As a Fulbright fellow, Dr Jason Nelson has joined the ranks of Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners and heads of state.
The American-born Queensland College of Art digital art lecturer undertook his fellowship at the University of Bergen in Norway.
The Fulbright Program is the largest educational exchange program in the world, operating in more than 160 countries.
“The application process took almost a year, so it was quite surreal and strange when the news finally came through,” he said.
“It is a massive amount of work to get there, but I was honoured – it’s such a prestigious fellowship.”
In Norway, Dr Nelson created digital art and poetry, and taught courses on digital culture, writing and art.
“I had a huge burst of creativity during my time largely due to being inspired by Norway.
“I walked almost 500km over the year I was over there – capturing hundreds of images, videos, sound files and stories/narratives.
“Norway was definitely a place of unexpected beauty.”
Dr Nelson created five new artworks during his fellowship, including digital art creations shown at the Bergen Sentrum Bibliotek, The Piksel Festival, Mount Floyen and the Humanities Bibliotek at the University of Bergen. Other artworks included creations for the Click Festival in Denmark, a new digital poem for BleuOrange in Quebec, Canada and a new work for the Galway Arts Centre in Ireland.
Dr Nelson’s work uses technology to bring poetry to life and has won him an online audience of millions.
The American-born former city planner discovered his vocation when he decided to use the mapping software he used at work to enhance his poetry.
“I was one of the first people to combine poetry with game engines and it just exploded from there,” said Dr Nelson, creator of the secrettechnology.com art portal.
“The response showed me that people wanted to experience and explore poetry. They just needed a way in that they understood and felt comfortable with.”
Dr Nelson uses technology to construct challenging, powerful work, using soundscapes, images, interfaces, website codes and words.
“Digital poetry is not about showing how skilled you are with technology. The poem is still the most important element, the beating heart of any concept, and success is best measured by the experience of the poetry, not the mastery of the technology.”
Dr Nelson’s work has featured in galleries in New York, Paris and Edinburgh and has been archived by the US Library of Congress. However, his greatest audience is online and he acknowledges Griffith University’s willingness to support this new field.
“Digital poetry doesn’t bow down to institutions or expectations, but Griffith clearly recognised the potential of this form of expression and has given me fantastic support,” he said.
Since returning from his fellowship, Dr Nelson has been shortlisted for a Queensland Literary Award in the newly created category for digital literature.
“For the first time ever these awards are recognising digital literature and I think that reflects the growing interest in this field,” he said.