On Wednesday night, June 23, Wikipedia received the Golden Nica Award from Ars Electronica at a gala event in New York City (here's the Ars Electronica news release). Afterward, a Wikipedia exhibit, including large posters about the project -- with content Ars Electronica acquired from the project sites and a video clip they took of Jimbo in London -- was put up in the lobby of the main UN building. Attending the awards ceremony were many of the delegates to an economic summit (the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit) being held in the UN building the following day.
As a Wikipedian who lives in New York City, I had the privilege of representing everyone. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life.
The day began Wednesday morning at an exhibition of digital art throughout the past two decades, at a gallery called Eyebeam. It was a remarkable exhibition, and I began to meet some of the other people whose projects were being recognized. It was an eclectic bunch of wonderful people from Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. They all had exciting projects, and we immediately began discussing ways to cooperate. After all, they all knew Wikipedia and use it regularly. In fact, as someone who gets frustrated sometimes about the way things are going, it was really rewarding to hear people who are not Wikipedians show their enthusiasm for our work, and tell me how much they use our material.
That afternoon, after a quick coffee with the German group, Democracy on Line (1), we all met in the hotel to catch a bus to where the awards were handed out. We were shown our seats (front row center) and the stage, and we were given a rundown of how the event would operate. We were also told how to get on stage and accept our awards. Four groups received honorary mention, while Wikipedia and The World Starts With Me (2), a web-based venture to promote AIDS education in Uganda, received Golden Nicas. The award for The World Starts With Me was accepted by Mr. Alex Okwaput and three Dutch women, Ineke Aquarius, Hester Ezra, and Emer Beamer. We were told there would be no acceptance speeches; instead we would be asked a brief question, to which we were to give a brief answer.
This was followed by a cocktail and buffet reception. The champagne flowed freely, and all of the award recipients had a chance to talk and share ideas. I already mentioned Democracy on Line. Other winners were Krebs-Kompass, Open Clothes, and mulonga.net.
Once everyone was seated in the award area, we heard a piece by Philip Glass, who was in attendance, and several short talks about virtual communities. The United Nations was represented by Ms. Denise O'Brien. The two sponsoring organizations, Ars Electronica and SAP, also spoke. So did Howard Rheingold, the guru of online communities, and a big fan of Wikipedia.
Accepting the Nica with a grin in the UN audience hall
When it was time to receive the award, I was asked where I see Wikipedia five years down the road. Apparently, I answered: "Wikipedia shows that everyone can be a learner, but also that everyone can be a teacher too... In five years I want more people around the world in more languages and of all ages, to become teachers and learners." The most exciting thing for me, however, was that when we were named, someone in the back cheered. I have no idea who it was, but it was really typical of all the warmth with which we as a community were received.
When the awards were over, there was dessert and more wine. Never one to turn down wine, well ... I was interviewed by some newspapers and by Austrian television, which was very exciting. At about midnight they cleared the room, but I went out with the people from The World Starts With Me and Democracy on Line for a couple of drinks to celebrate.
It was a great evening for me, but more than that, I really learned something important at this event. There are people out there who use Wikipedia and admire Wikipedia. It goes far beyond our own community, and we are really having an impact on people, everywhere. There are also many other great projects out there. I hope we take this opportunity to find ways to work together and to cooperate, to improve ourselves and to contribute to the many people who really like us and use us. -Danny 23:31, 24 Jun 2004 (UTC)