In 2005, the Golden Nica, the highest prize, was awarded in six categories: "Computer Animation/Visual Effects," "Digital Musics," "Interactive Art," "Net Vision," "Digital Communities" and the "u19" award for "freestyle computing." Each Golden Nica came with a prize of €10,000, apart from the u19 category, where the prize was €5,000. In each category, there are also Awards of Distinction and Honorary Mentions.
The Golden Nica Award
The Golden Nica is replica of the Greek Nike of Samothrace. It is a handmade wooden statuette, plated with gold, so each trophy is unique: approximately 35 cm high, with a wingspan of about 20 cm, all on a pedestal. "Prix Ars Electronica" is a phrase composed of French, Latin and Spanish words, loosely translated as "Electronic Arts Prize."
The "Computer Graphics" category (1987–1994) was open to different kinds of computer images. The "Computer Animation" (1987–1997) was replaced by the current "Computer Animation/Visual Effects" category in 1998. New York artist and musician John Fekner received honorary awards for Concrete People and The Last Days of Good and Evil in 1987 and 1988.
This category is for those making electronic music and sound art through digital means. From 1987 to 1998 the category was known as "Computer music." Two Golden Nicas were awarded in 1987, and none in 1990. There was no Computer Music category in 1991.
Prizes in the category of interactive art have been awarded since 1990. This category applies to many categories of works, including installations and performances, characterized by audience participation, virtual reality, multimedia and telecommunication.
In the categories "World Wide Web" (1995 – 96) and ".net" (1997 – 2000), interesting web-based projects were awarded, based on criteria like web-specificity, community-orientation, identity and interactivity. In 2001, the category became broader under the new name "Net Vision / Net Excellence", with rewards for innovation in the online medium.
Danny Wool, representing Wikipedia, receives a 2004 Golden Nica.
A category begun in 2004 with support from SAP (and a separate ceremony in New York City two months before the main Ars Electronica ceremony) to celebrate the 25th birthday of Ars Electronica. Two Golden Nicas were awarded.