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The End of the Story: How capitalism killed narrative, and how to grow new ones

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everything I've written and talked about really comes down to that. To how do we promote that, how do we deal with the obstacles, how do we contain the forces that will resist the DIY sensibility and activity from spreading as it otherwise, as it naturally might without such impediments and fear. And moving into a DIY society is particularly difficult for both capitalists and artists. Capitalists have learned to monopolize value creation, so when people are DIYing, they might be creating value outside the purview of corporations that were set up to prevent that from happening. Meanwhile, artists have long depended - or must of us have depended - on a certain amount of authority over our audience, at least provisional authority, in order for us to do the thing that we do. And they are no longer willing to submit to our authority as artists, because we've abused them or because so many others have abused them, and they don't want to submit at all. We are in a tricky position as well. I do think everything can workout for the best and the beauty of being in a moment like this is it really is either going to workout for the best now, or it is really just not, once and for all. You know, we are in another of those great moments of the great turning, if you will, one of those fund hinge moments, those moments when a certain window of opportunity is open for civilization to get it's act together and start DIYing. They don't come around that often, and I don't know if they will get to come around again, because of how many systems are in peril from the monopolization and the repression of participation. Ok. The easiest way I think for us as artists and filmmakers, and everything else, to get what I think is happening to our civilization is to consider the experience of the videogame player. The evolution of the single kid, with an out of the box cart, or XBox disk. Think about the stages that person goes through are the stages that we as societies or civilizations have gone through with respect to media, storytelling, money, and pretty much all these other institutions. When the kid gets a videogame out of the box, what do they do? They play it the way it is meant to be played, they play it by the rules, not even reading the rules, they pop in the disk, and they play it 'till they get stuck. until they can't do it anymore And then they either open the rules of the game, to see how to get pass this thing, if there is some rule they don't know, and if they can't get through that level or kill that thing, what do they do? They go online, and they get the cheat codes for the game, and now they come back to the game, and they play the game from outside the original context of the game. They go out of the frame of the original game, and now they are playing the game as cheaters. Now we can give the word cheating... it sounds bad, but in the game realm, cheating... it's game. They are not stealing money from Wall Street, they are just using cheat codes, and the cheat codes were written by the people who made the game. They are not illegal on something, don't break copyright, it's all we have to protect these days. So now they play the game from outside the original construct of the game, they play a metagame, they play from outside the original rule set, and now they go all the way through the end of the game probably because they've got infinite ammunition or a great new impenetrable armor. They make it to the end, now if they really liked the game, what they do at that point? They go back online and find how to 'mod' the game, which means to modify the game, customize it so they can create new levels of the game, either in the game world, like for more dungeons for Doom, or more spaceships, or if they are good enough modders they can now change the dungeons of Doom, where everyone shoot each other to the hallways or quarters of their high school, and make different characters, their teachers and their friends, get everyone in the neighborhood upset that it is the next little ten, but it actually create a new compelling version of the game. In the beginning of the DIY sensibility. So they move from being players, really just perceivers of the rules of the game, to being people who could cheat, who could choose which rules they want to follow or not, to now being really designers, or modifiers of the game, and they post the version of the game that they made up online, and they hope that everyone else download it. They want to see 10 thousand, 20 thousand, 100 thousand people downloading their version of the game. And if they do, then what happens? Chances are that one of the game companies call them up and say: 'your game mods are really good, yours are the best ones, why don't you come and be a game programmer?' We can't fool ourselves, the game modder is not a programmer. He is still a consumer, right? The programmer now is the one who actually codes a game for another population of people to go through those 3 stages. So you go from just player, to cheater, to modder, customizer, to actual programmer. And I think we, as we get new media, we as a civilization move through those same stages. So before we even had text, we just received our law, we received the rules without even knowing what the rules were. Now if you look at the sort of the pre biblical, pre textual civilizations, where you would grew up, you know (farrow?) it's just god. And what he says goes, I don't even know how the rules work, but I know that if I kill enough of this, and maybe if I am in another part, and I'll sacrifice my baby, maybe the gods won't be so mad, everything is just year to year, how well things work out is completely based on wether the gods have bestowed me with fertility, or corn, or good weather. Along comes text, which changed print from hieroglyphics, you know what hieroglyphics mean? Hieroglyphics: it's priestly writing. It changes text from priestly writing, something that only priests knew, to now something that at least a large number of people could do. 22 letters meant "oh, we only have to learn 22 characters in order to be able to read and write and naturally participate in that?" And what do we get? We got the Judeo-Christian tradition, which is changing religion from a completely given circumstance that you're just born into, to a contract. That's what the covenant basically is, a contract between god and people. Saying: 'these are the rules, right? you can follow them, and I'll put you in heaven, and I'll give you a nice... or don't follow them, and you are on your own, you are at risk, you're not my friend'. But now you know what the rules are. And not only we know what the rules are, but we're gonna get some rabbis together and let them work and negotiate about evolving this constitution with god for... or this rule apply, or this does not. Once it is in writing, now we have accountability. 'Oh wait a minute.. I followed this rule and all that and still.. wait..' Right? You gave it to me in writing. After text, what was the next great the next great invention was the printing press, really. Which now allow everybody to have their own bible in their own homes. Everybody can now read these rules themselves, rather than just having it read to them, and they can argue about it, saying: 'oh wait a minute, this doesn't make sense!' We have a protestant war, because I don't think that they are doing what Christ said. So, with text now, as to a printing press, we move really from the cheater stage to the mod stage, where we are going to be able to mod stuff. And the latest big revolution in media, of course, was the computer and the network. Where now we can write. And so we now get something closer to a sort of personalized personalized relationship to the world around us. The problem is… with each of these great technological innovations, or media innovations, we as a people only get the skill of the last one. We get text! God says to Abraham in the bible: 'You will be a nation of priests', he doesn't mean you're gonna wear a (?) or walk around like priests. It means that these would be people who could read and write. But what do we get? We got a nation of people who would gather in town's square to hear the rabbi read from the scroll. We got an elite who could read and write and the masses who could hear. So instead of learning to read they learned to listen. We get the book, and the printing press! Printing press! What is the bias of the printing press ? To write, to distribute. Do we get a civilization of people who distributed their words? No! We got a civilization of people who could read, and an elite who had access to printing presses who could disseminate media, wether it's print, radio or tv, down to the masses who would read it. And now we get the computer. Do we have a civilization who can program? No. We have a civilization who can write. We can blog, we can all stay inside the window, and enter when we are asked to text. And we don't even really most of us know what the biases are, the different text windows that we're typing into, it's just there. We are using it, that's all magic. So instead of becoming programmers we've become writers. Better than just readers, but still, we are writing within confines, described by people or institutions we don't even know. In the best case, if we do become programmers, if we do become as DIY as this technological or media revolution would imply, then what is that do to us as artists? What is it that we can now do? If we are dealing with the community of gamers, of quickly evolving gamers, rather than people who are willing to seat in their seats and be audience members, people who want to tweet while we are speaking, rather than just be in our total control. It's hard. And then, what does that do to value creation? How do we then create value that we can get, ideally, paid for, in a situation where everybody is a creator. I think that our relationship to story and storytelling, to the media through which stories are being told, mirrors our relationship to creation and to value creation. And if we understand one, we understand the other. There's been a monopolization of value creation, and a monopolization of story creation. Both of these are breaking down. But that doesn't mean that value and story have to go away, which it sort of feels like. Neither one goes away, it is just the absolute control of these two things. Value as a thing to be extracted from people may not work anymore. But value as a thing to be created for people and by people is. That can stay. Story as a thing that is used to control people may not work, or sell the people, or dominate people. But story as a mean for people to share and express their values and hopes and dreams and fears, stays around. But how do we promote those DIY bottom-up participatory economics and participatory mythos at the same time as we stay alive. That's the challenge. The way I've always understood story, in this context is from, and this happened when I was a sophomore, a freshman in college, and I watched 'Return of the Jedi', the third, and still worst, or second worst of the 'Star Wars' movies. It was the moment when Hans Solo and Luke Skywalker are taken prisoners by the Ewoks, who were supposed to be Wokes, but they didn't have the money, or they wanted to step down, or whatever... They were taken prisoners by the Ewoks, remember they were tied up, and… they let Princess Leah just sitting there but that's another story... But, C3PO and R2D2, two robots, tell a story to the Ewoks that succeeds not only in getting Hans Solo and Luke Skywalker released from captivity, but gets the Ewoks to fight a war on the rebels behalf. A war in which little Ewoks die. Now remember the story, how it went: C3PO spoke their language and had great rhetorical capability, and he talked about the terrible empire with the great rebels, and R2D2 projected holographic images, remember... of them blowing off the Death Star, and we saw the little Ewoks' eyes, moving back and forth, so excited they've never seen pyrotechnics like this or heard a storyteller like this. So through two main devices, the story, and the technology through which the story was told, these robots got Ewoks to fight the war. And you have to believe that if Darth Vader had gotten down to that planet, that moon of Endor first, and told his story with this technology, he could have welded them over just as easily. So it is two main devices. One is the story, and the other is the magic that is being used to promote the authority of the sole storyteller. Because of the magic, the technology through which the story was told, and the inaccessibility of those technologies to the Ewoks that's how the story teller got priestly mythological authority over them. So there are two things going on here. There is the magic of the storytelling, which is big, and then there is the story itself, which is that. Right now, if you, if you were - I'm not an artist, right? It's not (...) [Audience: Do it!] - Ok, ok! [Laughs] (...) The way storytelling works is like this - basically crisis, climax and resolution. You create a character the audience likes, the character makes a series of decisions that puts him into danger, into some kind of conflict, until the audience can't take it anymore. The storyteller comes up with a solution and then we get relieved. So, you know, Arnold Schwarzenneger goes on a planet, he makes all these decisions, he gets in all these wars and then he finds a big gun and, yey, we get our relief. It's the male orgasm curve of narrative that we've used since Aristotle. Crisis, climax, sleep. It's not the only one, but it's the only one we've used. It's not that it needs to be gotten rid of, but it would be great if we shared we shared the space with some other narrative forms. But this is the form that's been used for 2 milleniuns now to dictate to people, to control people. And the less access we have to the technologies through which this is enacted, the less authority we have over this over this experience. Until we get, you know, to the 22nd advertisement where they, you know -. The girl is gonna go to her prom, she's excited - oh, no! - she's got a pimple right in the middle of her face, and she tries squeezing, and it bleeds, she tries poping it, does this, finally, she is in so much agony and pain and we are on by-carried (??) pain with her, she finds Clearsil, Oxify, she puts it on and - oh, good. Now, inner activity its is were changed that you know, that is for me Inner activity changes that equation. The remote controls, the first great inner active device. If you are a pre-remote control person watching that comercial, you got to climb up the incline plain of tension, all the way up with the audience, with the storyteller, until it's just too awful, and you make a decision: Do I walk up to the television set and turn the channel? And move the rabedeers(??) - no, no one know the rabedeers are here, there were these things on top of the TV - or do I sit and acept my programming? Most people is like - walk up to the TV turning and doing all that is a hundred calories of human effort versus ten calories of anxiety before they tell me what pill I need to buy, and I'm gonna take ten pills, thank you M(?). A remote control changes that equation. Point 000 calories and boom I'm out of tension. Watch yourself with the remote, you're not using the remote because you are bored, you're using the remote because you are mad, you're using the remote because someone is submiting you to this, the angry orgasm curve. And they are going to program you with something that's not something you might want in your counsciousness in that moment. So remote control was the first great device. The joystick was the second great interactive device, it turned the television set from a magic box - I mean, remember Walter Cronkite, "that's the way it is": who could dare end the broadcast by saying "that's the way it is" unless the medium itself seen that magical? He could do that because it was transubstanciation in the living room. The joystick - if you remember the first time you ever played a video game, it was probably Pong, and you probably remember the way your parents were with the Kennedy assassination, where were you, what you were doing, were you excited about Pong because you were so happy that we now had a good simulation of table tennis? No, you were excited to move a white square up and down on a screen that you had never had access to before. For those of us who were born pre-interactive, that was a magical moment, that changed everything. The joystick demistified the technology through which the medium which the story was being told And, finally, the computer keyboard and the mouse turns it from a receive-only monitor medium into a interactive medium, one now where we can create our own media and share with each other. Now, the problem with all this The scary thing about it is that it changed the finantial equation of media. Right now, it's not working for advertising, for programming people, because they can get free of the story, that's what led to generation apps(??) and all this "oh, advertising doesn't work". It changed the finantial equation because now people were creating media for one another, rather than just buying media that was being packaged by corporations. The big problem is -. In 1994, there was a - I forgot which company did the survey - but they found out that the average internet connected home was watching 9 hours less television a week. That's when they went into panic, because people are going online and spending nothing. They're talking to each other, that's the thing that had to be stopped. People talking to each other, people exchanging value with each other, and that's where the money side of this argument comes in. The invention of the stuff we call money, this - if I have any - yeah this is not money, this is a kind of money that was invented about 400 years ago with specific agendas in mind and at the same moment all the other moneys were made illegal. This is like one operating system. It's like you if woke up and there were Microsoft Windows in all the computers and you were born into that world, you wouldn't know that there was once Apple, or Bee, or Linux. You wouldn't know, you would just - oh, this is just a computer - no, it's not a computer, it's a Windows computer! No, this is not money, this is centralized (...) currency, which is very different. Money used to be DIY. The way money worked right through - I mean, it changed, whenever there is dictator it changes, but for the majority of history money was the stuff that you would get - you go to the fields, you get your grain, you bring it into town, you plop it at the grainstore, the grainstore would weigh your grain and then you would get a receipt for the grain that you brought in. 100 pounds of grain gives you an 100 pound receipt. That's DIY currency. This is currency that is earned into existence, it is not issued by a Central Bank in Berna(?) and it's nothing to do with that. This is bottom up money that is as abundant as the fields. Now the cool thing about this money is that it actually loses value over time. Why? Because the grainstore has to be paid, rats gets some of it, some of it goes to spoilage, so the money loses value. So what do you do ? You spend it. Because you don't want to be holding it as it loses value. So these people , X to XIII century in Europe spent money, every piece of money that was made circulated hundreds and hundreds of times. They were so wealthy as a result of all of this money circulation, this DIY economic activity bottomed up(?) that they had extra money. They worked 4 days in a week, they had 70 other holidays, they ate 4 meals a day, women were taller than they are even today in England. I mean, there were problems too, but... They had so much extra money that they actually built cathedrals. Cathedrals were not built, this was called the age of cathedrals, X to XIII century in Europe. It was not the Vatican cutting a check in the middle (?), it was not some great patron, it were towns saving extra money wanting to create investiments for their great-grandchildren and so on. So you built a cathedral and you get a tourist atraction. That's what it was. It wasn't cinical, it was investiment. The creation of an abstract centralized currency was to prevent value exchange between people. The rich who had been rich, the lords who had been important for thousand years, who hadn't worked, his families hadn't worked in 10 centuries needed a way to stay wealthy and get richer simply by being wealthy. There was all this economic activity and all these middle class people getting wealthy, but the aristocracy was staying the same, which meant that, relatively speaking, they were getting poor. So what would they do? They made business illegal. Really, that's what they did. They made local currency illegal, enforced you to use instead what? Coin of the realm. So what do you do if you have coin of the realm ? That is based in nothing? You create mythology about it: "In God we trust", we print in our money. Why? Because it is not even backed up by gold, which is what? Gold isn't worth anything, it's not like people need gold. Gold is just scare. It's another myth. You create a myth, you put the king's face on it, you create a story, an one point of story to promote an authoritarian monopoly currency. And you basically make the use of any other currency illegal under the punishment of death, which is what they did. The other great invention of that period was the corporation. What was the corporation? The corporation was designed not to promote business, it was designed to prevent business. The king picked his friend and said: Your company has now a monopoly on this industry; your company has a monopoly over America, your company has a monopoly over India. And no one else is allowed to do business in those industries. That's why we had an American Revolution, it was illegal to grow and sell corn - to grow and sell anything, really, but to grow and sell cotton - it was illegal to make mittens (?) from cotton. You had to sell cotton to British Indian Trading Company, who shipped it back to England, made the mittens out of it, shipped it back to America, then you could buy it from them. You weren't allowed to create value. So, we create and abstract, centralized, top-down, aristotelian style myth. We create great desinformation about what medieval times were. we think: what was the medieval time? Oh, was the plague - no, actually, the plague came 30 years after the invention of centralized currency in France - the plague is actually a Renaissance problem. And we think - oh, the Renaissance was great because we had the arts, and all you, great arts people, know all about the great Renaissance arts, the rebirth of art. What was Renaissance art? Renaissance was a period when you couldn't be an artist unless you had a patron. The great (??), no, the Renaissance was about the monopolization of the arts by the court and by the wealthy. It was hard, it was hard to do art, unless you are going to be celebrating one of the existing monopoly institutions. [Where are we on time? Who is in charge of that kind of thing? There is no clock. What do I have? 10? 10 minutes? Ok. Thank you. DIY!] So, business was DIY, it became corporatized, with rules to the point where we wake up in a world and we think that these are given circumstances. That the way to make your living is to get a job. What is a job? A job was this stupid thing, a job was an invention. People used to just work. A job is what you have to get when work is being monopolized by corporations, so that the only way you can create value is through one of those institutions. Now, how did media and arts become part of this? In one sense because we sold out. And in another sense because it's really hard to stay alive in this world without doing that. I mean, because you got to get their money in order to buy food. There is not enough, there were not enough CSAs and other things for people to join. So, industrialization is what led to mass media, the mass media that is now breaking down. Lucia Ball(?) wasn't sitting in her cabana(?) in Hollywood thinking "how am I going to reach all America with my great comedy?" It is not how we got television and radio, however lovely it may be to imagine. We got it because we needed a way to promote mass production and an industrial economy to the rest of America. In the old days, I would buy my oats from Joe, the oatman, the guy who made the oats. There was a relationship between the consumer and the producer. So Joe made oats and sold them to me, and I knew his face. I may be the farmacist in Joe's town, Joe needs those oats to be good, not just so that I stay a costumer, but so that I mix his wife's drugs properly. He is dependent on me and I'm dependent on him, in a way that Wal Mart is not dependent on me. So we have a relationship, I know Joe. Now there is a giant oats company, 2000 miles away. They need to replace my relationship with Joe so that I buy stuff out of their plain brown box. From far away. How do they do that? That's mass marketing. They create a Quaker and put it on the box and they want me to have a relationship with the Quaker that feels better, more real and safer than my relationship with the real human being. And how do you do that? Mass media. If the Quaker just came on the box, who is that, what's that picture of? We need television, we need radio, we need media so that before that Quaker gets there I know who that Quaker is, I know what that moe (?) means to me. Of course the effect of mass marketing and mass media is to actually isolate us. Mass production disconnects the worker from the value he is creating. Mass marketing disconnects the consumer from the producer of the product. And then mass media disconnects us from one another. Think about the first TV you had, there was one TV in the living room and it slowly replicated into many TVs all over the house, so each person has their own set and their own cable channel. Now, why is that? It's because the television is not here to entertain us, but to program us and market to us. That's its function, that's what paid for it, that's its evolution. So if you understand that, then you understand - wow, why does it want us alone? Because an isolated consumer is a better target for a comercial. If I'm watching a blue jeans comercial - any pair of blue jeans - what is the blue jeans comercial saying? Wear these blue jeans and you will get laid. That's the function of the comercial. Now, if I'm sitting on a couch with the girl who I get laid with, what does that comercial do to me? Nothing. I get laid, I'm wearing these jeans, what are you saying? The comercial is for someone who does not get laid. And it has to be someone who is sitting alone in his house looking at the TV so that they will buy the thing. People having actual life, real connections with each other are not as vunerable to messaging that is designed to pray on the sole, isolated individual. New media really has the potential, not the certainty, of changing all this for the better. New media promote decentralized value creation. Right now you can start a company by coming up with a (?) for Facebook, or you can use your 500 dollar used Mac to totally program something that ends up on the internet and replicates, makes you tons of money. You can start a business without borrowing money from the bank. That's why we are having the actual finantial crisis we are in. It's because bank landing has become obsolet In a world where we can create value very cheaply with our own home consumer devices. The need for a big loan from a bank in order to start a business is obsolet. That's why they created the housing market, the housing bubble, because they had no more... the .com didn't work for them, they didn't have a place to sell their dead. That's how centralized currency works, is by selling dead, having a monopoly on dead. If we can create value from the bottom-up, with very little bit of capital, then what happens to the banks? They have to create schemes and derivatives on derivatives on derivatives. But they don't have any way to participate in our value creation. That gets them very upset. New media promotes the deconstruction of the stories that are used to keep us trapped in this idea of this sort of "ends justifies the means" - wheter it is christianity, capitalism, comunism, obamaism - that we are going to suffer, suffer, suffer on this long journey together and then A-ha! - we'll get the great clearance moment at the top of the story. It promotes the demystification of media, so that people don't believe things just because they are coming through a shiny window. And it promotes the reconnection between people, conversations between people - which are bad for the economy. Any minute that you spend in a conversation with another person, when you aren't producing or consuming is bad for the GNP. And that's the metrics we all use as a bottom line for the health of our society. Every minute you spend making love or reading a book - well, if you bought the book, then it's partly consumption - playing cards or enjoying your kid. So how does the artist or author - as I might be - how do we interceed after the death of narrative, after everyone's anxiety about this - people are so anxious about this they watch reality TV, that's how amune they are to this and to storytelling. The fictional show is even far between us (?). I think that there are 3 main jobs for the artist now, and they're different than they were before. They require the same skills, but they are going to happen in a different context. The first thing we can do in a place where people - in a media space, in a creative space where people will not automatically respect our authority is instead of storytelling in a traditional long form way, we have to create a colum (?) response. You don't just let - Ok, here it is, go tell stories to yourselves. What I understand is a bit of that - tell stories to yourself, see how you like that, and then you are going to come back to a professional like me, for the good yard. No, they want to participate, but they don't know how, they all think they are much better at stuff then they really are. What you have to do is create a colum(?) response, where you open the dialogue, they respond, then you come back, and you can open the window for their responses as much as they are really ready to respond. So that's one model. The church used it in the protestan (?) and it really worked. The second thing is to think of yourself in some cases rather than just being a storyteller to be a tool creator. Create the tools and rules through which people can interact more meaningfully, through which people can create narratives together. It is like the dungeon master in the old In the old D&D game. The dungeon master was the person who sort of helped guide a story through time and it did of absolute authority of what happened, but really what he did was created and manipulated rules to help a group of people get to the most interesting story places. Of course that story structure is different, it is not this narrative structure. The objective of the story is not to get to the teaching moment and sleep, the objective of the story is to keep it going. Rather than games with winners and losers, we are looking at infinite games. The objective of the game is to keep getting to play the game. That's why they come back. And, finally, and this is the hardest thing, but the most necessary thing, is for us, as the professionals, to be able to create safe spaces - The job of the storyteller instead of guiding people over this art is really to create this sacred circle. And that's a hard thing to do in our society. How do you - that is the only thing you can do with your skill, it's the only thing really left as we evolved as a society, passed the teaching story, passed the programming story, passed solely using mail narrative art to get to sleep or to program ourselves to death. What we are doing as professionals is that we are creating the boundary condition through which people can go from whatever uncounscious life is into the space that you've created, this sacred space, this trusted place where now they can develop narrative, where now they can do story together. If we live in a world where we have been intentionally desocialized by the institutions that seek to extract the value from us and prevent us from exchanging value ourselves, then the job of the artist is not to find sponsors to help to continue promoting that uncounsciousness that program thinking, but it's actually to create safe spaces where these desocialized, dismediated people can find each other again. If they do that, and they are all having great great fun here, will your job as an artist go away? Eventually, you know, God willing, it will. Because then everyone will be an artist, and when everybody is artist, when everybody is in this space, when this sacred space becomes the actual relm (?) of human interaction, then we're not gonna be needing money anyway. There's not gonna be how we transact, we're not gonna need little cheats - oh, how much corn did you get? - we're not gonna need to keep track with little numbers, just how much stuff each person got anyway, because we will be celebrating in a plain(?) space, so We should only have such problems. Ok, thanks, my time is up, thanks for having me.

Video Details

Duration: 40 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: DIY Days
Director: DIY Days
Views: 337
Posted by: josemurilo on Jan 11, 2010

Keynote by Douglas Rushkoff in "The End of Mass Everything, DIY Days" event.

The myth of infinite market expansion was supported, at least in part, by a story structure dependent on crisis, climax, and relief. Just as we are now demanding bankers give up their absolute control of our monetary system, must we as storytellers give up control of our narratives? And how can we make a living telling stories in a world where everyone now has a story to tell, and a means of telling it?

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