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Whimsy wins out at annual Wonderland Award ceremony

A clever combination of digital sensors and analog construction takes first place at the USC Libraries competition

“Curiouser and Curiouser!” is a clever combination of digital sensors and analog construction that delighted the judges with its sense of playfulness.

Martzi Campos and Yuting Su took first prize in the 11th annual USC Libraries Wonderland Award competition for “Curiouser and Curiouser!”

Judges chose the interactive book from an array of imaginative submissions by 45 students from USC and other participating institutions around Southern California.

Campos and Su are MFA graduate students in the Interactive Media and Games division at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

“Computers are the new Wonderland of the 21st century, and we wanted to make ‘Curiouser and Curiouser!’ the rabbit hole to this Wonderland,” they said in accepting the award at a Doheny Memorial Library ceremony on April 24. “We tried to blend the lines between digital and physical games, keep the joy of reading books and create an innovative, playful way to explore Lewis Carroll’s classic story.”

Their work, a clever combination of digital sensors and analog construction, delighted the judges with its sense of play. The reader-player is required to interact with the pop-up book and an adjacent computer screen to solve a variety of puzzles.

Hands-on gaming

Judges Andrew and Lindsey Woodham congratulated the pair at the ceremony, describing the project as “combining the whimsy of a pop-up book with hands-on digital Carrollian gaming in a way that truly captured the spirit of Lewis Carroll and the Wonderland Award.”

“Curiouser and Curiouser!” made its debut in March at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Second place went to USC Roski School of Art and Design junior Tena Keleman for “Brailltography Book.” The multilayered piece combines two 19th-century invented alphabets, one designed by Frenchman Louis Braille for the blind, the other by Lewis Carroll, who created nyctography as a way to write in the dark. The entry also features puzzles and riddles that require the viewer to interact with the new alphabet to reveal the answers.

In welcoming the audience to the ceremony, Dean Catherine Quinlan of the USC Libraries recognized the inspirational support of the annual competition’s founder, Linda Cassady.

“It was Linda’s vision and generosity that brought the Wonderland Award into being more than a decade ago,” Quinlan said. “Her passion — not to mention her generous support of the prizes — has more than any other factor transformed this competition into an inimitable and much-anticipated part of academic and social life at USC.”

Inspirational work

The Wonderland Award is an annual multidisciplinary competition showcasing the creative and interpretive talents of students from USC and other Southern California institutions as they transform the life and writing of Lewis Carroll into new creative and scholarly works.

All student submissions become a permanent part of the G. Edward Cassady, M.D., and Margaret Elizabeth Cassady, R.N., Lewis Carroll collection, which George Cassady donated to the USC Libraries in 2000 and from which students draw inspiration and raw material for their Wonderland entries. The libraries have published a series of anthologies — titled the Liddell Books and available at the USC Bookstore — showcasing the submissions.

This year’s Wonderland ceremony coincided with worldwide celebrations in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the publication of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

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Whimsy wins out at annual Wonderland Award ceremony

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