Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity

by the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs

Masakhane (INT) – 2023 Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity, Photo: vog.photo

€ 10.000 prize money: Projects that demonstrate the power of cultural exchange and collaboration for the development of a human-centered digital world.

In addition to the Golden Nicas of Prix Ars Electronica 2024, the Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity, initiated by the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, will be awarded for the forth time as part of Prix Ars Electronica. Every submission to the Prix Ars Electronica and the S+T+ARTS Prize competition can also be entered for consideration to the Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity. Simply submit your entry in one of the two Open Calls!

Deadline: March 1, 2024

Art and culture shape our common reality. They pose the question of what constitutes a human being in the digital world. Artists as cultural ambassadors are best equipped to identify the potential and pitfalls of our current digital transformation.

Cultural diplomacy is a powerful instrument to promote mutual understanding among nations and bolster societal change on a global scale. As such, it is uniquely positioned to advocate for a new digital humanism: A digital humanism that builds a just and democratic society with humans at the center of technological progress. Digital humanism ensures our needs and universal human rights are being met and works to preserve our human dignity. It shapes technologies in accordance with human values and envisions alternative pathways for human/machine interaction that are centered around diversity and inclusion in the creation, implementation, and adaptation of digital tools.

The Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity emphasizes in equal terms the humaneness and humanism that must dictate the development of new technologies. The award honors projects and artworks that inspire a fundamental rethinking in our contemporary approach to technology: It’s time to resign our roles as mere data-generating machines and actively partake in the shaping of our digital future.

Could digital applications be more oriented towards human needs and based on cultural values that respect the autonomy of users over their data? Could software solutions build on the values of cultural diversity instead of infrastructural uniformity? Could digital tools be increasingly of benefit in cross-culture collaboration, international cultural relations, and mutual understanding?

The Digital Humanity Award focuses on artistic projects that address social, cultural, and humanitarian issues in our digital society. It highlights outstanding examples of collaborative practices between individuals of different disciplines and backgrounds. Jury members will pay particular attention to artistic projects that transcend the mere reflection on the effects of emerging technologies to evoke sources of inspiration, open up new pathways towards a new digital humanism, and create empowering role models.

For example (but not exclusively) the following projects can be submitted:

Austria as an international platform for the fusion of art and technology

Credit: “Tycho; Test One” by Paul Friedlander, Photo: Ars Electronica / Martin Hieslmair

Starting in 2021, the BMEIA’s International Culture Department endows an annual prize of €10,000, which will be awarded by the Federal Minister for European and International Affairs and the Festival Ars Electronica at the Prix Ars Electronica Gala. With its commitment to digital humanism, Austria is establishing itself as an international platform for the fusion of art and technology (Culture Tech Hub), as provided for in the government program as an explicit goal.

New technologies must face up to an artistic debate or a humanistic worldview. Thus, new innovative applications, for example in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) or biotechnology, can be measured not only by their impact on our consumer behavior and the success of their business models, but also by their ethical, aesthetic and social orientation towards people and their well-being.

The prize fits programmatically into a new and innovative concept of international cultural relations and cultural diplomacy, which does not simply showcase national artistic or cultural production, but favors cultural exchange, people-to-people contacts and inter-cultural dialogue and cooperation. As a signature award of the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it emphasizes the openness and outward-looking spirit of the Austrian cultural, scientific and technological ecosystem geared towards collaboration and awareness of our common global challenges.

Digital Humanism

Digital Humanism wants to reflect new pathways to a digital society and invites audiences to imagine a new future: It’s time for us to resign our roles as mere consumers and data-generating machines. We must take responsibility for our futures. Couldn’t applications of digital technology oriented towards human needs and established social conventions, which respect the autonomy of users over their data, be just this competitive advantage? Or, in other words: Is it possible to create a digital society that fosters competition and generates value while also reflecting European values?

The global tech industry has been in a crisis for some time now, reflecting an overload of our society with the impact of new technologies (fake news, human downgrading, cyber crime, trade in personal data, etc.). The worldwide backlash (“techlash”) against the tech industry has now become a serious image problem for global internet platforms such as Facebook, Google and Co. In addition, surveillance systems such as AI-based face recognition are being used more and more openly in authoritarian ruled countries (e.g. China) to suppress human rights and for social control. A trend that has even been exacerbated in some countries by the opportunities and requirements in times of global pandemics.

For a new digital humanism, art and human creativity are irreplaceable as essential allies. In their dual function as humanists and futurists, artists are uniquely predestined to exert a positive influence on the development of technological innovation through artistic thinking and critical, unconventional reflection (thinking out-of-the-box).

Find more information on Ars Electronica’s European Platform for Digital Humanism:

Past Winners

Masakhane—pioneering participatory approaches to building African language technologies, for Africans, by Africans

Masakhane (INT)

Winner 2023

More than 2,000 languages are spoken on the African continent, but they are hardly represented in machine translation and communication programs. The after-effects of the colonial past are evident here in the lack of consideration given to African languages. The organization Masakhane (isiZulu for “We build together”) is working to counter this development by contributing to NLP (Natural Language Processing) research.

konS ≡ PARK – Academy for Contemporary Investigative Art

konS ≡ PARK – Academy for contemporary investigative art

Honorary Mention 2023

The Data Nutrition Project

Sarah Newman (US), Kasia Chmielinski (US), Matthew Taylor (US)

Winner 2022

The Data Nutrition Project is an initiative of technologists, artists, scientists, and practitioners that aims to enable faster and better assessment of datasets: the “Dataset Nutrition Label” awarded is comparable to the nutrition label for food and contains essential information about the dataset at hand. In addition to developing digital labels and an engine to create them, the team is also working on educational initiatives, a children’s book, and a podcast. All of these initiatives are intended to create awareness of existing problems in AI systems and contribute to solving them.

Digital Research Travelogues through European Archives

Marina Gržinić, Jovita Pristovšek, Sophie Uitz (INT)

Honorary Mention 2022

Branch Magazine: A Sustainable and Just Internet for All

Climate Action Tech (EU/Global)

Winner 2021

The internet is the world’s largest fossil fuel-powered machine. If we continue business-as-usual, the IT sector will be responsible for 14% of the world’s carbon emissions by 2040. The creators of “Branch Magazine,” on the other hand, have a different vision for the future of the WWW: the Internet should serve our collective liberation and be committed to ecological sustainability. The online magazine “Branch” is intended to make a contribution to this.

In a Small Room

KyungJin Jeong (KR)

Honorary Mention 2021

Juries

Ambassador Christoph Thun-Hohenstein (born 1960) is Director General for International Cultural Relations at the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of the Republic of Austria. After studying law, political science, and history of art at the University of Vienna, Thun-Hohenstein worked for the Austrian Foreign Ministry and held posts in Abidjan, Geneva, and Bonn. He was Director of the Austrian Cultural Forum New York from 1999 to 2007. From 2007 to 2011, he served as Managing Director of departure, the Creative Agency of the City of Vienna. From 2011 to 2021, Thun-Hohenstein was General Director and Artistic Director of the MAK – Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna. He initiated the Vienna Biennale for Change, which he directed from 2014 until 2022. Most recently, he initiated the Vienna Climate Biennale, which will take place for the first time from April through July 2024. Thun-Hohenstein has published on topics dealing above all with European integration, contemporary arts and culture, digital modernity, climate care, and circular culture and held numerous lectures on these topics. He has also curated exhibitions and he regularly serves on selection juries. 

Regina Rusz is an Austrian diplomat and currently heads the department for cultural and scientific events abroad at the Austrian Foreign Ministry. She has worked at embassies and cultural forums in Croatia, Serbia, Hungary and Slovakia, among others.  The advancement of women is, and always has been, an important concern in her professional activities as Director of the Cultural Forums in Budapest (2017-2020) and Belgrade (2001-2005), From 2008-2012, she was a member of the Austrian Task Force for Combating Human Trafficking at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Thomas Kloiber, born in 1972 Graz/Austria, studied catholic theology at the University of Vienna and at the Facultad de Teología del Norte de España Burgos. Before he joined the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs in 2008, he worked as high school teacher for religion and as educational trainer for students of catholic theology. He worked from 2003 to 2006 as General Secretary of the Federation of Catholic Family Associations ion Europe. As employee of the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs he served at the Austrian Embassies in Washington D.C. and in Moscow as well as at the Cultural Forums in Tehran and Bucharest.

Gerfried Stocker (AT) is a media artist and an engineer for communication technology and has been artistic director and co-CEO of Ars Electronica since 1995. In 1995/96 he developed the exhibition strategies of the Ars Electronica Center with a small team of artists and technicians and was responsible for the setup and establishment of Ars Electronica’s own R & D facility, the Ars Electronica Futurelab. He has overseen the development of the program for international Ars Electronica exhibitions since 2004, the planning and the revamping of the contents for the Ars Electronica Center, which was enlarged in 2009, since 2005; the expansion of the Ars Electronica Festival since 2015; and the extensive overhaul of Ars Electronica Center’s contents and interior design in 2019. Stocker is a consultant for numerous companies and institutions in the field of creativity and innovation management and is active as a guest lecturer at international conferences and universities. In 2019 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Aalto University, Finland.

Veronika Liebl (AT) is currently Managing Director at the department Festival/Prix/Exhibitions of Ars Electronica. She studied economic and business science at Johannes Kepler University in Linz (graduated in 2010) with study visits at Harvard University (US) and Université de Fribourg (CH) and has an interdisciplinary background in non-profit and innovation management. Since 2011 she is in charge of cultural management and European project development at Ars Electronica Linz and serves as a member for the Linz’ city culture council and Linz’ UNESCO City of Media Arts Executive Board.  She leads Ars Electronica’s European collaboration projects in the field of culture, research & education and developed, launched as well as executed in this position – together with her team – numerous EU projects such as the STARTS Prize, DOORS (Digital Incubator for Museums) or the European ARTificial Intelligence Lab.

Martin Honzik is an artist and director of Ars Electronica’s Festival, Prix and Exhibitions divisions. He studied visual experimental design at Linz Art University (graduated in 2001) and completed the master’s program in culture & media management at the University of Linz and ICCM Salzburg (graduated in 2003). From 1998 to 2001, he was a member of the production team at the OK Center for Contemporary Art. In 2001, he joined the staff of the Ars Electronica Futurelab, where, until 2005, his responsibilities included exhibition design, art in architecture, interface design, event design and project management. Since 2006, Martin Honzik has been director of the Ars Electronica Festival and the Prix Ars Electronica and in charge of exhibitions in the Ars Electronica Center as well as Ars Electronica’s international exhibition projects.

Teresa Indjein was born in Vienna. She studied law, music and languages and has worked in France, Poland, the US, Germany and Italy. She is Director General for International Cultural Affairs at the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Sonja Reiser-Weinzettl is head of unit V.2b – Exhibitions and Digital Media at the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs. She studied Educational Science and is currently studying Image Science in Krems. She has worked in the UK, Czechia and Slovenia.

Gerfried Stocker is a media artist and an engineer for communication technology and has been artistic director and co-CEO of Ars Electronica since 1995. In 1995/96 he developed the exhibition strategies of the Ars Electronica Center with a small team of artists and technicians and was responsible for the setup and establishment of Ars Electronica’s own R & D facility, the Ars Electronica Futurelab. He has overseen the development of the program for international Ars Electronica exhibitions since 2004, the planning and the revamping of the contents for the Ars Electronica Center, which was enlarged in 2009, since 2005; the expansion of the Ars Electronica Festival since 2015; and the extensive overhaul of Ars Electronica Center’s contents and interior design in 2019. Stocker is a consultant for numerous companies and institutions in the field of creativity and innovation management and is active as a guest lecturer at international conferences and universities. In 2019 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Aalto University, Finland.

Martin Honzik is an artist and director of Ars Electronica’s Festival, Prix and Exhibitions divisions. He studied visual experimental design at Linz Art University (graduated in 2001) and completed the master’s program in culture & media management at the University of Linz and ICCM Salzburg (graduated in 2003). From 1998 to 2001, he was a member of the production team at the OK Center for Contemporary Art. In 2001, he joined the staff of the Ars Electronica Futurelab, where, until 2005, his responsibilities included exhibition design, art in architecture, interface design, event design and project management. Since 2006, Martin Honzik has been director of the Ars Electronica Festival and the Prix Ars Electronica and in charge of exhibitions in the Ars Electronica Center as well as Ars Electronica’s international exhibition projects.

FAQs

What can be submitted?

  • Groundbreaking artistic projects involving at least 2 collaborating artists, researchers or technologists driven by or resulting in digital humanity.
  • A priority of the award are further those projects involving collaborators from two different nationalities/cultures or projects addressing a novel, artistic way of bridging cultures and strengthening cultural diversity in our digital society.
  • Submission is only possible through entering in one of the Prix Ars Electronica or S+T+ARTS Prize categories. The Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity will be, however, evaluated through an individual jury.
  • Projects should not be older than two years or have to show a significant update or further development within the last two years.

According to which criteria are the entries judged?

  • Quality of the artistic work and its potential influence on technology
  • Quality and success of the collaborative practice
  • Quality and sustainable impact for the areas of digital humanity and tech diplomacy
  • Relevance and level of innovation & originality of the submitted work
  • General criteria such as aesthetics, originality, convincing concept, innovation and the technique and quality of the presentation

How can I submit?

The submission deadline for the 2024 Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanism is the same as for 2024 Prix Ars Electronica: March 1, 2024, 11:59 PM CET.

Proposal reception is only possible by using the foreseen submission platform and templates through one of the Prix Ars Electronica or S+T+ARTS Prize categories without exceptions. Submitters will receive a registration information, an acknowledgement of receipt of the submission, an information when the call is closed and an information on the decision of the selection through the platform.

What is the prize amount?

The winner of the Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity will be awarded with €10.000,- prize money.

Who can enter?

Artists / creative professionals (no matter if individuals or groups) or associations, public institutions, NGO and private enterprises clearly demonstrating artistic collaborative practices. Projects may be submitted only by an authorized representative. Purely commercial projects are not eligible for the prize competition.

Additional details about submitting an entry

  • The submission phase for the Award for Digital Humanity runs from January 12, 2024, to March 1, 2024, 11:59 PM CET.
  • Every submission to the Prix Ars Electronica and the S+T+ARTS Prize competition will be entered for consideration to the Ars Electronica Award for Digital Humanity. All Awards of Distinctions and Honorary Mentions will be automatically put forward as “Nominations” to the Jury. The Prix Ars Electronica and S+T+ARTS Juries can nominate further projects with strong relevance to the award criteria. Projects receiving the Golden Nicas will be automatically excluded from the Ars Electronica Award of Digital Humanity.
  • Every submitted project must be, at the time of its submission, either totally completed or far enough along for the jury to be able to assess its quality and the likelihood of it being successfully implemented. The same applies to collaborative arrangements—at the time they’re submitted, they must already be up-and-running and in the implementation stage. No consideration will be given to entries that are purely concepts, ideas or proposals for collaboration.
  • Projects should not be older than two years or have to show a significant update or further development within the last two years.
  • There is no fee to enter the competition.

What sorts of materials/documentation have to be submitted?

All materials will be submitted already via the Prix Ars Electronica categories. No additional submission steps are required.

  • A video documentary (approximately 3 minutes in length)
  • Images (JPG, TIF, BMP, PNG) at the highest possible resolution; compressed files (such as .zip or .lzh files) are unacceptable.
  • A clear, detailed description of the concept, the form of interaction and technical implementation; since specific prerequisites have to be fulfilled for an onsite presentation to take place (e.g. in conjunction with the Ars Electronica Festival), the project’s specifications as to hardware & software and spatial requirements should be as detailed as possible. Moreover, the entrant must specify what he/she can provide on his/her own in order to stage such an onsite presentation, and what must necessarily be furnished by Ars Electronica Linz.
  • A printable portrait photo and a biography of the artist/creator/innovator
  • At the entrant’s option, additional material such as images, documents and drawings (as PNG or PDF) can also be submitted.

Additional conditions

  • A creator may submit more than one work.
  • Entrants are requested not to submit irreplaceable originals since submitted materials cannot be returned.
  • If an entry is awarded a prize, the material will be used and therefore cleared for any communication purpose from Ars Electronica and the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs (see entry rights).
  • If entrants send in additional material pertaining to your submission via post, they need to mail it by the submission deadline (date of postmark is determinative) to the address of Ars Electronica using the Code “Prix Ars Electronica — Award for Digital Humanity”.
  • Winners of the Award for Digital Humanity must make a commitment to accept their awards in person and to present their works at a conference during Ars Electronica Festival. Groups and institutions are requested to nominate a representative to fulfill this commitment. As guests of Ars Electronica, winners will receive complimentary hotel and economy class airline tickets for their trip to Linz.

When and how does the jury reach its decision?

The jury convenes always between April and May in person in Linz or online. The jury will be compiled out of Ars Electronica, the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs as well as external jury members from the Prix Ars Electronica.

Where and when will the winning projects be presented?

If the submitted work is selected and honored by the jury the artist is committed to present the submitted work at the Ars Electronica Festival from September 4th to 8th, 2024.

Timeline

Announcement and Call for SubmissionsJanuary 12, 2024
Submission DeadlineMarch 1, 2024
Evaluation of formal requirements and preparation of material for jury membersongoing
Jury meetingApril 2024
Information to the winnersimmediately after jury meeting
Announcement and press conferenceJune, 2024
Presentation at Ars Electronica Festival 2024September 4-8, 2024