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X by Y visualizes all submissions to the prix ars electronica, from the early beginnings in 1987 up to 2009. The goal is to characterize the "ars world" in quantitative terms. A series of diagrams groups and juxtaposes the submissions by years, categories, prizes and countries. The graphics are composed of little dots (each representing a single submission) to provide a visual scale for the statistical statements and thematize the relation of the totality and the individual.

In collaboration with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for

Exhibited at ars electronica 2009: History Lounge


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After some initial experiments with the existing data, I became interested in providing both a bird's eye view on the submissions - allowing to generate hypothesis about the "ars world" – but also respecting and representing each individual submissions, instead of hiding them behind the abstract numbers. Accordingly, I constructed information graphics composed of little dots, where each dot represents a single submission.
Their placement is computed with a Fibonacci series, imitating the arrangement of sunflower seeds – a very efficient and visually mesmerizing way of packing small elements into a large circle. Color distinguishes the submission categories, and a diamond shape marks submission that have been awarded a prize. The numbers in the center of the diagram elements are constructed by skipping points in the pattern – establishing a tight connection between the number and the individuals, but also demonstrating the duality of the two concepts.

All submissions

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This graphic shows all submissions to the prix ars electronica over the last 22 years. Each dot symbolizes one submission. Resembling a tree cross–section, the oldest submissions are located at the center, surrounded by more recent ones. It constitutes the starting point for all the other graphics, which are a split-up version of this one, analyzing the data according to different criteria.

By Prize

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This diagram is enough motivate the whole project: Splitting the submissions by the prize received (or not) reveals that only 4% of all submissions has received an honorary mention, distinction or a Golden Nica. The remaining 96% remained invisible – up to now.

By Country

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A map diagram of the submitters' countries of origin. Inspired by the New York Times' map of olympic medals, the layout is calculated with a physical rigid body model, trying to approximate the exact locations, while avoiding circle overlap. The whole of eastern europe was manually positioned, however, as things were pretty messed up there.

Inspecting the map in detail reveals the Euro/US-centric nature of media art, with very few contributions from South America, Africa, Russia and Asia - except Japan. A large number of submissions from France and Spain were in the field of computer animation and film (orange). Italy, Sweden and UK show a tendency towards music categories (purple), while Japan seems more into interactive art (blue). In contrast, Germany and the US lean towards Computer Graphics in the early years of the festival (red). Almost a two thirds of Austria's submissions stem from the (Austrian-only) U19 categories.

By Category

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A quantitative analysis of the submissions by category. At the same time, it provides a sense of the fraction of awarded projects per category - the fainter pie, composed of diamond shapes in the right of each circle. Although being around for only 7 years, the computer graphics category has the highest number of submissions overall (unless we combine Computer Musics and Digital Musics).

By Year

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This sequence of pie charts shows a clear division of the prix history in three eras: in 1995, the Computer Graphics category was discontinued - instead, the "world wide web" category entered the scene, leading to a sudden decrease in submissions (one possible reason: in the Computer Graphics category, it was more common to submit multiple pieces per year). The years after 2004 show a stronger diversification in categories, and a sudden increase in submissions, which is largely due to the u19 categories for Austrian artists under 19.

By Year and Category

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A matrix version of the timeline, to provide an inspection of the development of individual groups of categories. Both in color coding and the row selection, we decided to group corresponding categories, although their titles were changed over the years. (Conversely, it should also be noted that some categories with identical names had different orientations in different years.) Compared to the pie chart, it is easier to see how animation/film, music and later interactive art have become the long term backbones of the prix.

All together now

All diagrams together in one
.pdf download

(beware: over 40MB...)


The project was exhibited as part of a large poster at the History Lounge of the ars electronica 2009, together with other works from the Visualization group of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for We added little annotation arrows to explain and highlight interesting stories in the data.


Visualizations designed and produced by Moritz Stefaner. In collaboration with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for
Special thanks to Dieter Daniels for providing the opportunity, Sandor Herramhof for the extensive data collecting and processing, Dietmar Offenhuber for creative input and Ule Münster for the exhibition poster design and the color palette used for the categories.