Itinera

    • New Itinera Visualization
    • Current Itinera Visualization
    New Itinera Visualization

    This is a screenshot of the foundation for the new Itinera visualization that I've been working on. The goal is to be able to show relationships between different people in an informative way. This would allow for new understandings of the relationships between the Travelers as a whole, or in smaller more personal groups. 

     

    Summer Progress on Itinera's "Travelers" Visualization

    For the past year or so I have been working on learning how to write Javascript D3 code and use that knowledge to write a new visualization for the "Travelers" section on Itinera. This is an update of the progress I've made while at the VMW this summer.

    In May I started learning how to navigate the server that Itinera is on. Along with that I was introduced for the first time to the code that runs Itinera's current "Travelers" visualization. Spending time reading the code and figuring out what parts do what was really beneficial to my overall understanding. Throughout June and July I was able to make a basic but working concept of the new visualization. The nodes successfully appear and also respond when clicked on. Unfortunately, the code is buggy and doesn't display the relationships in an informative way. There is still a lot more work to do, but at least the foundation steps are working successfully. I've spent a lot of time watching D3 tutorials and learning the language, but it's a goal of mine to really solidify my understandings. Along with working on Itinera, this summer I have been working on a draft for my contribution to a collaborative multi-media essay about Itinera. The prompt is for six members of the Itinera team to present their lived experiences with working on Itinera. The plan for my contribution is to write a short essay and have interactive live code to go with it. Most of my experience has been working on code, which might be difficult to express in writing. Therefore, having a live interactive example will be an informative way to show the process and how it works. On the top of my to-do list is to write the essay portion, then figure out how to make visualizations that are compatible online and descriptive. Throughout the summer I've also worked on transcriptions for the Decomposing Bodies project. I look forward to continuing my work at the VMW when the fall semester starts!

    Categories: 
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
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    Progress with Itinera

    Throughout the past month or two, Victoria and I have been translating the Minutes of the Royal Academy of Architecture and we have been having a great time with it! So far, we have realized that several of the architects went on tours together and while not all went at the same time, there seems to be a lot of overlap between the trips. I would say the most difficult part of this process is translating the text because it is 16th century French and many of the words do not match up. Many of the words have second meanings such as la maison which does not literally mean "the house" but "the family". As we continue to put the tour stops into Itinera, I have noticed that the architects go to church to church or to an aristocrats home where they then observe the stones. It is very interesting to see how invested they are to build the perfect building for King Louis XIV and I can't wait to read more about their travels.

    Categories: 
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  • Here is an agent put into Itinera.

     

    Quarries and Itinera

    It's been a little more than a month since I joined the Itinera project, and I am happy to say that there has been much progress made. Supriya and I have finished reading through the Minutes of the Royal Academy of Architecture and have finished entering agents into Itinera. An example is pictured above. In the next upcoming weeks, we will really have to work hard to finish putting in the entire trip that we have mapped out, put together our poster for our presentation, and finish up our abstract (which is actually due Friday). In my class related to the research, we worked on preparing our abstracts and "elevator speeches" about our research. I am extremely excited to present our hard work.

    I have found that the hardest part of this project so far was actually reading the text and pinpointing the important information needed. One thing I was especially excited about, though, was realizing changes in the French language in the minutes and the modern version. This made it a lot easier to translate the text, as I realized that "mesme" was mean to be même (which means same). Simply understanding these differences allowed for quicker reading and comprehension. From this point on, I believe that the project will go quicker in getting the information for the trip into Itinera, as we already have it mapped out in our own notes.

    Au revoir,

    Victoria

     

    Categories: 
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Introduction and Goals

    Hi!

    My name is Laxmisupriya Avadhanula and I am a part of the FE-R working with Dr. Drew Armstrong and Lily Brewer.  The project is to categorize the archaeologists in the quarries they had visited in France in 1678 and then documenting their tour into Itinera. While I have arrived to this project a bit late, I am hoping to be able to use my French minor and Neuroscience major for making connections. I am hoping to be analyze how visuals patterns are easier to understand by the brain and make connections when it is in a 3-D model compared to words or a 2-D model. At the same time, I am hoping to answer how their travels influenced different archaeologists. While this is a different field for me, I am hoping to understand how the Arts and Science are codependent.

    Categories: 
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Introduction and Goals

    Hello,

    My name is Victoria Johngrass, and I am a freshman working in accordance with the Office of First Experience in Research with Dr. Drew Armstrong and Lily Brewer. As I joined the project late, there will be a lot of catching up to do, but I am eager to contribute to this. With my intended major of biology, the project of categorizing the archaeologists in quarries in France in 1678 and documenting their “tour” into Itinera is a bit out of my comfort zone, but I am interested to see what direction it takes me in. Thankfully, my other intended major of French will assist in reading and comprehending the documents provided.

    This project is extremely out of the box for me, but I intend to relate it to my scientific discipline. To do this, I will analyze patterns and process, and I will try to look at the linearity of the travellers routes. How are different architects connected? When and where do their paths cross? How did their travels evolve and what did they influence? These are the questions I hope my research with this project will answer, and I hope this project will also provide to me a greater understanding of the digital humanities and their importance in today’s society.

    What I hope to get out of my experience in this lab is an understanding of the research process, gathering and inputting data, as well as forming connections. While this is a pretty general idea of what takes place in a research lab, I feel as though it can also be applied to what I wish to do with my own research in the field of Biology. I also hope this project helps me to grow as a student and expand my horizons, as I have already looked into a few Art History courses since meeting Drew and Lily.

    I will keep this blog updated with my findings and progress throughout the semester.

    Au revoir

    Victoria

    Categories: 
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Itinera's Best Practices

    In the Fall semester of 2016, I started training potential Itinera contributors outside the post of project manager. These individuals included Eleanor Harvey, senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Fracesca Torello, professor of architecture at Carnegie Mellon, S. E. Hackney, fellow Visual Media Workshop project manager, and Lindsay Decker, VMW graduate assistant. Through their feedback and questions during the trainings, I was able to refine my Spring semester project, which is to develop a Scalar site dedicated to outlining the best practices for Itinera. My vision for this project is to provide a platform for scholars interested in the mission of Itinera to be able to view and appreciate its networked complexity and readily envision themselves contributing to that complexity with their own objects and processes of inquiry.
     

    Scalar
    Currently, the content manager I am looking into is Scalar, an open-sourced authoring and publishing platform developed by the University of Southern California. Their mission is to enable their authors to assemble various media with text to create and structure easily navigatable, long-form and essay-length pages. From Itinera's point of view, the benefit of organizing information in this digital format is creating a business-card-like deliverable that, when given to interested parties, demonstrates the networked and relational complexity–while still, I hope, the do-ability–of working with Itinera through Collective Access, the University of Pittsburgh's web-based cataloging tool. (Collective Access is used to catalog the digital images for both the University Art Gallery and Decomposing Bodies project here at the University of Pittsburgh.)
     

    Itinera's Best Practices
    In using Scalar, I am building an online manual that: one, walks the user through the process of data input, both in text-based and video/screen capture directions; two, outlines common issues that arise when the historical record is translated into structural hierarchies in flattened input forms; and three, answers to frequently asked questions. I am certain to include the workflow, diligently put together by Jen Donnelly and Meredith North before me. Also, my growing list of chapters include: Source Authorities, Highlighting Narrative and Historical Tone, Location Specificity, Object Metadata, Supporting Agents Input, and a template for Users' Logging and Reflections. The aim of these chapters is to highlight issues that have emerged for the art historians working on Itinera that concern the nuances of the historical narrative that are lost in the metadata.

    For example, "Highlighting Narrative:"
    Tour Case Study:

    AG16051001_mn, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu:

    This is a factual overview of Montagu’s Turkish tour:
    With her husband and ambassador Edward Wortley Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu set out to Turkey from Westminster, England by way of the Netherlands, Austria, and Serbia from August of 1716 to November 1718.

    This is historical context suggesting the motivations behind the tour:
    At that time, Turkey was at war with the Venetian Republic, whereby Mr. Montagu was assigned to mediate on behalf of England an agreement with Austria, in the attempt to prevent Austria from engaging with the Spanish power in the Mediterranean.

    This is my interpretation of the historical account, preserving the voice of the original historical record:
    During this time, Lady Montagu entertained at court while studying Arabic and reading Arabic poetry. Toward the end of their tour, her husband inevitably failed at establishing a truce with Austria, his position was usurped by a competitor, and he failed to ascend to a political post of any import, resulting in a general, bitter demeanor. Shortly after they separated. Lady Montagu turned her sights to Italy for almost the rest of her life, keeping up with her studies and correspondence with her stately and artistic friends abroad. She died in 1962, reviled and adored across Europe and the Near East.

    In short, my intention is to create an editable and mutable document that demonstrates the complexity of historical and social histories for Itinerant posterity.

    Categories: 
    • Environment
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Itinera
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    Site Specificity and Diversity Concerns within Itinera

     

    Since starting on Itinera, I've focused on Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, an 18th-Century aristocrat and poet. Specifically, I focus on her tour from London, through Eastern Europe, and into Istanbul with her hubsband, the English ambassador to Turkey. As her introduction reads:

    With her husband and ambassador Edward Wortley Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu set out to Turkey from Westminster, England by way of the Netherlands, Austria, and Serbia in August of 1716. At that time, Turkey was at war with the Venetian Republic, whereby Mr. Montagu was assigned to mediate on behalf of England an agreement with Austria, in the attempt to prevent Austria from engaging with the Spanish power in the Mediterranean. During this time, Lady Montagu entertained at court while studying Arabic and reading Arabic poetry. Toward the end of their tour, her husband inevitably failed at establishing a truce with Austria, his position was usurped by competition, and he failed to ascend to a political post of any import. Shortly after they separated. Lady Montagu turned her sights to Italy for almost the rest of her life, keeping up with her studies and correspondence with her stately and artistic friends abroad.

    Originally, I saw my take on this project to be one that diversifies both the travelling agent and their destinations. As it was, and, in light of recent electoral events, selecting and following a wealthy, white woman as she travels through Eastern Europe and Turkey was not going to suffice. Thus I've redirected my thinking on what it means to do diverse digital humanities and scholarship as far as I can see: though it would be wrong to ignore the readily available histories of white travellers during this time, I use Montagu as locus to investigate the structural biases built in to the historicization and visualization of these white, European travellers.

    In doing so, I hope to place at the forefront practical and conceptual best practices: practically, I aim for site specificity in order to visually differentiate the plot points on Itinera's map. When an agent, Montagu, visits Rome, for example, she lists details such as churches, squares, villas, often without naming the building or describing its function. So I focus my attention on teasing evidence foremost from the primary material, (i.e., Montagu's Turkish Embassy Letters) and historical data (i.e., histories of medieval bridges, churches, etc.) in order to best differentiate between sites. I ask myself questions such as:

    • Architecturally, which sites, details, buildings were extant while she was visiting and what buildings are known to have been demolished? This question might lead to understanding what peoples were displaced with the destruction of their communities and spaces both during the Austrio-Turskish War as well as more contemporary wars.
    • Socio-politically: what positions did her hosts hold? I can find much of this information in the endnotes, but sometimes this would still need further investigation, especially with the misspelling of a name or location. Certainly, this question can help in determining in what "castle on the hill" she stayed while in Budapest in January 1717, but even more importantly this specificity can shed light on her hosts' alliances and what hand they had in the erasure of other histories.
    • Also socio-politically: what historically significant meetings and events occurred while she was in that city that would indicate the location of a town center, assembly hall, or city center? This question could shed light on significant events in the history of the Habsburg Empire and could point to the location of other points of interest in uncovering other histories. For example, what effects, if any, did Montagu's epistolary criticism of the Imperial German Diet's assembly to other aristocrats (i.e., Alexander Pope) have on court life? Would the ramifications of her criticisms have any political or legistlative effect?

    Practically, if I'm able to piece together pieces of evidence that in some way answer questions such as these, I am able to narrow down a specific location with some degree of certainty. And if such details are not available, I do not take it upon myself to differentiate the location and will, as necessary, defer to others who specialize in these histories. I recognize at this point I am an interlocutor to interpret subjective data and place it into a flattened network of other data points on a map. In this case, if I name the site simply as "Rome instead" of "the north wall of the Colosseum," I leave the reponsibility of further specification to a future historian that may perhaps work with a new visualization and evidence.

    This attention to site specificity, of course, serves a worthwhile conceptual function as well. Although I am still working on this connection, attention to historio-politically mediated spaces in turn draws attention to the systems of power and the erasure of other histories. 

    Categories: 
    • Environment
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Itinera
    • Graduate Work
    • VMW
  •  

    New Directions in the VMW

    Alison Langmead has embarked on outreach efforts to connect the VMW with other digital humanities spaces, beginning with our colleagues in the US, but soon hoping to move more internationally. We are looking forward to all of the opportunities this will provide, and are perceiving a future where the question is less "what can computers do for the study of material culture," and more, "what shall we do today?”

    One of these outreach efforts is making the connection with Tracey Berg-Fulton, creative technologist and webmaster at Registrars Committee of the American Alliance of Museums. Berg-Fulton donated to the VMW a 26000-entry dataset of Algernon Graves' collection of 18th- to 20th-century art sales, digitized from his vast, published ledger Art Sales from Early in the Eighteen Century to Early in the Twentieth Century. In the short run, S. E. Hackney and Lily Brewer are working toward implementing this data into visual patterns and historical contextualization respectively for Sotheby’s Institute of Art Research Award through the Art Libraries Society of North America. Undergraduate research assistant Vee McGyver, under Hackney’s supervision, is working on figuring out how to visualize relationships in data based on art sales using a force-directed graph from the javascript d3 library. Frick Fine Arts Library director Kate Joranson is sponsoring these efforts.

    As Graves’ data becomes available and conceptualized in visually informative ways, we’re investigating ways in which the data can turn into objects that we can track through Itinera (itinera.pitt.edu). By honing and creating more geographically specific locations for these entities and tracking works of art through Graves' art sales, the VMW cohort under Brewer’s guidance is working toward diversifying Itinera by mapping the European and non-Western routes of lesser tracked populations such as influential women and people of color through 18th-century Eastern Europe and Turkey. In our attention to multiple scales and modalities of historical vision, our attention focuses on the questions, how can we visualize and generate new insights into the travels of 18th-century travelers through contemporary identity politics and digital mapping methods? Furthermore, how can mapping diverse populations in this time over this space creating meaning through historical place-making?

    As the end of the term approaches, the Sustaining MedArt team lead by Aisling Quigley continues to unearth and reconstruct the socio-technical history of the website, Images of Medieval Art and Architecture (www.medart.pitt.edu). While the digital forensics research has provided helpful insights into the foundations of the site, this work has been arduous. The digital forensics tools are complex and uncooperative, and the dissection of the site itself has revealed a tangle of messy innards. Despite numerous obstacles, however, our team perseveres undaunted! Indeed, the complexities are revelatory in and of themselves, and the data is slowly but surely bringing to light important moments in the website creation process. Following from this work, the team, comprised of Quigley, Lindsay Decker (read Decker's reflections on the subject here), and Jedd Hakimi, is discussing and establishing a firm infrastructure for developing a socio-technical digital preservation roadmap.

    Undergraduate researcher Dheeraj K. Jalluri works on a neuroaesthetic research project investigating neural basis of artistic aesthetic experience in Abstract Expressionist art under Brewer's guidance. This semester, he is focusing on formulating a method to quantitatively analyze artwork qualities implicated in neuroaesthetic theories, such as symmetry and contrast and value using Photoshop. In future exploration, he gears his tools toward the crowd-sourcing tool Mechanical Turk and Fourier Analysis in the development of a larger research question that best suits these methods.

    Decomposing Bodies’ focus for the coming year will be building a unified online collection and corresponding data set for thousands Bertillon cards in the collection, and making that data accessible. The historical, physiological, and contextual data contained on these cards is a rich vein for researchers across many fields, and our goal with DB is to begin to make our digitized collection more visible to research communities and to begin building the relationships that will result in future projects and collaborations. These goals manifest in continuing the work of classifying and transcribing the cards, managing their metadata, and creating more robust public-facing representations of the project, under the guidance of project manager S. E. Hackney, and with contributions from the entire VMW cohort. (Read more of Hackney's reflections on the subject here.)

    As an invitation to inter-institutional connection and networking, those interested in our efforts toward constructing bridges to other digital humanities spaces can follow #arthistory on our Digital Humanities Slack (https://t.co/BI1cizC4de) and through our new listserv at https://list.pitt.edu/mailman/listinfo/ddarth.

    Categories: 
    • Current Projects
    • Decomposing Bodies
    • Itinera
    • Sustaining MedArt
    • Populations
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Graduate Work
    • Spaces
    • VMW
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    VMW Spring 2016 Update!

    The Visual Media Workshop has continued to be a thriving hub for the department’s Graduate Students and Faculty Members. Lead by Dr. Alison Langmead and a crack team of interdisciplinary participants, the VMW (known colloquially in the department as “The Lab”) has initiated several new and exciting ventures in the Digital Humanities over the past year. Alongside our ongoing lab-centered projects (Decomposing Bodies, Itinera, Sustaining MedArt), the VMW-led workshops and discussion groups have been a near weekly occurrence. Alison and Kate Joranson, Head of the Frick Fine Arts Library, offered a VMW toolshop series to assist graduate students with thinking through their academic and research projects in the context of online digital platforms. In a two-part conversation over Fall 2015 and Spring 2016, the Computational Visual Aesthetics group brought interdisciplinary faculty and students into dialog on the topic “10 Things That Computer Scientists Need to Know about Art Historians and That Art Historians Neet to Know about Computer Scientists before Beginning a Productive Collaboration.” While these conversations were only a few of the many highlights this year (see below for more updates), the VMW is striding forward towards more cross-disciplinary dialogues between the humanities and the digital world.

     

    Visiting Scholars in the Digital Humanities

    This spring, the VMW and the Digital Medial Lab in the Department of History hosted Matthew Lincoln as the inaugural Visiting Digital Graduate Scholar speaker. Lincoln’s public lecture “Continuity/Discontinuity: Network Dynamics in the Golden Age of Dutch Printmaking” discussed the importance of formal network concepts to understanding artistic print production of the Netherlands in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Lincoln demonstrated how multiple analytical perspectives, including both descriptive analysis, as well as some simple simulation modeling, suggest new ways of thinking about both continuity and discontinuity in our histories of printmaking. This was followed by an open workshop that examined Lincoln’s pipeline from downloading public data to finished visualization, with particular attention to the process and tools useful for cross-disciplinary projects. 

     

    Graduate and Undergraduate Activities

    The Digital Graduate Scholars Working Group began to meet in Spring 2016. This is a student-led interdisciplinary working group in which digital pedagogy and research methods are explored.

    First Experience Research students Maureen Borden and Christopher Babu spent Spring 2016 working on Decomposing Bodies (see below). After reading about the Bertillon system and its implementation in Ohio, they spent the early weeks of the semester transcribing information from the Bertillon cards into Omeka. Through the transcription process, each student became familiar with the data, and was able to develop an original research question based on their observations. The resulting research projects were presented at the Celebration of Research in Alumni Hall on April 22.

     

    Decomposing Bodies

    In November 2015, Dr. Langmead traveled for a final time to Columbus, Ohio with graduate students Aisling Quigley and Chelsea Gunn to photograph Bertillon cards at the Ohio History Connection. One of the major activities associated withDecomposing Bodies (DB) has been the continued transcription of Bertillon cards in the project’s Omeka website. As of the end of Spring 2016, just over 2,500 cards have been transcribed. Behind the scenes, extracting the dataset from Omeka and making it accessible in a more flexible spreadsheet format has been another significant task in the VMW. This process is intended to increase eventual access to the DB dataset for researchers, including First Experience Research students and students and faculty involved in the upcoming “Data (after)Lives exhibition. A public-facing DB website is currently in development, and can be found at http://sites.haa.pitt.edu/db. This website will be a resource available beyond Pitt’s campus, and will provide information about Bertillonage in general, and the work of the DB team specifically. While images and transcribed data will not be publicly hosted on the site, information about how interested parties can contact the VMW to gain access will be.

     

    Itinera

    Itinera, another of the lab-centered projects, is entering its third year of existence and continues to be a point of interdisciplinary interest. As project manager for the past year, Meredith North recorded the travels of many, many more European intellectuals. This has primarily centered around the German author and playwright Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and his circle of acquaintances during his travel in Italy. Undoubtedly, Goethe’s The Italian Journey: 1786-1788 is an important work of non-fiction, but as a travelogue it is also an ideal work for Itinera data. Even though Goethe’s Italian journey represented only a fraction of his life, travels, and acquaintances, this document has provided a significant source of information for the cultural life and social relationships of the late-18th century. Agents like Angelica Kauffmann, Wilhelm Tischbein, and Jacob Philipp Hackert have emerged as important artists during this time, and their network relationships have assisted greatly in expanding Itinera’s existing connections. With the addition of some clear interface navigation instructions, Itinera has also become a little more user friendly.

     

    Sustaining MedArt

    Dr. Langmead and Aisling Quigley received an NEH Research and Development Grant in December 2015 to conduct further research on the nascent project, “Sustaining MedArt.” This project, initially presented as a poster, gained traction at iConference 2015, and has developed into a long-term study. Integral to their investigation of Images of Medieval Art and Architecture (http://www.medart.pitt.edu/), a two-decade-old “time capsule” digital humanities project, is usability testing. This term they have focused on creating a Qualtrics survey in anticipation of a forthcoming trip to the International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan. There, they will survey conference attendees on a volunteer basis in the hopes of learning more about how individuals with varying degrees of experience may engage with this unique website. 

    Categories: 
    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • Graduate Work
    • Faculty Work
    • Spaces
    • VMW
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    Lamenting Lord Elgin

    Today is my last day working on the Itinera database until my presentation tomorrow.  While gearing up for the end of the semester, let's take a moment to look back at the unfortunate life of Thomas Bruce.

    Thomas Bruce suffered from asthma throughout his life, so under his doctor's orders, he doused his face with mercury for his frequent lung complaints.  Medical treatment in the 1700s certainly is not what it is today. The mercury caused abrasions on his nose, which prompted doctors to cut off the tip of it, disfiguring Bruce's face.

    In August 1803, Bruce was traveling with his wife, Mary Nisbet, and got detained by the French in Bareges, because he was a British ambassador with a travel schedule that coincided with the Napoleonic Wars.  From there, he was eventually sent to prison at Lourdes.  While he was incarcerated, Nisbet was allowed to leave France, accompanied by a man named Robert Fergusson.  The two were secretly engaged in an affair, and Fergusson would go on trial in May of 1808 for adultry.

    In 1816, facing bankruptcy, Bruce sold his prized marbles to the British Museum.  He said that the marbles were worth about £75,000 (roughly $111,360), but the museum bought them for £35,000 (about $51,950).  Needless to say, he was not happy about the sale.

    Between his cheating wife, partial nose and massive debt, Bruce was not a happy person.  Because he bought the marbles and messed with Greek culture, people still don't like him after his death.  And they certainly don't pity him.  He will always be remembered as the man who brought antique culture to Britian, but at the expense of ancient Greek identity.

     

    The picture, of Thomas Bruce with his full nose, is courtesy of http://www.athensguide.com/elginmarbles/photos/elgin.JPG

    For more information, check out these books:

    Nagel, Susan. Mistress of the Elgin Marbles: A Biography of Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin. New York: William Morrow, 2004. Print.

    Vrettos, Theodore. The Elgin Affair: The Abduction of Antiquity's Greatest Treasures and the Passions It Aroused. New York: Arcade Pub., 1997. Print.

    Categories: 
    • Identity
    • Mobility/Exchange
    • Visual Knowledge
    • Current Projects
    • Itinera
    • Undergraduate Work
    • VMW

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