cm x 3 cm greyscale screen isn’t very inspiring and it’s difficult to entice the user to interact with it too. Well, the producers of Bot Fighters didn’t worry about that! They just went ahead and built a game for those very platforms, and didn’t concern themselves with the limitations.

Bringing together a unique combination of reality, online elements and mobile technology, „Bot Fighters“ is a multiplayer gaming community that is thriving in many nations.

In order to successfully attack your opponent, you must be within a set distance of each other in the real world. You then can proceed to play the game using SMS messages to control your ‘Bot’. All in all a brilliant combination of technologies that’s here today and available to many people now.

Innovation in the mobile arena is a rare thing it seems. The technology is there and is commonly used but „Bot Fighters“ has taken it to the next step just by looking at the mobile networks with different eyes and not just settling for second best. This is a brave attempt to break out of the mould and make fresh tracks. And it does it well. Mobile gaming will (should) never be the same again.

Maia Gusberti, Michael Aschauer, Nik Thoenen, Sepp Deinhofer (A):


It is rare to come across good online projects that can be used in an educative environment. „./Logicaland“ is one such tool. It enables you to visualize and alter the course of a country’s development by altering the way it invests its money over a period of time. As in the real world, an individual can’t make much of an overall difference, but as a group you can. This opens up a major link to the real world education of school children who would be able to have discussions and debates over the way a country should develop and then put it into practice using „./Logicaland“. Its accelerated timescale allows you to see the changes you’re affecting and therefore the way you are developing your nation.

We saw a link between online interaction and real world discussion with this project and this is worthy of note. It has real potential to instruct in the ways of socioeconomic development and has major value because of this.

Online teaching aids must have a hard time being adopted in the classroom. In this day and age there are tremendous pressures put onto teachers to make the best of every minute of classroom time. Children are more sophisticated and demand more attention as well. It’d take a lot to change the usual teaching aids more commonly used because of all of these constraints and pressures. But, that’ll change, just as everything eventually does and this project is a fine example of this brave new world. A real-time group oriented study application that inspires conversation and debate can’t be ignored.

Schoenerwissen (D): „Minitasking“

Gnutella is the famous file sharing protocol that is widely used by the general public for, well, sharing files! The usual course of action involves downloading a client application (such as Limewire, although there are many others) and entering a search string for the file you’re looking for. This could be anything from a music file to video to electronic book. Of course, you also share your own files with the other users, thereby extending the network. Pretty normal computer activity today …

„Minitasking“ is an application that utilizes the Gnutella network for another reason. It monitors the search strings from other people’s computers and displays the data it gathers as beautiful visual elements that move and constantly provide visual feedback. This project will bring out the voyeuristic tendencies in anyone as you watch the search strings appear. Almost a view into people’s minds.

This is a brilliant use of common technology on the Internet.

Alexandra Jugovic, Florian Schmitt; Hi-Res! (UK): „Donnie Darko“

„Donnie Darko“ is a rare find in these days of over commercialized, in your face, online advertising campaigns. There’s no easy way to reveal what’s in this site. It acts like an interactive novel and in doing so enhances the impact of the film greatly.

You’re invited to take a journey of discovery, to reveal the secrets of the story and further your progress through the brilliantly created virtual world described by sometimes haunting imagery. This is not a website that shouts at you to go and see the film. Indeed, using the website (whether you have seen the film or not) is an experience to be relished.

“I can do anything… And so can you”. This is the first thing you’ll see on entering the actual site. It is a feast of visual and audio design.

Passwords to enter the next stages of the site are gathered along the way and these allow return visits to the site to continue the journey where you left off. Another reason why the metaphor of the site being an interactive novel is so apt.

Even without a film this website would be a masterpiece of design and interaction. Superb.

Jonathan Gay (USA): „Macromedia Flash“

Flash was awarded an honourable mention for the way in which it’s transformed the Web and many people’s lives. This sounds like a grand statement, and really it is. But no apologies for this are due.

Gaming, interactivity, music and video are all things that „Flash“ has made available to the Internet viewing public. And more, it’s inspired vast communities of people who develop „Flash“ content and applications to talk to each other and share knowledge. Last year one of these communities, Ultrashock, itself received an honourable mention.

The versatility of the program allows for the creation of truly multimedia applications such as games, puzzles and cartoons etc. Also, there are future developments planned for „Flash“ that will affect many more people and aid communication through the Internet greatly. It’s the vast untouched playing field that „Flash“ offers to anyone who wants to develop with it that makes it deserve the award. The possibilities are truly unimaginable. Love it or hate it, there is no denying that there is a place for it on the Internet today.

Alexandra Jugovic, Florian Schmitt (UK): „The Third Place“

This is a project that was built for Sony Entertainment by HiRes! It’s a collection of different interactive artists who’ve come together to offer their interpretation of the ‘Third Place’.

The ‘Third Place’ is the metaphorical space where Sony says your mind is when playing video games. It’s an interesting concept and the individual pieces are of high quality, making the experience itself an engaging one.

Whatever your taste in design, there’ll be something here for you. You may find that you spend more time here than you realize as playing with the visually responsive sound pieces can be quite engrossing. Watching the visually beautiful animated pieces can also grab your attention in a time warp sort of way. Or, maybe this was the intention of the designers? Video games players have been known to lose themselves in the game before, haven’t they?

Sony is well known in the interactive design world as an innovator and forward-thinking commissioner of media projects and „The Third Place“ does not disappoint.

Harper Reed: „Audreyhacking.com“ - „Hacking the Audrey“

The Audrey is a device that was manufactured by 3Com. It’s an Internet appliance that’s been adopted by a large community of people who ‘hack’ the device and use it to perform tasks that it wasn’t originally designed to do. Lying somewhere between a Palm Pilot and a desktop computer, there are many different ways to hack the device such as making it into an MP3 player, an instant messenger client or even a Web server!

The Internet is the ideal meeting ground for people who are separated by physical or mental divides and the „Audreyhacking“ project is a prime example of this kind of community. Taking such a simple concept as this device and using it as the basis to experiment and share knowledge is brilliant. As long as the Web can bring people together in this way the better.

Kenneth Hung (USA): „60X1.COM“

This project was quite unique among the entries this year. It’s an amazing example of innovative design and has obviously had a large amount of thought put into it.

The vibrant colour of the site is reflected in the colourful statements that almost shout at you from the page. And the navigation through the site is as unusual as the pages themselves. A totally original site in both design and concept.

This is a site that you become lost in, forever following the links that appear, a journey that’s been devised for you in the mind of Hung. There is a slightly black humour to the site, that only serves to enhance the experience and promote it’s message more effectively. Excellent work.

Peter Kuthan, Sabine Bitter, Helmut Weber, Thomas Schneider; Arge Zimbabwe Freundschaft (A): „Tonga.Online“

The plight of some of the less advantaged African nations is, thankfully, becoming more public. Projects like „Tonga.Online“ are partly to thank for this. This is a website that uses the Internet to facilitate communication amongst a group of people dedicated to aiding others.

One of the main problems that face rural and isolated communities and villages is the lack of a reliable communication channel. So „Tonga.Online“ provides people in the Tonga area with resources to communicate and present themselves to the outside world.

This website was chosen because of the way the Internet is being used to aid the people of Tonga by the distribution of information. It’s often said that information is the most valuable commodity in the modern world, and so sharing it with people who may normally be excluded has got to be the way forward, for many, many reasons.


“A fantastically designed interactive space on the Internet” is a good way to describe „db-db“. Seamless methods of interacting with the website and other people make the „db-db“ experience what it is, and that’s excellent.

Games, chat, personal experiences and photos all go to make up a content-rich website that’s very enjoyable to visit.

This is a prime example of the personal site referred to in the introduction to this category. Lam has developed a space that is literally bursting with content and entertainment. It’s an unusual site, with avatar characters representing you online, allowing you to interact with other visitors to the site. This in itself is quite unusual, but very entertaining. Take the time to explore the different sections and gain an insight to this exceptional designer’s mind.

Elan Lee (USA): „Cloudmakers - the AI Web Game“

The game was a promotion for A.I. The film was Stanley Kubrick s unfinished project, and was directed by Steven Spielberg for DreamWorks. WarnerBros released the film in the US on June 29, 2001.

The online game was quite ingenious, being comprised of many different websites spread across the Internet all leading the user to clues to help solve the mystery.

Now the mystery has been solved and the game is over. However the „Cloudmakers“ site is a huge depository of information about the game and makes for very interesting reading.

Again, the use of the Internet was crucial to this idea. No other media could have sustained a campaign like this. Even though the game is now over, the site is an archive of the content that was active at the time of the game. The mind boggles at the organization this must have taken, full credit is due!

© Ars Electronica Linz GmbH, info@aec.at