The Dukes of URL
2002 SXSW Web Awards
Independent filmmakers have hundreds of festivals to choose from. Independent musicians have quite a few, as well. But if you're an independent Web producer, your choices are a lot more limited.
One of the few chances for indie Web publishers to collect some brass for the mantel is the South by Southwest Web Awards, where the Web's up-and-coming glitterati compete to win a coveted Earl award (get it? URL), in one of several categories, including Animation, Weblog, and Grrl Site.
The only catch is that you had to have gone live in 2001. The list of nominees includes the Web sites of large corporations, side-by-side with personal home pages. They're judged based on criteria that include interactivity, design, and content.
"People from all over the world submit Web sites," says contest organizer Shawn O'Keefe, an alumnus of the Convergent Media program at the University of Texas. "We have hundreds and hundreds of submissions. We were a little down this year in numbers, but it was kind of neat, the quality of the sites this year is a lot better."
That's evident on sites like Hey Now (bailiwick.lib.uiowa.edu/swiss/web/heynow.html), by Thomas Swiss, a professor of English and rhetoric of inquiry at the University of Iowa whose Web work pairs his poems with music and animation by collaborators. Hey Now expands the possibilities of the interactive narrative -- Swiss' poem is modular, and the way the parts fit together is dictated by a click of the mouse. Although the design and sound are sometimes obtrusive, Hey Now creates different rhythms and meanings, verging on the ambient.
Another notable nominated site is Dichotomy: It Was a Matter of Time and Place (www.outtacontext.com/dichotomy/), where people can share their experiences from September 11. The site pairs firsthand accounts from people who were affected directly by the terrorist attack with personal accounts from others who were affected only indirectly. "While most of us were affected by the horror of what we witnessed and felt, our lives will continue in much the same way as before," says the Web site. "Not to minimize the intensity of our reactions and feelings, we are witnesses and chroniclers of that day. Other lives, however, were forever changed or extinguished by their location in time and place." It's an elegant memorial, a monument where you can record your own experience and write your own name.
Nikolai Nolan is a nominee for the second year running. This time it's for his site, the First Annual Weblog Awards (www.fairvue.com/?feature=awards2001). Last year, he won the SXSW Web site competition student category for his weblog, Fairvue. He went on to start his own Web site competition, nicknamed the Bloggies, which are awarded to the most popular personal sites known as weblogs, or "blogs."
"I was wondering which blogs people would choose as the best if it was left up to everybody," says Nolan. "So in 2001 I started the awards ceremony, and people liked the idea and voted for their favorite ones." The "ceremony," in true web-crawler fashion, was held in a blogger chat room and was attended by about 38 people.
A lot more people than that will probably show up for the SXSW Web Awards on March 10, so festival organizers decided to book a luxury hotel -- the Four Seasons -- rather than trying to cram everyone in a chat room. Rumor has it they'll even have hors d'oeuvres.
The SXSW Web Awards take place Sunday, March 10, at the Four Seasons (98 San Jacinto). A pre-party featuring live music and food kicks off at 6pm.
For a complete list of nominees, see www.sxsw.com/interactive/web_awards/finalists.php/. You can cast your vote for the People's Choice Award at www.sxsw.com/interactive/web_awards/peopleschoice/ . For more information, visit www.sxsw.com/interactive .