Prix Ars Electronica


ORF Oberösterreich

Where have all the Artists Gone

John Markoff

Jury Process

The Prix Ars Electronica .net category is intended to be open to a broad cross section of artistic and cultural Internet activities ranging from World Wide Web sites to new and innovative protocols that are intended to foster community and communication.

This year the Prix Ars Electronica .net jury meeting began our session with a discussion of criteria to keep in mind while reviewing the entries. The .net category has a 5-year tradition of looking for work that expresses the "zeitgeist" of web and net development. The web continues to change at a radical pace, but there is an underlying essence that the jury summarized as "Web-ness". From previous years Web-ness has come to be viewed as the combination of elements that make a project inherently networked. If it can be delivered in another medium just as effectively, a project has been thought to be low in Web-ness. Some signs that Web-ness exists are thriving communities, self-replicating technologies and business models, and distributed authority. In keeping with the Prix Ars Electronica tradition, purely commercial websites were not considered in 2000.

This was an unusual year for the Prix Ars Electronica .net jury. One disappointment in this year''s competition was the decline in the number of entries in our category from about 500 to 250.

The jury spent some time discussing the reason for the decline and although a number of explanations were put forward, the most likely reason appears to be the vast and unprecedented rise in e-commerce activity on the Internet. Simply put, with vast flows of venture capital available to start Internet enterprises ,virtually anyone with any skill or interest in the Net has increasingly been spending his or her waking hours pursuing commercial rather than artistic endeavors.

Originality of concept was an important factor in selecting the Prix winner. As the jury reviewed the .net submissions, we came to believe that many of this years entries were derivative of previous well-known net projects. While many of them were well-designed and more stable than their predecessors, we felt that a Golden Nica winner should reflect a vision that is at the very frontier of Internet development.

In earlier web-years, there were so many novel and huge ideas that it was often hard for previous .net juries to select one for the prize. This year, the commercial web appears to dominate. Thus the most creative projects on the web are increasingly found at the extremes of commercialism and anti-commercialism.

It is important to note that not all of the decisions made by the jury this year were by consensus.

Golden Nica – 2000

Neal Stephenson

In a postscript to his pathbreaking 1992 science fiction novel "Snow Crash" author Neal Stephenson writes about how he settled reluctantly upon writing a traditional novel when he discovered that the current interactive CD technology was not yet powerful enough to support his vision of a new kind of cyber universe.

In the text-based novel that resulted he named this computer and network generated world the "Metaverse." The idea gave William Gibson''s original notion of cyberspace a geography and although Stephenson had given up on his original plan to create an interactive computer novel, many of his readers were inspired by his vision.

The idea that there is a fabric to cyberspace and that it is somehow more than the sum of the machines that are interconnected by IP addresses is very much a reality today. VRML is a well established protocol on the web, and it has recently been complemented by a wide range of other three-dimensional navigational protocols.

Neal Stephenson is a fitting winner of the Golden Nica 2000 for more reasons than "Snow Crash". While many writers arrive at a single vision and remain stuck there, Stephenson has continued to re-invent himself, exploring a succession of technologies and their impact on the world.

In "Diamond Age" he takes the reader on an alarming tour of the world of nanotechnology, a world which validates Arthur C. Clark''s dictum: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

It is particularly striking that last year Stephenson crossed back over from science fiction in his best selling novel "Cryptonomicon". A sprawling first work of what will likely become a trilogy, "Cryptonomicon" stretches from the crucial role that cryptography played in the Second World War to an Asian Internet data haven sometime in the not-to-distant future. Its protagonist, programmer Randy Waterhouse, is a Unix hacker and the novel touches on many of the most pressing political, social and cultural issues raised by the global ascendancy of the Internet.


Exquisite Corpse

Sharon Denning

The "Exquisite Corpse" puts an elegant interface on the surrealist writing game, in which one person begins a narrative and others add on to it. It is a well designed collaborative storytelling tool. The unique interface allows easy additions to the non-linear story. Time and care was spent on designing the interface. As new sections are added, the interface grows to accommodate. Telling stories with the web is the idea that it explores. Text-based hyperlinking was the first big breakthrough as an alternative to the printed linear story. Interfaces like this one now explore the next generation in social storytelling..


TeleZone team: Erich Berger / Peter Purgarthofer / Volker Christian / Ken Goldberg

The "TeleZone" is a telerobotic art installation that creates a parallel between the physical and the virtual. The project also represents today''s state of the art in virtual community. As a successor to Ken Goldberg and Joseph Santarromana''s "TeleGarden", which explored some of the same challenges in the dividing line between the physical and the virtual, a true virtual community has come to life. The goal is to permit social collaboration exclusively over the net in creating, planning, managing and growing a global community that has a physical presence. The site is designed for a city/community planner. Participants can come and view as visitor or can become actively involved in the process of creating the community. All of the decisions are decided by the participants and its entirely up to them to decide how to self organize. It is represented in a three dimensional VRML version online, and exists in the real world as an installation at the Ars Electronica Center in Linz, Austria.

A robot at the Ars Electronica Center serves as an interface between the physical and the virtual spaces. Acting as an avatar on behalf of users in the community, it arranges and places together building blocks based on design decisions made on the "TeleZone" web site. The actions of the community are visible both in the virtual and the physical worlds.

Honorable Mentions


Ichiro Aikawa

The jury''s reaction ranged from "creative use of windows" to "pure delicious eye candy and frame play." In any case, the cascades of windows move, reframe and cascade. Sometimes they contain images and tell stories, even guide the web surfer on an short urban journey.


Natalie Bookchin

Where is the line between video games and literature? "Intruder" takes the unique approach of reading and displaying the lines of a tale by Jorge Luis Borges to ten simple video games. It is not clear that the games add anything to the story. It is however a unique approach to the form of the story.

Reconnoitre 2.0

Tom Corby / Gavin Baily

Corby and Bally acknowledge that Reconnoitre can best be described as a "dysfunctional browser." It attempts to restore serendipity to web exploration what they call a "journey of surprises." The idea is to graze through text in a fragmentary, incomplete and aimlessly wandering fashion. They attempt to blend text with a 3D browser world browser matches are displayed in a three-dimensional array where the "hits" are endowed with characteristics from a surreal physical world such as entropy, repulsion and attraction.



What is a Discoder? A "Discoder", according to its designer, is a device "which destroys HTML informatic code and its codes of behavior, a contradiction provider for the web". In this project the user "messes" with the web''s HTML structure. Or as one jury member described it, "just a small cool hack. From a programmer''s perspective this has special meaning. As creators of code we strive to make our products clean, well formed and easy to read. This hack is exactly the opposite, a completely simple (and clean and well formed) way to completely mess up your perfectly good code."


Reinhold Grether

A protest web site designed to protest the legal battle between etoy.com and eToys.com over an Internet domain name, toywar.com chronicles the collapse of eToys'' stock price and claims credit it. "toywar.com" describes itself as a "resistance game" which was launched to protect etoy from a hostile takeover. According to the "toywar.com" site, in its suit the toy retailer accused etoy of unfair competition, trademark delusion, security fraud, illegal stock market operation, pornographic content, offensive behavior and terrorist activity. After the resistance campaign began, eToys Inc. stock dropped from $67 to $15, a loss of $4.5 billion. "toywar.com" calls this the most expensive performance in art history: $4.5 billion in lost equity.

Silk Road

Jie Geng

"Silk Road" is drawn from the artist''s experience a decade ago as an art student at the Fine Arts Academy of China. While there each student was required to visit and study the grottoes of the Silk Road in Dunhuang. In this site the artist attempts to present the legend of the Silk Road to the world of the Internet. It uses several navigational interfaces to traverse subjects and locations and includes documentation in an attempt to recreate the idea of a journey on the Silk Road.


Stephan Huber / Zelko Wiener

"Sinnzeug" uses Flash in an effort to create a dynamic search engine that plays with the idea of the spatial organization of information. Dots which represent web sites appear on the screen. After doubleclicking in the window, it is possible to enter a search word or choose a word from a pop-up menu. The dots that "feel" they have something to do with the word are attracted to it, offering visual clues.

Zeitgenossen Binary Art Site

Ursula Hentschläger / Zelko Wiener

This was one of a number of sites entered in the .net category this year that explore Macromedia''s Flash as an artistic tool. "Zeitgnossen" works at the confluence of sound, text, color, artistic forms and motion.

Grasping at Bits

Patrick Lichty

A hyper essay by artist Patrick Lichty, "Grasping at Bits" uses thebrain.com as a navigational tool. Lichty makes an effort to explore the corporate influence and control of intellectual property. He also speculates upon the consequences that will emerge from the intersection of the aesthetic and the material in the Internet age.


Peter Mühlfriedel/Gundula Markeffsky

This interactive web site uses the notion of old electronic devices as an interface to modern music composition. This creates a nice juxtaposition. "Electrica" is an addictive set of techno instruments, beautifully designed online toys for creating ambient techno mixes. Its experimental interfaces are an intriguing pleasure to surf through.

Network Communicate Kaleidoscope

Kazushi Mukaiyama

"Network Communicate Kaleidoscope" is a virtual space accessible via the Internet. Users connect to a void world as a "Particle" and chat and interact with others. After disconnecting, their remnant particle behaves individually with other particles'' behavior reflecting activity by all who have ever connected in the virtual space. The theme is to explore and create images such as a kaleidoscope of "clustering fireflies." The jury felt it had a simple and elegant design.


Art or conceptual prank? Intellectual property wars are not limited to Napster, the MP3 file trading software or to the world of video. What is authorship when anything can be copied all over the world with a single keystroke? It is something that the world has struggled over at least since the French Revolution, when the revolutionaries decried authorship. The jury felt the 0100101110101101.org web site stood as a tribute in style and execution to jodi, another group of anarchists/artists. It calls into question the value of the "original" in digital media - and raises questions about the entire idea of copyright.

© Ars Electronica Linz GmbH, info@aec.at