Ars Electronica

Prix Ars Electronica


ORF Oberösterreich



A nine-year-old programs a fully functional HTML-Editor with well thought-out short keys and even an integrated, menu-supported VRML Editor.

Within the framework of the competition u19, subtitled "Freestyle Computing", which describes the possibility of operating with the computer outside the range of adult, product-oriented thinking in technical standards, this work—which has been distinguished in the competition, by the way—is representative of a large number of other submissions and raises several questions. This is even more the case, if this phenomenon is linked with something else that is noticeable: specifically that in the upper age segment of the u19 entrants, in whose work a conceptional approach may frequently be noted, a sometimes limited technical understanding of the computer as a programmable machine becomes a constraining obstacle on the way to implementing an idea.

An unavoidable question arises here: do these technical exercises in style represent a potential, or should they be interpreted as an unfortunate development, an attempt to imitate the adult world and its way of dealing with (computer) reality?

If one assumes that a nine-year-old child does not yet question the value of their work and their exertion (some of the submissions were based on months or even years of developments) and has yet to discover the added value of an idea, one can be optimistic and look forward to exciting things from these young people, even if they are already nineteen.

If one wants to be pessimistic, one can interpret this technical obsession among such young people as a lack of imagination—without meaning to mourn the loss of an idealized potential of young people to be creative, cheeky and naive at the same time. This presumed “potential” is probably more of a reflection of the expectations that the adult world has of “youth”. While “youth” does much, young people are obviously less concerned with any kind of expectations—and rightly so. The answer is a matter of belief and it occupied the jury intensively for three days ...

Nevertheless, there are a few key words from this discussion that we would like to pass on to many of the entrants as food for thought:

– more room for hypotheses and unusual ideas

– more courage to experiment

– content before design

There were few projects that held up under these criteria, but—and this must be said—the Honorary Mentions were especially convincing either because of their sometimes unusual implementation or because of a promising idea. Or—as in the case of the three nominations—because of the idea and the implementation.

In the end, the hope predominates that the very young people of today, equipped with the technical capabilities that they have already proven this year, will next year already be able to engage in truly freestyle computing!

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