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JR Carpenter takes the big prize at the 2016 New Media Writing Prize Awards

UK based Canadian artist J.R. Carpenter won the Main Prize at last night’s New Media Writing Prize Awards, held at Bournemouth University. Her interactive digital poem/artwork The Gathering Cloud took the top award, beating five other shortlisted works. The judges admired Carpenter’s grasp of digital and non-digital elements, and found her piece, about the relationship between the digital and the natural, beautiful and engaging.

Carpenter had already opened the evening with an inspiring talk. Nearly 100 people in the auditorium heard her speak about her work, spanning two decades, describing how her projects rarely work out as planned. Working with found text and images, she often discovers that analogue ideas shift into digital and back into analogue as her obsessive research reveals more and more angles to explore. Carpenter also won last year’s Dot Award for her wind and weather idea, but she explained how that idea had morphed into something completely different, ending up as The Gathering Cloud. The prize’s sponsor, Chris Meade of if:book UK, presented the award to Carpenter, who said she really hadn’t expected to win.

500 Apocalypses by New York based Phantom Williams was given a special mention by host Jim Pope, who praised Williams’ hyper-text for its imaginative telling of 500 collapsing civilisations from around the universe. Pope said that all the shortlisted entries were excellent and that the judges had a tough job deciding which should take the award.

Spanish journalist Carla Pedret won the Gorkana Award for UK digital journalism, with her interactive report on the plight of asylum-seeking immigrants in the UK. The other big winner in the journalism category was Lithuanian journalist Berta Tilmantaite, whose digital documentary Will to Win told the stories of Lithuanian paralympians, in a mix of words, images and video. Tilmantaite and her team won the Gorkana Award for the best International digital journalism. Gorkana’s Head of News and Content, Philip Smith, spoke enthusiastically about the project and greeted Tilmantaite via Skype. Speaking from Buenos Aries, Tilmantaite said her team’s aim was primarily to bring attention to the struggles faced by paralympians.

The Dot Award (given for the most promising idea for a work yet to be developed), went to Theodoros Chiotis for his concept of a multimedia, ‘live’ autobiographical performance. Speaking via Skype from Greece, Chiotis said how he wasn’t quite sure how he was actually going to make the piece, but sponsor Chris Meade said that it was that exploratory character that attracted him and his judging panel to the idea. Chiotis promised to post his performance online throughout the coming year as it builds.

The Student Prize for 2016, sponsored by Unicorn Training, was taken by Bournemouth University undergraduate Jamie Paddock. His interactive narrative, The Dying Mind, was a moving exploration of mental illness and isolation. Receiving his prize from Unicorn CEO Peter Phillips, Paddock told the audience how he himself suffers from bi-polar disorder and Asperger’s, and that this creative work had been a way to express difficult issues, and hopefully help others facing such problems.

For the first time, the awards evening was live streamed around the world by a team of Bournemouth University TV production students.

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