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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

Our crowdfunding campaign was a great success!

opensourceway@flickr CC BY-SA 2.0 http://tr.im/5lnhs
opensourceway@flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Dear friends, lovers of literature and app fans: Our crowdfunding campaign for the Meta Morfoss App was a great success and we’re hoping to have the finished product available for you by December 2014. Follow us and keep up to date with our news, here in our blog, via Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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

“Children? I don’t know any at all.” A discussion about Peter Hacks and his writing for children

Our first book app brings Peter Hacks’ story Meta Morfoss to iPads and Android tablets. Daktylos Media spoke to the publisher Dr Matthias Oehme about Peter Hacks and his wonderful texts for children.

Peter Hacks, 1976. Foto: Bundesarchiv
Peter Hacks, 1976. Photo: German Federal Archives

Daktylos Media (DM): How did you meet Peter Hacks?

Matthias Oehme (MO): I had known him as a poet for a long time, but I met him much later on. It happened when I took over Eulenspiegel Verlag, about 1994, and I was trying to acquire Hacks as an author. And although this didn’t take place immediately, he was very friendly, open and really interested in what was happening with the old GDR publishing house. I had the impression that our meetings and talks, sometimes in the office, sometimes at his home in Schönhauser Allee or outside Berlin on his land, were overwhelmingly filled with sympathy and consent. He did want us to publish him.

DM: What particularly has stayed with you?

MO: Even if it’s only one aspect, it should not be underestimated: I had the impression that he was extremely curious; he always wanted to know the latest about issues and people, whether this had do with the publishing industry, political developments or literary gossip – it just had to be new. He was easily bored by anything else. And of course he had a judgment to make about everything; I’m not saying opinion because his judgments were usually better founded than simple opinions.

T. reads Stories about Henriette and Uncle Titus, Kinderbuchverlag's second edition 1982 (c) Daktylos Media
T. reads Stories about Henriette and Uncle Titus, Kinderbuchverlag’s second edition 1982 (c) Daktylos Media

DM: Hacks, who didn’t have any children himself, wrote wonderful children’s literature. What in your opinion makes the texts so timeless and so powerful?

MO: They don’t overshadow children, they’re not didactic, they’re full of coherent logic and amusing wisdom, which children like very much. These are powerful, imaginative fables, and in terms of language the texts are clear and original and highly poetic, and confident attitudes and actions are always expressed. This is not literature for times of crisis or phases of decline only. What remains true is: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

DM: Do you know what significance writing texts for children had for Hacks, what role this played in his life, what he associated with it?

MO: He wrote about it in his essay: “What is a drama, what is a child?” and I don’t want to presume to know better than he did. But I think that in terms of literary aesthetics writing for children was not so important to him, and to that extent these texts are flowers from the margins of poetry. However, producing these things did come naturally to him, i.e. he often enough really felt like doing it apparently. The way some great playwrights sometimes wrote poems or narrative texts. He also had a highly developed sense of genre so that it was clear to him that certain subjects could only be treated within the realm of children’s literature. In 1977, he gave this answer to a question posed by the GDR Kinderbuchverlag about why he wrote for children and how come he knew them so well:

People ask: ‘Of course, you have children?’ And I respond: ‘No’: So they ask: ‘How come you know them then?’ I answer: ‘I don’t know any at all.’ And then people get confused and say: ‘But you seem to like them!’ – Is that really so difficult? I have no children and therefore I don’t know any and for those two very reasons it thus takes very little effort to keep my good opinion of them.

DM: Hacks’ stories, such as Meta Morfoss or Stories about Henriette and Uncle Titus, emerged from playing with language and its different meanings. Sometimes they come across as absurd. Can one say that there was an absurd narrative trend in East German children’s literature comparable to such developments in the English-speaking world or in the early Soviet Union? Or is Hacks an isolated case?
MO: I would presume that the similarities are very superficial. The absurd label does not fit the workings of Hacks’ imagination. Hacks is indeed an isolated case, I do believe that, but he is definitely grounded in realism; perhaps it’s his range, the fertility of his understanding of realism, that makes him unique. Everything that seems so fantastical, even absurd, like a bear who has the say at a rangers’ ball, is found in stories that are steeped in reality and adapted from reality with wit and twists and humor that children do not mistake for the countless grumpy products of anthropomorphosizing half-teachers? They have an unerring nose for these.

The Bear at the Hunters' Ball. Illustrations by Walter Schmögner (c) Eulenspiegel Verlag
The Bear at the Hunters’ Ball. Illustrations by Walter Schmögner (c) Eulenspiegel Verlag

DM: A Russian team of developers that we had approached to program our Meta Morfoss app refused with the excuse: “We don’t want to have anything to do with ‘hermaphrodites’.” Do you know whether Meta Morfoss has ever been considered offensive in the past?

MO: I find that refusal funny but not only funny. No, I don’t know of anything although there were always some objections to Hacks right from the start, including to his texts for children. It’s teachers, the real ones and those who purport to be, who often have their problems with him. But I don’t know of such a sophisticated prejudice; and that’s all that is. I don’t know if it can trigger a socio-political debate. Don’t forget that a GDR child was less easy to deceive than a West German one. Thanks to Hacks in the end!

DM: Thank you for taking the time to conduct this interview with us!


Matthias Oehme, Geschäftsführer des Eulenspiegel Verlags und Peter Hacks Verleger. Foto: Simone Uthleb (c) Eulenspiegel Verlag
Matthias Oehme, CEO of Eulenspiegel Verlag and publisher of Peter Hacks.

Photo: Simone Uthleb

(c) Eulenspiegel Verlag

The publisher and literature specialist Dr Matthias Oehme was born in 1954. He studied German in Leipzig and was awarded a PhD in 1984 for his examination of dramaturgy and drama theory in Schiller’s late works. In 1993, he and Jacqueline Kühne took over the publishing house Das Neue Berlin and Eulenspiegel Verlag, which continued to be run together by a new company. He still works as an editor occasionally (Herder, Schiller, Brecht, Hacks).

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+.

Preparing for Crowdfunding (Daktylos Media Bloopers)

In February 2014 we will launch a crowdfunding campaign on the German platform Startnext.de for our first Reading Quest: The Meta Morfoss App.

Now we’re preparing our pitch video in which we tell about us, our project and the rewards for our supporters. And here is a preliminary reward for you …

Our Startnext.de Pitch Video’s blooper bonustrack
Cameraman (most patient in the world): readymedia / Andreas Fertig

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