My Nominations for Prix Ars Electronica’s Digital Communities

I was recently honored with an invitation to join the advisory board for Prix Ars Electronica 2012, focusing on the Digital Communities section.  Prix Ars Electronica, part of the larger Ars Electronica umbrella, is the prestigious award ceremony for new media based in Linz, Austria.

Here’s what their Digital Communities section looks at:

The “Digital Communities” category focuses on the wide-ranging social and artistic impact of the Internet technology as well as on the latest developments in social software, user generated content, mobile communications, mash-ups and location based services. Digital Communities” focuses on innovation in relation to human coexistence.

Its main goals lie in first, bridging the geographical as well as the genderbased digital divide and second, bridging across cultural conflicts and third, supporting cultural diversity and freedom of artistic expression. Consideration is also given to projects that advance the practice of sharing and the formation of a “Cloud Intelligence”, and that facilitate access to technological-social infrastructure.

Digital Communities sheds light on the political and artistic potential of digital and networked systems. As such, “Digital Communities” selects a broad range of projects, applications, artworks, initiatives and phenomena around which social and artistic innovation is taking place, as it were, in real time.

It sounds pretty cool, and I have to thank Ingrid Fischer-Schreiber for inviting me to participate on the board and submit nominations.  Since nominations can be public, I thought I’d blog about it.  I’ve written about all of my nominees before in various ways, so none of these should be a surprise.

Kiri Lluch Dalena – Time and Place of Incident
Dalena recently addressed the Maguindanao Massacre, the worst massacre of journalists since the Committee to Protect Journalists began keeping track.  Her video installation at the University of the Philippines was very courageous and powerful in its simplicity.  Part of what makes her work so impactful is the way she relies on the Filipino community to help her document much of her subject matter. To prepare for Time and Place of Incident, she used social networks like Facebook and blogs to develop contacts. And for certain hard-to-reach areas, she relied on volunteers to film for her.  It was a true community effort with an extraordinary message.

Ma Yongfeng/Forget Art – Youth Apartment Exchange Project (青年公寓交换)
Ma Yongfeng’s Forget Art collective has developed this great web site, Youth Apartment Exchange Project, that is like airbnb but better: it’s a community aimed at exchanging items, apartments, etc.  The idea is to create a dialogue amongst young people, who often silo themselves into their friend circles.  By exchanging personal possessions, participants learn about others’ lives and experience them in a unique way.  YAEP is part of Ma Yongfeng’s philosophy of “micropractice”, the idea that small changes and practices can lead to larger societal shifts over time.

The Wenzhou Train Collision Meme
This is a more diverse, diffuse group, but the folks who protested against the response to the Wenzhou train collision deserve special mention.  It was a major tipping point in China, showing the immense power of microblogs even within the censored medium of Sina Weibo.  While the discourse continued and served to pressure the government to make some real changes in the administration and even issue a public investigation, the artists who created the visual language of the online protest deserve special mention.  The level of creativity reflected the best intersection of Photoshop with political cartoons with public assembly, and they showed that politically-themed Internet memes can lead to real world change.

Nominations are just the beginning. Nominees are then invited to apply for the formal selection process.  In the case of the Wenzhou train collision meme, I believe folks familiar with the Chinese Internet are asked to contribute their expertise.  In any case, I wish my nominees good luck!

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