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About Dust or MagicOnce upon a time (1996), the world’s oldest and largest children’s book fair wanted to start a prize initiative for “new media.”They asked my publication, then called Children’s Software Revue if we’d create it for them. We accepted on the condition that they would agree to pay for and host a juried competition that included a face-to-face meeting of reviewers, in a setting conducive to actual product demonstrations.
It came to pass. In the spring of 1997, a group of reviewers gathered from around parts of Europe, Asia and the USA to participate in three days of debate and product demonstrations. Participants included some of the top minds in the interactive space — people like Judy Salpeter from Technology & Learning, Dr’s. Ann Orr and Ellen Wolock from CSR, James Oppenheim, Peter Scisco (former editor of Compute!), Dr. Kyung Woo Lee from Korea, Thomas Feibel from Germany , Caterina Cangià and Gigi Tagliapietra from Italy. From France, repeat jurors were Georgia Leguem and Claude Combet; and from the UK came Pam Turnbull and Jon Smith (Editor of CD-ROM Today, and today a producer for Travelers Tales, aka LEGO Star Wars). In 2001, when the market for the software slowed, the Bologna New Media Prize ended. In an effort to keep the spirited conversation growing, we decided to start an annual meeting to be financed only by participant tuition.
We also wanted to consider the expanding range of children’s technology products, and to personally get to know others who where working in this space. Rather than coming up with a prize, we decided to review the year.
The title “Dust or Magic” came with the blessing of Bob Hughes, author of the book Dust or Magic: Secrets of Successful Multimedia Design. In the forward of his book, Bob referenced the poem “An idea can turn from dust to magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it.” (Matsuo Basho, 1644-1694).
The first Dust or Magic sold out, despite the events of September 11. Right away, it was clear that we had not only captured the essence of those early juror’s meetings, but we’d made it better.
We (the media) can learn much more about the thinking behind each product without feeling bribed or manipulated. The spirited debates have continued each fall and the quest for the magic has become a bit of a celebration. We are thankful to everyone who has helped make this cooperative event possible, and hope it continues to influence the quality of children’s interactive media products for many more years to come.
Warren Buckleitner, Editor Children’s Technology Review