Festival University: “Transform your World”

by Ars Electronica and Johannes Kepler University

| | |


What does it take to initiate actual change? What transformation can students spark for a better tomorrow? What collaborative concepts of transformational change can students from all around the world working together for three weeks create?

Global challenges of tomorrow require a new approach – one based on creativity and co-creation. The Festival University, a joint initiative between Ars Electronica and Johannes Kepler University Linz (JKU), invited students from around the world to together define transformational strategies.

This inaugural program was taking place in a hybrid form, with participants joining online as well as in-person in Linz, Austria, between Aug. 30th, 2021, and Sept. 19th, 2021.

Up to 100 young people from all around world with different cultural and educational backgrounds gathered to explore and define new ways towards digital transformation and transformational change.

“The Festival University by Ars Electronica and JKU” is supported by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Research as well as the Federal Province of Upper Austria.

Festival University Introduction

By starting the content, you agree that data will be transmitted to www.youtube.com.Data Protection Declaration

Festival University Closing Event

By starting the content, you agree that data will be transmitted to www.youtube.com.Data Protection Declaration

Press Conference

By starting the content, you agree that data will be transmitted to www.youtube.com.Data Protection Declaration


The participants in 2021


Locations Online and in Linz, Austria
Duration 3 weeks
Program dates Aug.30 – Sept.19, 2021*
Target group Students from all disciplines, age: 16 – 24 years
Submission of application Sent to festival@ars.electronica.art latest by July 25, 2021, 11.59 pm GMT+2 (Austria)
Language English
Study Type Festival University
Time Requirement Full-time
Credits Festival University certificate with 4,5 ECTS
Travel, accommodation We’ll cover your flight, visa, and accommodation, as well as your main meals on-site

* Participants can shorten the duration to two weeks if the program overlaps with the start of their fall semester.


Over three weeks, students collaborate in teams to create strategies of transformation for specific challenge fields and to answer the following questions:

  • How can we initiate change?
  • How can we shape change?
  • How can we master change?

To answer these questions from a holistic perspective, students will attend inspirational and insightful talks and hands-on workshops delivered by subject matter experts, including:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Brain-Computer Interface
  • Robotics
  • (Forensic) Journalism
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • Sustainability
  • Art and Future Thinking
  • The Power of Storytelling for Transformation

Each topic will be explored from a technological and socially critical perspective as well as through the lens of art. The inputs received through these program sessions will allow students to define strategies on transformational change for global challenges of tomorrow.
In addition to these presentations, students are also invited to join excursions to renowned local organizations and significant sight-seeing spots in Linz and its surroundings.

Subject matter experts:

The workshops and talks are delivered by subject matter experts from Ars Electronica, the Johannes Kepler University, and their partner organizations.
Speakers will be announced in the coming days.

Final presentation:

All teams will present their strategies on transformational change for global challenges of tomorrow on Friday, Sept. 17th, 2021, during a closing event hosted at the main square in Linz and online.
The final team presentation will explore the following aspects:

  • Discuss, Negotiate, and Decide:
    • What is the most urgent thing to be changed?
    • And why?
  • Explore, Collect, and Get Inspired
    • What skills and whose expertise are needed?
  • Envision and Develop
    • How does a new strategy for transformation and change look like?
    • How to deal with opposite positions?
    • How to negotiate a joint course of action?

Further guidelines on the presentation will be shared with the students during the Kick-Off Event.

Participants’ experience:

A crucial factor of transformation is collaboration and co-creation. Thus, the programming is focused on enabling a collaborative community spirit among the participants. All participants traveling to Linz will be staying in the same venue.

Each group, consisting of up to 10 students, will be assigned a dedicated facilitator who will guide the participants through their journey.
Furthermore, we invite the students to capture their experience through videos and photos, which will then be shared with the broader public.

Weekly schedule:

Week 1 August 30 – September 5
  • Team formation and getting to know each other
  • Introduction to the program, speakers, team facilitators, and methodologies
  • Definition of challenge-focus
  • Participating in online talks, workshops and discussions
  • Developing the “creative research question”

Participants will travel to Linz on the weekend

Week 2 September 6 – 12
In Linz & online*
  • Participating in (online) talks, hands-on workshops, and team-discussions
  • Collecting relevant information
  • Meeting and learning from subject matter experts (artists, scientists, researchers etc.)
  • Attending the Ars Electronica Festival
  • Joining excursions
Week 3 September 13 – 18
In Linz & online*/**
  • Participating in (online) talks, hands-on workshops and team-discussions
  • Joining excursions
  • Defining the transformation strategy and preparing the final presentation
  • Submission of presentation & trial run
  • Official closing event with presentations at the main square in Linz and online
  • Closing team dinner

Participants will return to their home country on the weekend.

* Due to the various travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, online participation may be possible if an in-person participation is not feasible. Please note that the Festival University program for online participation might differ than those for in-person participants.
** Participants can shorten the duration to two weeks (by not attending Week 3) if the program overlaps with the start of their fall semester. Proof of term start date must be provided.

Daily program structure:

The daily schedule is structured as follows:

Morning Joint breakfast*
Inspirational and insightful talk by an expert, including Q&A (2 hours)
Noon Joint team lunch*
Afternoon Hands-on workshop(s) or excursion (3 hours)
A daily check-in with team facilitator (½ hour)
Evening Team dinner*
*In keeping with COVID-19 guidelines.

About this initiative:

Next-gen technical university—a think tank and do tank for a new technical university focused on digitalization and digital transformation.

To promote Austria and digitalization, a science-policy initiative was started in 2020 to found a new technical university for transformation and transformational change in Upper Austria. This is a great opportunity and responsibility to develop state-of-the-art programs and structures that meet the challenges of the 21st century. An international and interdisciplinary character is the primary focus here, as well as the establishment of an excellent research environment and new, forward-looking teaching models.

In order to promote this exciting venture internationally—to attract young people from all over the world and also to harness the experiences and ideas of interested communities from all fields—the Festival University project will be realized by Ars Electronica in collaboration with the Johannes Kepler University (JKU). It will serve as a prototype and showcase for a university of the 21st century.

COVID-19 guidelines:

  • To ensure all participants, speakers, and facilitators involved stay safe and healthy during the program, the Festival University will be executed in keeping with the COVID-19 guidelines issued by the Austrian government.
  • Furthermore, everyone involved will be tested daily. The testing facilities are located on-premises, and the daily test is free of charge.