Wai-te-ata Press Te Whare Ta O Waiteata is a letterpress printery, book and digital history research centre, and book arts teaching studio at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. In 1982, founder D.F. McKenzie published Selections from Typo, a New Zealand typographical journal 1887-1897, edited by R. Coupland Harding. This assemblage of facsimile extracts from Harding's landmark trade journal, originally letterpress printed in Napier and Wellington, was a product of its time: photocopied pages cut-and-pasted on layout sheets, typewritten captions stripped in, and the resultant hybrid manuscript photocopied, perfect-bound in soft covers, and distributed internationally through the usual postal channels. Selections filled an important gap. Although at any one time Harding exchanged Typo with some eighty contemporary trade journals from over fourteen different countries, his nineteenth-century masterwork is today found in only a handful of institutions worldwide, often as incomplete runs, frequently in different collations, at times annotated, and sometimes even bearing the marks of the print shop floor. McKenzie's analogue compilation brought the all-but-forgotten Typo back into the public arena and, in conjunction with an entry on Harding in the Dictionary of New Zealand biography, made the man and his journal once again available for scholarly inquiry. Fast-forward thirty years and Typo is once again a product of its time: a digital edition published by Wai-te-ata Press accompanied by excursions into digital storytelling and featuring prototyped tools for data mining and visualization. Preserved, accessible, and interactive in a new technological environment, Harding and his journal is the subject of renewed public and academic interest. New Zealand's first typographer and his legacy of artistic printing and design education are no longer forgotten silver.
Between these two moments, much has changed in the landscape of textual studies. The intervention of new technologies, the creation of big (and little) digital corpora, new modalities of reading/writing, and new strategies of textual manipulation have redefined scholarly conceptions of "text." Moreover, "pages and screens are also now being read as quantum fields in which the meaning of words are interdependent with the graphic elements in which they are embodied, surrounded and displayed" (Fraistat and Flanders 2013, 2). As a result, new research questions are being posed, picked apart, and investigated with a suite of new infrastructures, applications, and interfaces to answer them. This chapter investigates the rapprochement between book history and digital humanities through the lens of Wai-te-ata Press and one of its eResearch projects, The Printers' Web, to help contextualize new directions in textual scholarship in the twenty-first century.
Perhaps as a result of his interventions in the textual re-construction of Typo, McKenzie became fascinated by what he termed in the second of his 1985 Panizzi Lectures, the "broken phial" or the indeterminacy of texts. Thomas R. Adams and Nicolas Barker (1993, 13) grappled with the same problem of definition in 1993 when they coined the phrase "bibliographical document" to embrace the range of printed forms and formats embraced by the term "book." But whereas Adams and Barker stuck to the world of print, McKenzie was far more expansive as he wrestled with the friskiness of texts and those promiscuous non-book formats which challenged not only traditional forms of reading, but writing, editing, and printing as well. Including topography, maps, speech, photographs and film in his analysis, he teased out the "indeterminate relation between indexical sign and symbolic meaning" and concluded that "what constitutes a text is not the presence of linguistic elements but the act of construction" (McKenzie 1986, 34-35). In other words, meaning is made by the generative interaction between objects and their viewers.
This activity of making meaning situated, if not legitimated, bibliography in a wider field of scholarly engagement which he termed "sociology of texts." Although, as Michael Suarez (2003-2004) points out, the analysis of socially-structured textual representations was, apart from McKenzie's work on the Treaty of Waitangi, an essentially unrealized programme of study, it complemented Jerome McGann's (1983) earlier notion of "social texts," which were a function of linguistic and bibliographic codes rooted in historically-specific social, cultural, economic and political contexts. In The textual condition, McGann reformulated his idea as the "socialization of texts," thereby highlighting the processual nature of the social shaping of knowledge practices. As McGann demonstrated, texts move and morph through various textual instantiations over time and through space; different editions, versions, or manifestations are brought into being through a socially and culturally embedded set of writerly, readerly, and publishing interventions or "conditions." When filtered through the lens of Bourdieu's fields of cultural production, Peter D. McDonald (1997, 10) would call on book historians to reconstruct the "predicament" of the text. Once bibliography added "sociology" to the study of material forensics, Anglo-American textual scholarship moved from insisting upon the composition of the "ideal" text to "the qualities of mediation as a social process" (Galey 2012, 213).
Coextensive with McKenzie and McGann's repositioning of bibliography and textual studies was the rise of material culture studies, the legacy of both industrial archaeology and the history of technology, emerging in response to the development of new museological practices and the growth of social history. Material culture studies was an attempt to contextualize artefacts as well as to understand the role of human agency, individually and collectively. Despite a problematic binary that frequently saw a greater focus on culture than "material," the central place of the artefact and a philosophy of theory as praxis distinguished the field. As John Schlebecker observed, "For historians, critically trying out some tool, or replica, opens new insights because it is possible to discover how a tool was actually used" (1997, 113). Critics such as William B. Hesseltine (1959) were, however, more ambivalent, warning against rarifying the status of insights obtained from artefacts, yet longing for the time when a robust and defensible historical methodology would make such artefacts talk, make them instructive as well as illustrative, and enable scholars and cultural heritage specialists to rationalize the collection and preservation policies of those "kitchenmiddens of civilization"–museums. Ironically, more than half-a-century later, his wish has come true: around the globe, museums, archives, libraries and galleries are scrambling to publish object biographies, exposing collections to public view in a world fascinated by the power of storytelling. And, taking a leaf out of the popular it-narratives of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, many of those objects are, as Bruno Latour would certainly approve, now speaking for themselves (Price 2012, 108).
This focus on artefactual materiality has obvious resonances with bibliography and textual studies, as does the insistence on what Joseph J. Corn (1996, 44) has termed "artefactual apprenticeships" or "first-hand encounter(s) with objects." Such "privileged paths of access" to culture, as Jules David Prown (1993, 17) puts it, are indispensable to deep knowing. Indeed, many of the bibliographical breakthroughs and explanations of textual cruces in the twentieth century were dependent upon the reconstruction of practice–imaginatively or tangibly–predicated on an intimate knowledge of process recovered through the intensive reading of trade manuals and practical experiments. As McKenzie demonstrated in his reconstruction of parallel compositorial practices and letterpress simulations at Wai-te-ata Press, his legacy was not only a recognition of the importance of printing house archives in the investigation of the physical remains of those houses–the books themselves–but also the need to haptically understand the processes which created those artefacts, by using the research laboratory of the bibliographic press with its array of printing presses, type, and industrial realia.
One way of reconfiguring the convergence of historical bibliography, sociology/socialization of texts, and material culture studies for the twenty-first century might very well be to adopt and adapt the phrase "historical materialism." Considered less in its Marxist orientation than as a way of foregrounding the material (re-)turn in history and textual studies, this phrase signals the situatedness of socially represented and transmitted knowledge in a space-time continuum (Shep 2014). Book historians have long been aware of the fundamental material basis of their field of study. As Roger Chartier (1999, 4) reminds us, "Reading is not a solely abstract intellectual operation; it involves the body, is inscribed within a space, and implies a relationship to oneself or to others." Even across media forms, as Paul Eggert (2005, 428) suggests, "whether the textual carrier be the physical page, a computational capacity, or the sound waves that transmit orally declaimed verse, there is always a material condition for the existence of text." Scholars of media archaeology and proponents of new materialism such as Wolfgang Ernst and Jussi Parikka also highlight the centrality of the material in their study of the hardware and software of culture.
If the 1990s saw the development of textual studies as predominantly an exercise in scholarly electronic editing of printed texts, more recently, scholars have attended to the affordances of the electronic environment to extend their understanding of digital materiality and born-digital manifestations. As N. Katherine Hayles points out in her call for a reconceptualization of electronic media,
our notions of textuality are shot through with assumptions specific to print, although they have not been generally recognized as such. The advent of electronic textuality presents us with an unparalleled opportunity to re-formulate fundamental ideas about texts and, in the process, to see print as well as electronic texts with fresh eyes. … One of the insights electronic textuality makes inescapably clear is that navigational functionalities are not merely ways to access the work but part of a work's signifying structure. (Hayles 2003, 263-264)
McKenzie acknowledged that electronic texts were something with which scholars would have to, sooner or later, wrestle, even though he did not live to see their efflorescence and ubiquity: "By the logic of our discipline, we're equally committed to acknowledge that these textual artefacts also embody the conditions of their construction" (2002, 273). Thus if we include digital texts in McKenzie's cabinet of broken phials, his definition still pertains, extending linguistic and bibliographic codes to include digital codes, that is, socially-situated textual representations mediated by machine and man and instantiated by acts of construction.
Be that as it may, the permutations of "text" remain problematic, if not promiscuous, and under-theorized if not ignored outright by many of those gatekeepers of knowledge, information professionals (Manoff 2006). The conceptual entity-relationship model of the bibliographical universe known as FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) distinguishes between work, expression, manifestation, and item. However, "text" is only considered to be a high-level media format designation under the heading "expression" (IFLA 1998) and not a fundamental communication characteristic of a specific bibliographic item. Text as an act of construction rather than a stand-alone linguistic entity is not yet addressed in the Web data interchange model of Resource Description Framework (RDF) nor in the open-linked data cataloguing system of Resource Description and Access (RDA). The harmonized Conceptual Reference Model (CIDOC-CRM) and RBR object oriented (FRBRoo) community does not appear to have recognized the indeterminacy of texts. Many digital humanities projects have seen the benefits of aligning their ontologies within such a conceptual framework that enables semantic interoperability across document structures, thus imbuing text with a fundamental stability predicated upon repeated acts of disambiguation. Finally, the continuum model developed by the Australian archives and records management community is more concerned with capturing recordkeeping practices than understanding the malleability of those records (Upward 2000). And yet, these architects of information, like bibliographers and book historians, should be those best equipped to take on the challenge of new media forms and the resultant new definitions of text.
In 2003, Paul Erickson argued that book historians "are poised to make tremendous contributions to our understanding of new electronic media" (2003, 110). More recently, Matthew Kirschenbaum and Sarah Werner have exposed some of the fissures between those ostensibly natural companions, book history and digital humanities. For example, "the big data trend in the humanities is not one that has spoken to book historians. It has been the tool of literary and linguistic scholars, something prized by researchers interested in text, rather than textual production" (2014, 410). However, as book historians start exploring digitized resources to answer historic and contemporary questions about transnationalism, translocality, histoire croisée, and networks, the need for, access to, and use of rich data in all its spatial, temporal, and material dimensions is increasing. As Hayles reiterates, forms of "embodied textuality" expose "materiality as an emergent property" and emphasize the irreducible and dynamic intercrossings of social, cultural, and technological processes that bring objects, including texts, into being (Hayles 2003, 277).
Historical materialism also complements the rise of digital history as a subset of the digital humanities. Digital history is an internationally recognized approach to historical studies that is defined as the application of digital technologies to investigating and representing the past. As both a field and a method (Sword in "Interchange: The Promise of Digital History" 2008), it relies on an increasing breadth of Web-delivered digitized resources that enable scholars and students "to make, define, query, and annotate associations in the human record of the past" (Seefeldt and Thomas 2009) often in the context of Web 2.0 social media and gaming interfaces. A focus on tool building for resource discovery, analysis, and visualization is at the heart of this enterprise. So too is digital storytelling as a key mode of engagement, a social process commensurate with the production of social texts. Let's now turn to a digital project that straddles the worlds of book history, historical materialism and digital history.
The Printers' Web
The Printers' Web, a Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden-funded collaborative project, arose out of a longstanding interest in nineteenth-century typographical journals and their role in facilitating global communication networks in the printological world, as well as how they contributed to social and cultural cohesion amongst a highly mobile workforce in an era of mass industrialization. An earlier curated digital collection, The Print History Project: Wellington's book trade 1840-2000, provided a solid intellectual foundation, but in the ten years since its development, the digital humanities field had moved on considerably, both conceptually and technically. New imperial historians use metaphors such as webs and kaleidoscopes to describe interconnected worlds of global interchange and globalizing sensibilities; they talk about migration and circulation as key elements. However, they rarely acknowledge the potential of a linked open data model or deploy methods from digital history that, in our estimation, provided a perfect fit for the topic under consideration. If electronic textuality as a distributed phenomenon means texts are less objects than processes (Hayles 2003, 274), then using digital tools to expose what was correspondingly nascent in the nineteenth-century periodical press seemed apposite. Based on this insight, The Printers' Web became a test-bed for exploring alternative, digitally-mediated modes of data collection, analysis, and visualization that turned historians' metaphors into digital practice.
The central node in this linked open data project was a digital edition of Robert Coupland Harding's journal Typo. A Monthly newspaper and literary review devoted to the advancement of the typographic art, and the interests of the printing, publishing, bookselling, stationery, and kindred trades. To explore how information by and about the printing trade circulated around the world in the nineteenth century, we combined Typo with several contemporary periodicals readily available for digitization: the Australasian typographical journal; Griffin's colonial printers' register and New Zealand press news (1876-80); The printers' miscellany (1864-72); test samples from the Canadian printer & publisher (1892- ); and selections from the American journal, Inland printer. Our working hypothesis was that what James A. Secord (2004) has termed "knowledge in transit" was achieved through a cut-and-paste economy recently characterized by Ryan Cordell (2013) as "infectious texts," and Ellen Gruber Garvey (2012) as "writing with scissors." Research assistants Max Sullivan, Sara Bryan, and Sam Callaghan used a version of Text-Encoding Initiative (TEI) markup prototyped by Edmund King to enhance our corpus of digitized and OCR'ed typographical journals. King had dealt with several challenges endemic to the periodical press (such as image-rich pages before genetic or facsimile TEI really came along), devised snippet views with transcribed text for advertisements, and created logical descriptive categories of the multiple genres of textual and visual matter populating the journal's informationally dense pages. His work provided the intellectual and technical foundation for the project's entire digital corpora, bolstered by Callaghan's entity-type relationship model and an entity authority tool set built by our developer, Jamie Norrish. The stable definition of an entity (in our model defined as a person, place, or thing) and how relationships are expressed between entities are key features of a linked open data model. Written in Python and built on the Django framework, EATS linked together resources (or sets of resources) that refer to common entities but use different identifiers, thus enabling the project to link its own digital objects to relevant Web-based resources external to the project. As an authority access and control application, EATS provided persistent, unique and resolvable identifiers for entities in the form of Web-based uniform resource identifiers (URIs). Rounding out the technical team was digital historian Tim Sherratt, known for his work on "Mining the treasures of trove," who designed several prototype interfaces and tools such as Magic Squares to realize some of the more experimental possibilities of the project (2011b).
During the ongoing life of the project, we undertook a suite of interrelated projects combining book history and digital humanities frameworks and methodologies to demonstrate the viability of diverse approaches to our rich archival resources and digital corpora. We examined Harding's personal and professional worlds through the lens of social network analysis, traced the impact of his thinking by text mining the typographical press as well as historical newspapers, and mapped his career in Napier and Wellington using geospatial tools. Rather than building bespoke tools from the outset, the project initially focused on out-of-the box, open source tools to encourage the local community of non-programming historians and students to engage with the project and, after several digital history workshops and hackfests, to experiment with their own research archives. Such "tools for thinking" were simple to master, produced immediate results, and enabled new ways of viewing textual data. One research project, led by MA student Meghan Hughes, reconstructed Harding's library through the social networking tool LibraryThing in order to document book collecting networks and practices in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century New Zealand. By developing a taxonomy of collectors and tracing the entangled worlds they inhabited, she was able to better understand the selection and arrangement of Harding's library of some 3,000 titles as well as his role as agent in book collecting transactions with his contemporaries (Hughes 2013).
By data mining Typo alongside contemporary directories, almanacs, encyclopedias, and archival image sources, research assistant and Masters student Flora Feltham charted Wellington's late nineteenth-century book trade terrain using a variety of mapping tools (The Print History Project 2016). Her geotemporal investigations revealed that the economic health of Harding's printing business directly correlated to his physical distance from the epicentre of printing, publishing, binding, and bookselling in the city's central business district. In 1890, Harding moved his family and flourishing printing business from the provincial town of Napier in Hawkes Bay to his birth-place, Wellington. He set up shop in the government precinct, close to the bustling wharves, the High Court, and the soon-to-be refurbished Government Printing Office. Harding advertised his arrival with two, large-scale, hand-painted signs: the first staked a claim to the latest international fashions in artistic printing; the second was a scaled-up version of his printer's device first used on the title-page of Typo, a device that grounded him in a world of evangelical Christianity and the colonial settlers' programme of nation building. Despite the business confidence exemplified in this signage, the move to Wellington was not an unqualified success. The boom and bust economy of the capital city's Parliamentary printing meant business was erratic, and local printers had already sewn up the available municipal contracts. Personal networks meant everything for business prosperity as well as intellectual and cultural survival. Harding's previous contact with Lyon & Blair, one of Wellington's well-established and progressive printing firms, ensured that when he first arrived, work was available for the asking at their steam press and lithography establishment. Later, when Harding missed out on the Government Printing Office Superintendent's job, his referee, the writer and politician Edward Tregear, slid commissions his way for his own publications as well as several issues of the Journal of the Polynesian society. By 1894-5, Harding moved across town to Wellington's commercial and industrial hub: a stone's throw from the old customs headquarters and auction house, and downwind from the town's incinerator, the Destructor, and the police stables. Physically distanced from his book trade colleagues and the consumer-hungry foot traffic that was an all-important measure of prosperity, his downmarket location exposed his vulnerability and signaled the end of a stellar career. Harding ceased business in 1897. Using new geospatial tools such as MapBox, TileMill, xCharts and Leaflet to answer book historical questions, The Printers' Web project demonstrated that Harding's economic growth and decline can not only be traced through his print publications but also through the archival residues he left, and the physical spaces and text-scapes he inhabited. And, these same tools forced us to recognize that mapping practices have a significant impact on interpretation, particularly as the technology is interested in Euclidian space whereas historical interpretation is interested in the social constructions of place (Feltham 2014).
Through the global circulation of Typo, Harding achieved international renown and respect for his feature series "Design in typography," which trained printers in the handling of the latest typographic fashions. Many of the articles were reprinted in whole or in part in overseas journals such as the American organ Inland printer. Harding himself clipped and re-circulated newsworthy items from his extensive trade exchange network. Despite never leaving the country of his birth, he was an active participant on the world's stage, travelling globally through the empire of print. Research assistant Sara Bryan explored the local reception of Typo by data mining a scrapbook of Press notices that Harding compiled through the ten-year life of his flagship journal. Responses ranged from simple notices of the monthly journal's arrival at the local newspaper office to florid encomia about how useful the periodical was in propagating information about international developments in labour relations, technical matters, and up-to-the-minute local trade news. Using the mapping tool BatchGeo, she undertook a pilot study to plot the locations of the more than fifty newspapers that ran these notices and when they were issued. Questions then emerged about timeliness of delivery, rhythms of the print shop, how reception varied in a single shop over time, and the networks of journalists, editors, compositors, and newspaper owners with whom Harding corresponded. Using a tool that implicitly prioritized distance, she also investigated how physical and perceptual space was shortened, lengthened, and generally constructed by technology, whether by telegraph lines or postal routes, whether by land, sea, or rail, whether by foot, horseback, coach, tram, or train.
Digital librarian Max Sullivan also experimented with BatchGeo to investigate Robert Coupland Harding's correspondence networks. Because precious little remains of Harding's personal or business archive, we were reliant upon the extensive extant correspondence of his fellow-printer and mentor, William Colenso, whose epistolary style meant much of the Harding side of the conversation could be implied if not reconstructed. Computer Science and Digital Media student and Summer Scholar Esta Chiang (2016) built on this preliminary work by importing Colenso's 279 letters to Harding (1879-1899) into OpenRefine, an open source tool for manipulating messy data. Working alongside research assistant and topic modeling expert Thomas Koentges, she then extracted and disambiguated people, places, and things. This enabled her to undertake social network analysis using Gephi and SigmaJS and produce an interactive site that visualized the data, linked across data sets, and embedded the full-text of the letters in the user interface. This prototype research formed the proof-of-concept foundation for our current Marsden Project (2015-2018) titled "Personal Geographies and Global Networks: William Colenso and the Victorian Republic of Letters" (Colenso 2016).
Stephen Ramsay has coined the phrase "algorithmic criticism" to describe the shift in humanities research from "criticism to creation, from writing to coding, from book to tool" (2011, 84). In Reading machines, Ramsay observes,
"Algorithmic criticism" sounds for all the world like a set of methods for exploiting the sudden abundance of digital material related to the humanities. If not a method, then perhaps a methodology for coping with it, handling it, comprehending it. But in the end, it is simply an attitude toward the relationship between mechanism and meaning that is expansive enough to imagine building as a form of thinking. (Ramsay 2011, 85)
It appears to be no coincidence, then, that McKenzie's "acts of construction" which constitute a "text" sit comfortably beside Ramsay's "algorithmic criticism" which builds "text" one embodied byte at a time. In the domain of digital history, such performances are rooted in acts of storytelling, what Jussi Parikka has described as the intensive excavation of where (and when) actually is the materiality of media (2012, 98). Throughout a project that both collected and analysed data and harvested and wrote metadata, we were keen to participate in a metacritical analysis of how we, as twenty-first century academics, discovered, exposed, and disseminated our findings. As Walter Benjamin noted in his short essay "Excavation and memory":
Our engagement with the iterative rhythms of prototyping provided a mechanism to interrogate and reflect on our combined book and digital history practices. Moreover, our foray into paradata, that is, the documentation of the process of interpretation of historical material and hypotheses that arise in the course of research (Bentkowska-Kafel, Denard, and Baker 2012) led the research team to start challenging if not reconceptualising narrative in the academy. Knowledge structured through digital tools that produce databases, visualisations, or maps rather than conventional narratives require different modes of reading and, in turn, create different understandings. Continuing to operate within an intellectual (and often print-based) economy of the monograph, the journal article, and the conference paper seemed at odds with both the digital interfaces and dynamic visualisations of the historical people, places and things we were producing. We recognized that our technologically-mediated examples of broken phials and indeterminate texts were themselves lieux de mémoires / places of memory (Nora and Kritzman 1996) that function as traces, agents, or vectors grounding a diversity of media forms, their sociological functions, and their historiography (Rousso 1991; Rousso 2002). And as such, pushing our narratives into social media-inflected spaces like blogs and Storify was a natural progression from the archive of physical materiality to the materiality of collective digital memory. Nancy Wood extends Rousso's concept of "vectors of memory" to consider the essentially performative nature of collective memory (Wood 1999, 10). This aptly echoes McKenzie's (1986) notion of "expressive forms" and the theatre of the hand-held book, as well as Johanna Drucker's emphasis on books / texts as performative spaces for the production of reading / meaning. Another memory scholar, Wulf Kantsteiner, defines collective memory as a multimedia collage, proposing a hermeneutic triangle that enables "an open dialogue between memory makers, memory users, and the visual and discursive objects and traditions of representation" (Kantsteiner 2002, 190, 196). Such a dialogue is both situated and enacted through storytelling, less a linear narrative of chronology or temporal sequencing of events than a performance of the processes that fashioned the material archive, both physical and digital: an archaeography (Ernst 2011, 239) that is today encoded and recoverable on the magnetic memory of this MacBook Pro, as well as those machines and technologies that have brought this text to online journal instantiation. In the hands of new materialists, such performativity is both thing-power and process-power: "the various vibrant energies that push our understandings of objects towards their operationality that things do stuff, make a difference, and 'become the decisive force catalyzing an event'" (Parikka 2012, 98).
the man who merely makes an inventory of his findings, while failing to establish the exact location of where in today's ground the ancient treasures have been stored up, cheats himself of his richest prize. In this sense, for authentic memories, it is far less important that the investigator report on them than he mark, quite precisely, the site where he gained possession of them. (Benjamin 1999, 576)
Wai-te-ata Press commenced life in 1962 as a bibliographic press teaching students the manual skills of the handpress era in order to understand the complexities of the transmission and reception of texts. Today, it hosts the Print Culture eResearch Hub, balancing the haptic engagement of historical materialism with an equally potent haptic engagement with digital history and new materialism. Matthew G. Kirschenbaum and Doug Reside have recently observed that new textual forms require new work habits, new training, new tools, new practices, and new instincts. Details regarding file formats and media types are no more or less exotic from the purview of textual studies than the minute particulars of letterpress, paper making and bookbinding (Kirschenbaum and Reside 2013, 272-273). In straddling both these "exotic" domains–the print and the digital–Wai-te-ata Press exemplifies the multi-modal, polyvalent nature of textual scholarship in the twenty-first century. And, it highlights the staged presence of book history which, according to Alan Liu (2013) is the Lévi-Straussian trickster figure of contemporary digital humanities.
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