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“Every year, we’re totally blown away!” Dresden Medienfestival

“Every year, we’re totally blown away!” Dresden’s media and culture center says that children and young people don’t have “digital dementia”

On 15th and 16th November 2014, Daktylos Media is presenting its Meta Morfoss app to the public in Dresden. Children and their families will be able to test the first reading quest in the world. This will be just one of the activities on offer at a huge festival organized by Dresden’s media and cultural center that encourages people to try things out, inform themselves and be amazed. Daktylos Media spoke to the head of the center’s project office Kirsten Mascher about the festival background and goals.

Pong Invaders Reality auf dem MB21-Festival 2011 / CC-BY-NC MB21 Marco Prill
Pong Invaders Reality at the MB21-Festival 2011 / CC-BY-NC MB21 Marco Prill

mb21 German Multimedia Prize @Medienfestival 2014

Daktylos Media (DM): What can we expect from this year’s media festival? What’s unmissable?

Kirsten Mascher (KM): Well, the festival itself! This year, it’s taking place in Dresden’s Technische Sammlungen museum, whose collection complements our approach wonderfully. The building will be alive with media projects, activities and workshops. There’ll be plenty for people to do on their own, to be creative, to be astonished, to try things out, to inform themselves. For example, we’ll have a laser cutter and a 3D printer, people can loeten little robots, or make siebdruck stickers or laptop and cellphone cases from different materials. On Saturday evening, there’ll be a street game in the museum’s courtyard called “Johann Sebastian Joust”. Another nice project is “Drawdio,” whereby technology transforms the human body into a musical instrument. We’re also really looking forward to the MotionComposer, a kind of interactive stage, where the tiniest of movements can trigger sounds. And of course we’ll be displaying the projects that have won the mb21 German Multimedia Prize, as well as those of the CrossMedia Tour. We’ve also invited the young awardwinners of counterpart competitions in Hungary, Austria and Switzerland.

DM: Tell us more about mb21.

KM: mb21 is the only multi media prize in Germany for this age category five years up to 25. It is jointly awarded by the Dresden Media and Cultural Center and the German Children and Young People’s Film Center. We award prizes to the multimedia-related ideas and projects of children, teenagers and young adults. We especially look at creativity and imagination and ask ourselves: “Who and what lie behind the project? How are media combined in an original way? The production conditions also play a role. For example, whether a school worked with a special needs school for instance …

DM: Who takes part in the mb21 German Multimedia Awards? Tell us about the submissions.

Kirsten Mascher, Leiterin des Projektbüros am Medienkulturzentrum Dresden. Foto: privat.
Kirsten Mascher, head of the center’s project office at Dresden’s media and cultural center. Photo: private source.

KM: The younger children submit stop-motion animation films, bringing to life cuddly toys in their kindergarden for example. Or we receive delightful stories that they’ve written themselves and adorned with their own images and sounds. The older age groups use YouTube as a forum and channel for communication, inspiration and reflection. Every year, we’re totally blown away by the number of computer games that are made and submitted. Teenagers also find playful and practical approaches to making apps that improve everyday life for example, like mobile games for discovering a city. Participants also submit installations that bring media into the physical realm, raising questions and confusing visitors, inspiring them to reflect. This goes in the direction of media art which is something 12-year-old participants are already thinking about. And of course every year there are plenty of computer-animated films that enchant us. Overall, I would say that it’s sometimes the simplest ideas that users and visitors are most attracted to and enthusiastic about.

DM: What do you say to parents and educationists who are worried that children are consuming too much media, or are skeptical towards new devices and would prefer it if children spent less time in front of screens?

Auf dem Medienfestival 2014 kann jeder die Meta Morfoß App testen. Foto: Daktylos Media
Anyone can test the Meta Morfoss app at the 2014 media festival. Photo: Daktylos Media

KM: We recommend that they allow children to use media instead of banning it but that they guide them. Forbidding it would restrict children’s access to an area that has become important in our social life. Media is part of our daily life. It’s important to find time for media alongside other activities in family life. We recommend consuming media together, to showing an interest in what children find exciting and in what they’re doing with their computers. It’s important to maintain a dialogue and to make sure things are explained. And to set aside time—for spending outside, for eating, for sleeping and for media.

Dealing with media in a competent way

DM: What do you think? How seriously should we take the the skeptics who warn against a digitalization of the lives of children and teenagers? Some even talk of “digital dementia”. …

KM: Every year, our work for the German media awards and our daily work show us a different picture. It’s important to look at what children and youths have to say and what they’re doing with media. It’s important for us all to be aware of what’s going on in terms of media in order to understand new developments, to categorize them and to draw attention to risks. Not all children and teenagers receive the necessary support from their social environment to be able to deal with media in a competent way. That’s why it’s very important that schools, extra-curricular establishments and parental home be open and that they receive support in terms of media education.

SolarKreaturen basteln auf dem MB21-Festival 2012. Foto (c) Philipp Baumgarten
Making solar creatures at the 2012 MB21 festival. Photo (c) Philipp Baumgarten

DM: Why are such voices given so much attention in the German media?

KM: Actually, history repeats itself. There have always been “new” media and they’ve always been accompanied by a sense of unease. Books were considered with distrust for a long time. It’s also a question of age when it comes to new media and the attitude depends on whether someone grew up with something or has to catch up on knowledge at a later stage in life, in a way that costs effort. One of our goals is to support this interaction with media, to help people recognize structures and how the media function. This makes it possible to recognize positive and negative aspects and how media can be used. Media competence is also a means of negotiation and action.

Das Team des Medienkulturzentrums steht bereit fürs Medienfestival 2014. Foto: Medienkulturzentrum Dresden
The media and cultural center team are all geared up for this year’s festival. Photo: Medienkulturzentrum Dresden

Media education – there’s always something new

DM: What do you most like about your job?

KM: I like the fact that there’s always something new. We always come across new subjects and that’s wonderful. Every year, it’s overwhelming to see what subjects interest children and young adults. There’s no place for pessimism at all. Instead, you can see how many important thoughts they’re having and how seriously they are dealing with certain themes. That’s the nice part. The negative part of my job is that I’m constantly having to catch up, to learn more and to grapple with new technologies and that can be annoying at times. It would be nice to just stick to one subject and build up my knowledge sometimes. But we try to do that by organizing other projects.

DM: Many thanks for the interview. Wishing you lots of fun and success at the media festival. See you there!

logo MKZD_wybór drugi_druk

Daktylos Media at the Leipzig Book Fair 2014

“Just App-etizers?” Daktylos Media participated in the Leipzig Book Fair 2014. Anna Burck (Daktylos Media), Karen Ihm (Stiftung Lesen) and Henrike Friedrichs (University of Bielefeld) discussed what makes a good book app for children. The panel was presented by the journalist and audio book narrator René Wagner.

Daktylos-Media-Leipzig-2014

Crowdfunding for our Meta Morfoss App – the starting phase begins!

Startnext-banner

Our crowdfunding campaign has begun on startnext.de! With your help, we’re hoping to fund the making of our Meta Morfoss App. We’re currently in the starting phase – that’s the phase when a project draws attention and acquires fans. When we have 100 fans, the funding phase can begin.

And here at long last is our long-awaited pitch video! Watch it and you’ll see how our app prototype works!

Please help us to realize our project, which transforms Peter Hack’s wonderful story Meta Morfoss into a unique book app for all lovers of literature, young and old. There are many reasons for supporting us and here are just a few:

  1. Our Meta Morfoss app combines good literature – not retellings or adaptations – with original illustrations and good design.
  2. We have developed a totally new app format – the reading quest. The animated illustrations do not distract users from the text like other children’s book apps do, but instead they can only be activated through reading.
  3. The app lets users switch between German, English and Russian. Our stretch goal – if more money is donated than expected – is to develop other language versions, such as Spanish!
  4. So far, there are few book apps in German for children who are of reading age, let alone innovative ones.  Our Meta Morfoss  book app is for children aged 8 and above. It is also a box of treasures for literature lovers and experts of all ages!
  5. We hope to combine the fun of reading with the fun of technology with our original experiment.

And now we need you! Please go straight to www.startnext.de/meta-morfoss-app and become our fan! We need 100 so the funding phase can begin. And you don’t have to make a donation to become a fan! Nor do you have to register with startnext – you can simply become a fan on Facebook or Google+.

Book Apps: Interactive Reading on Tablet Computers

Absorbed, we follow the black chains of signs, feel the paper of the book’s pages and hear them rustle – that’s what reading has been like since the advent of printed books. So what is to become of it?

When Alice for the iPad, one of the first book apps for mobile devices, appeared in 2010, many people reacted with alarm. Nevertheless, Atomic Antelope had great success with their app adaption of Lewis Carroll’s classic: when the screen is shaken, tilted or swiped the app animates John Tenniel’s famous illustrations. Chris Stevens, head of that young British publishing house, simply consigned his critics to the corner reserved for diehards, claiming that no one in the classic book business was willing to accept that a new era had long since dawned with unforeseen technological possibilities waiting to be exploited and not dismissed. Children who would perhaps never get their hands on a printed book could well be inspired with an enthusiasm for literature by means of the technological format of an app.

Seductive Time Thieves

It has been obvious at the latest since the first iPad came on the market that digital technology’s new conception of the book extends far beyond the ebook. Unlike the ebook, a file format for electronic books the readability of which is currently still dependent on the reading device, a book app is programmed for a particular operating system. It can be downloaded from the app stores onto mobile devices using their respective system. Already there are ten times more tablets than e-readers in German households, and more and more people are reading on mobile computers. Today children grow up considering these devices to be perfectly natural. Thanks to the simplicity of their handling and their high entertainment value, they are seductive time thieves and justifiably considered as a threat to the reading of books. At the same time, however, they provide great opportunities to communicate content in a comfortable, attractive and playful way – for example, in the form of book apps.

(c) Daktylos Media
(c) Daktylos Media

In the large online stores, many apps now contain the word “book” in their designation. The term “book app” is not clear. If a media format focussed on storytelling and communicated by an aesthetically professional design is defined as a “book”, then that leaves only a few applications left in the app stores in the category “books”. Many offers for children turn out to be games. Furthermore, their graphic design is often far inferior to that of printed books. But such applications are usually free of charge – unlike the good, well-designed book apps. Products worthy of this designation offer an ambitious design and a story which can be experienced in several additional dimensions: through the physical interaction and through features like voice-over, sound-effects, music, animated illustrations and games. Programme directors, authors, editors, translators and illustrators work in a team with composers, musicians, speakers and designers of the graphics, the sound, the user interface and the user experience, as well as with game designers and computer programmers.

High cost, high risk

And the whole working process does not end with the release of the book app. The app is continually improved through close contact with clients, and often enhanced by new features. Book app projects push at the borders of classical publishing. They are complex and costly. As a result, not classical publishing houses, but companies from the fields of communications and entertainment are involved in their production, implementing commissions and disposing of large marketing budgets. The risk that the production costs, 5-digit figures on average, are not recouped after the release of the book app is great.

Book app Pioneer in Germany

Oetinger Verlag is one of the few publishers in Germany to have dared to develop their own book app. With its Tigerbook format, Oetinger has created an format for children’s book apps with which they are gradually ‘transforming’ their backlist successes, like Der Regenbogenfisch or Der kleine Eisbär, into interactive books. These can be downloaded and read through the Tigerbooks bookshop app. With the planned release of itsTigerCreate software in spring 2014, Oetinger Verlag, in collaboration with Tigerbooks Media GmbH, aims to provide the publishing industry with a much desired solution that will make it possible to export book apps for all relevant mobile operation systems.

For the classical publishing industry, a book app is a relatively new product vision that needs to be tried and tested. For a book to inspire people to read and experience the story in app form as well, it requires creative and original concepts. For readers, however, book apps will presumably not replace classical books but rather complement them. The demand for high quality content and book apps will surely increase in the years to come – at the latest, when a tablet is as common as a mobile phone in every household.


Anna Burck
(C) Goethe-Insittut January 2014
The article was published first on www.goethe.de.


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Cultural propaganda (#HerrMaffrodit)

Ruin is not caused by lavatories but is something that starts in people’s heads” says Professor Preobrazhensky so succinctly of social shocks and upheavals in Bulgakov’s “Heart of a Dog”. Today, Russian society is trying to create an identity by normalizing gender roles and sometimes finds a peg for this in the oddest of places. This does not only have to do with homosexuality.

What does this have to do with a children’s story from the GDR, with a story written by Peter Hacks 40 years ago? We’ve come to the conclusion that the subject of metamorphosis, or metamorphoses, can be widely interpreted. A detailed analysis would find that much of the world’s cultural heritage doesn’t tally with current perceptions of morality. What could be more amoral than the pagan “atrocities” of the ancient world? Not only were sexual relations in no way “traditional”, such aberrations took place then that today would make some people’s hair stand!

This is all being jumbled up in the minds of people who literally do not have the right classical education. Moreover, the new legislative initiatives, which were first taken on the banks of the Neva, are not helping matters. Indeed, they are leading to “ruin in people’s heads” – and especially those of young people who seem to be more open minded since there is little pre-programming.

Drawing of parts of the human brain by Leonardo da Vinci wikimedia commons
Drawing of parts of the human brain by Leonardo da Vinci wikimedia commons

We were also suddenly caught up by reality when we were setting out our budget – completely unexpectedly! We had started calculating and preparing documents so we could invite bids from Russian programmers (companies and freelancers). We wrote a storyboard for our Meta Morfoss app to help prospective bidders understand better. We set out the whole story page by page, describing and naming all the scenes and characters in detail.

In the story, the main character – a girl called Meta – has an aunt called Maffrodit. She has a mustache and likes to knit. Although, we should have seen it coming, we had a bit of fun and talked about Hacks’ intelligent playful approach to meanings and his imagination. We sent out five requests for offers and waited. It didn’t take long: “Hello Nick! We’ve read everything. We’re completely against hermaphrodites any anything of the like. Nobody in the team wants to have anything to do with the project.”

Mosaic of Hermaphroditus, North Africa, Roman period, 2nd-3rd century AD wikimedia commons
Mosaic of Hermaphroditus, North Africa, Roman period, 2nd-3rd century AD wikimedia commons

What terrible fate would have befallen the app programmers from Petersburg  if Hermes and Aphrodite had known that they would be against their son?

There are many such “experts” when it comes to ancient mythology in Russia.

Can it really be that an interactive book about Meta Morfoss, who can transform herself into anything at all, might be considered reprehensible?

Daktylos Media will make good book apps

Girls reading Story Book Apps on a tablet (c) Daktylos Media
Girls reading Story Book Apps on a tablet (c) Daktylos Media
Children love books and being read aloud to – and contrary to widespread fears they also like to read on their own! Moreover, they are completely fascinated by mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Who has not experienced how a child can plunge for hours into the seductive world of apps with such a device, unless worried parents prevent him or her from doing so? Such fears are understandable but they are also stoked by well-known writers who voice warnings. We wondered how we could combine reading with new technological possibilities in such a way that their full potential was tapped but children were not only distracted and amused but also motivated to read. Our thoughts seem to have arrived at the right time since we are not the only ones to have noticed that there is a lack of innovative apps, and not only in Germany.
That’s why we founded Daktylos Media, a publishing house for creating and producing interactive children’s books as apps for iPads and Android tablets. We have invented new formats for book apps. We will start with “reading quests” and then move on to “adventure stories”. A reading quest combines e-book with interactive hidden object game. The reader can animate illustrations by finding and tapping on keywords that are located on each page of the story. Thus the animated elements of our storybook apps do not distract from reading, but provide the motivation for doing so. Our second “adventure story” app format, which is still in the planning stages, will combine fiction with non-fiction literature about human history and culture. Daktylos Media apps are available in three languages – German, English and Russian We want to be number one when it comes to buying high-quality app contents for children and youths!

Apple and Google’s stores don’t have any further search functions for book apps, which is why we’ve set up this blog. We intend to write about children’s book apps and children’s e-books in German and Russian. Anyone looking for good and sensible app contents and who wants to know more about the digital trends in children’s literature in the 21st century is in the right place.

Our first app will be the Meta Morfoss reading quest, a story by Peter Hacks about a little girl who is constantly transforming herself into something else. The app combines this wonderful story with illustrations by the Russian illustrator, animator and game designer Max Litvinov (aka KClogg). We will soon report upon our planned crowdfunding campaign, thanks to which we hope to produce the Meta Morfoss reading quest.

woodleywonderworks@flickr, CC BY 2.0
woodleywonderworks@flickr, CC BY 2.0