A COPLAC Digital Distance Learning Course

Author: martin (Page 1 of 2)

Defense of Contract

We have a finished website! Building our project site has been a long and challenging process, but I am extremely satisfied with our final product. Thank you again to everyone who helped get us to this point, we couldn’t have done it without your support!

Statement of Purpose

The intent of this project will be to explore the interplay between the 2006-2007 Gwinnett County, Georgia challenge to J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and the entrenchment of the Religious Right in the United States from 1970-Present, with an emphasis on broad perceptions of the alternative religion, Wicca. The project will be intended for a general audience, and both user engagement and accessibility will be prioritized.

In order to keep the rise of the Religious Right and Wicca as “real witchcraft” at the forefront of our site, we made sure to incorporate ideas from one or both of these perspectives in each of our primary sections. In “‘Real Witchcraft’ in the 21st Century” we feature a detailed analysis of the identity and beliefs of the Religious Right and the history, perception, and practices of Wicca. This context is then worked into our analysis of the Harry Potter series as a whole and the Laura Mallory case in particular. In the section “Harry Potter in the United States,” we discuss religious belief and fear of witchcraft as the reason why the books are so heavily contested within the United States. In the “Cases” section, we link religious conservatism and belief in demonic possession in the region to a lack of local response to Mallory’s claims, as well as reasoning for Mallory’s choice to challenge Harry Potter in the first place. The “Significance” page wraps up our thoughts on the case in relation to these big-picture ideas through a Genially infographic highlighting important case questions and answers created by both Avery and myself. By working these elements into every section of our website, we hope to convey a cohesive project rooted in a study of the 21st Century rise of the Religious Right and fear of the occult.

We also honor our statement of purpose by prioritizing user engagement and accessibility. Our use of tools such as Genially, TimelineJS, and StorymapJS allow viewers to explore data in a fun, creative way. We also use embedded pdfs, embedded websites, and metaslider presentations to break up text and create visually compelling pages. All of these tools are user-friendly and encourage accessibility. We also encourage accessibility through our incorporation of embedded links on every page. For external links, this system allows users to look further into a fact as soon as they read it. Additionally, internal links provide an alternative method of navigation to our main navigation bar. We also provide a separate “resources” section dedicated to housing additional articles relating to our project and PDF transcripts of our full interviews with Dr. Lisa Eickholdt and Mr. Dana Kling. With its own location on our main navigation bar, the resources section is both easy to find and easy to use.


The idea we hoped to set up in our project contract and explore in the project itself is that of personal belief and fear of the unknown as a driving force in censorship debates, which we believe we have achieved in “Laura Mallory and the Forbidden Book: Harry Potter, Censorship, and ‘Real Witchcraft’ in Gwinnett County, Georgia.’” We hope you enjoy the final GCSU project site as much as we do!

Progress Update: We Have A Website!

We have a site! While we still have plenty of editing to go to get our finished project as perfect as possible, I’m happy to say that Avery and I have finished the first draft of our website. I checked several items off my to-do list this week to get to this point. First of all, I finished transcribing our interview with Dr. Eickholdt and converted the document into a pdf to put on our site. For now it’s located on our “for educators/students” page, but I might create a separate page for interviews and place it there, along with our written email with Mr. Kling, which I also put on the “for educators/students” page in pdf form. So that we would have additional information on that page outside of the interviews, I also added a link to the ALA’s informational page on banned books week. I then took my compiled list of outside articles from our google drive folder and placed it on the “additional resources” page. Right now it’s divided into two sections, “general” and “Harry Potter and Wicca.” Depending on which resources Avery wants to add to the list, we may add additional categories.

In regards to my individual pages, I made the most progress on the “cases” section. The “Harry Potter in the US” section was already half-finished, as I had completed the “Series Summary” section earlier, so all I needed to do on that portion of the site was add content to the “National Reaction” page. On that page I’ve added context to the national censorship debate regarding the Harry Potter series by discussing various efforts to ban the book in schools since its 1998 US release. I’ve also included a StoryMap documenting some of the landmark cases regarding the series outside of the Gwinnett County case. The Alamogordo book burning in particular fascinated me while I was conducting my research, especially considering the recent Harry Potter burning in Poland for the same reasons, so I wanted to find a place to highlight it. I really enjoy the StoryMapJS tool, and thought this would be a great way to incorporate it into our site.

For the “cases” section, I left the “Laura Mallory” and “Original Complaint” pages as they were and added content to the other five, including the “cases” tab itself. While I do want to put more on Mallory’s page, since she is the original complainant and primary player in this case, I’m wary to add anything that could come across as authorial bias. Since we don’t have access to much of Mallory’s own voice, I’d rather err on the side of caution than accidentally smother her presence. On the “cases” tab I’ve added a short blurb describing the content of the upcoming pages and posed some questions we’re attempting to answer in our analysis of the Mallory case. Under “Appeal 1” I’ve got a description of Mallory’s system-level appeal of Magill’s original decision. Since the majority of the action involving this case happens in Appeal 2, I used this page to offer additional information on the school and its placement in the Gwinnett County school system, along with a map of the South Gwinnett cluster. Following Dr. Hajo’s advice, I’m going to reupload the map as a jpeg rather than a pdf so it will load faster. On “Appeal 2,” I use direct quotes from the State Board of Education’s official decision and our interview with Dr. Eickholdt to discuss Mallory’s expanded appeal to the local board. This page in particular is very content-heavy, so I plan on going back in later and breaking it up with some images or a video clip featuring the section of our interview that I featured in text. “Appeal 3” is much simpler, since there was not an official hearing at this point, but I did include a pdf of the State Board’s decision. Not only do I find this document extremely interesting and very useful for understanding the case as a whole, but I also think it is a key primary source that needed a dedicated space where visitors to the site could locate it easily. My “community response” page definitely needs the most work at this point. While I’ve added some perspective on and brief analysis of local response to Laura Mallory and the Gwinnett County case, I still need to include a discussion of the internet response to Mallory. My primary goal for this week is to flesh out this page in greater detail so that I have a better idea of how that information works in coordination with the other elements of our site.

Progress Update: Formatting Interviews and Categorizing Content

While I had hoped to get a large chunk of work on our site out of the way this past week, due to unforeseen assignment buildup in my other courses and some fairly involved deer-related car issues I was unfortunately not able to make as much progress as I would have liked. This does worry me a bit, considering we are fast approaching the deadline for our completed website, but I plan to spend every spare minute I have this week on our site to compensate for last week’s mishaps. I’m going to be focusing on the case pages in particular, since this section is one of the largest on our project site. At this point, along with posting the beginning stages of the “Laura Mallory” and “Original Complaint” pages, I have also mapped out my content on the shared google drive folder Avery and I use to keep track of our notes. The next couple of days will largely consist of me moving these looser outlines from google drive onto their designated pages and formatting them into complete pages. I want to get this task taken care of first so that I can then look back at this section and determine where to place the additional notes I have on Mallory and the case that do not have an official home at the moment. After this is done, I will work on adding the “National Response” page to the Harry Potter in the US section and collaborating with Avery to get the audio and/or video file of our Lisa Eickholdt interview embedded on the site.

Although I have not made quite as much progress as I would have liked this week, I have completed a few important tasks. My primary accomplishment has been completing the “Series Summary” page in our Harry Potter in the US section. While I still may choose to go back and adjust things later, at the moment I am happy with the way this page looks and how its content reads. I have also continued transcribing our Zoom interview with Dr. Eickholdt, and should have the full transcript done this week as well. My former English teacher, Mr. Dana Kling from Brookwood High School, responded to my questions via email last week and sent along his resume for us to use as credentials, which was extremely helpful. Since his answers were fairly brief, it will be easy for us to include the interview in full on our educators page. I plan on transposing the q & a directly onto that page, so that the format stays consistent with our overall site aesthetic.

“How They Do It” and the Role of the Author in the Censorship Debate

Chris Crutcher’s article “How They Do It,” which discusses the removal of his book Whale Talk from a school in Fowlerville, Michigan, brings up an interesting point about the perspective of the author in regard to censorship issues. When we think of challenges to a particular work, we typically think of the complainants and the local school system as the case’s key players— the author is removed from the equation almost entirely. In the Gwinnett County Harry Potter case, for instance, local newspapers discuss Laura Mallory or GCPS representatives such as Dr. Lisa Eikholdt, but rarely, if ever, bring up J.K. Rowling outside of giving her credit as the author of the series. I myself, as someone studying this case, have given little thought to Rowling in this context. Because the author is not directly involved in the effort to remove their book from an individual school/school system, we can easily forget that they are the force behind the contested material. By writing a public response to the removal of his book in Fowlerville, Crutcher actively puts the author back in the conversation. He also, however, uses strong language in his post which, I’d argue, pulls too much attention from the case back to the author. He makes the claim, for example, that “Every book I’ve written since has been censored somewhere. In the early years I believed the censors had the same agenda I had — the good of kids — and that we just perceived the meaning of that differently. I have come to believe something else altogether. These people embrace their philosophy over their humanity” (Crutcher 2). While his point here that a person’s reason for wanting a book censored could be more deeply rooted in larger ideology than in human opinion is valid, it gets buried in the connection to his own text, skewing his viewpoint to that of an upset author. His use of phrases like “these people embrace their philosophy over their humanity” further stresses the Fowlerville case as a personal issue rather than being indicative of a larger problem. Such phrases also create an “us versus them” rhetoric which once again masks Crutcher’s argument that sudden removal of pre-approved classroom material can be disruptive to students’ learning environment in his own anger at the parents who contested Whale Talk. His response makes the author a recognized factor, which is important, but it also overshadows the role of the students, teachers, and parents in Fowlerville. Crutcher unintentionally speaks over them in this post, advocating for the text on their behalf rather than in conjunction with them. As his opinion takes precedence, the voice of the community gets lost. “How They Do It” highlights, then, the balance of voices which must come into play when we navigate the blurred lines of censorship cases. The author, as creator of the challenged work, is a relevant player in these cases. Their intention in creating the work, their intended message, and even their opinion on the book being contested if, like Crutcher, they become aware of the challenge, can be incredibly useful information. If they do get involved, however, it is essential that they remain one of many contributing voices and not the star player. When authors get overly involved, other vital viewpoints are overlooked. Finding a necessary balance between the two allows the author a place in the censorship debate alongside local community members rather than “above” them.

Progress Update: Finishing Our First Interview and Starting Our Site


In the past week, Avery and I have made some exciting progress on our website! On Thursday, I conducted our first interview with Dr. Lisa Eikholdt, a Georgia Gwinnett College professor and speaker on the county side of the Mallory case, through zoom. I was able to get a full audio and video recording of our session downloaded to my computer. This week, I plan to review the footage and compile a complete transcript of our conversation. Dr. Eikholdt’s responses to our questions were extremely helpful, and I am excited to incorporate the interview into our website. She described, for instance, the atmosphere surrounding the hearing, her specific involvement both in the Mallory case and in Gwinnett County as a community member and educator, and her use of the Harry Potter books in the classroom when she worked as a literacy specialist for elementary school students.

In addition to speaking with Dr. Eikholdt, I was also able to get in contact with one of my former Gwinnett County English teachers, Mr. Dana Kling. Mr. Kling has kindly agreed to answer some questions for us through email regarding his views on book censorship as a current GCPS educator. I am in the process of compiling a list of questions for him right now, and will hopefully have those sent out in the next few days.

Website Building

Along with adding to our interview material, we’ve finally begun adding content to our website! To help us get a sense of what needs to be done, as well as to visualize the overall format of our site, I have created blank pages for all of our topics and placed them in order of how we would want them to be viewed. I also organized our sub-categories into pages underneath our parent pages. I am hoping that having a general site format in place will make it easier for us to go in and add content later. As far as applied content goes right now, we are still in the beginning stages. I have completed my autobiographical section of the “About Us” page, and have embedded my personal storymap to add some visual interest. I’ have also written some background on Laura Mallory for her sub-category in our Case section. I would like to add some more information on Mallory, but have kept this section intentionally brief for now until I figure out which information regarding her need to go into other pages in our Case section. Once I have those pages drafted, I plan to go back and expand my Mallory section. I am also hoping we will be able to get in contact with Mallory and potentially get a statement for this page, but we unfortunately we have had some difficulty locating her. I also need to add an image of Mallory, and have been debating the best way of incorporating this photo. I would either like to add a link to her linkedin profile, so that visitors to the site can get additional information about her education and career that are interesting but not necessarily relevant to our project, or to add the photo of her on the Rock Ministries website. While this photo would be ideal, since it is a recent photo provided by her own organization, I am unsure of how to get permission from them to use it, especially since their provided contact information is fairly limited. Once I have decided which avenue to follow image-wise, I will add this to Mallory’s page. Since Avery is currently out of town for a conference, he will be working on his pages later this week.

We have also created a timeline of events using TimelineJS. While we may not use this particular version of the timeline on our site, I like the idea of using this tool to create a timeline of challenges to the series for our “National Reaction” page.

Preparing for Our First Interview

Our first interview with Dr. Lisa Eikholdt is scheduled for this Thursday afternoon through Zoom. We will be recording the webcast interview and putting clips of the video on our website, along with a full transcript. While Avery has been the point of contact for Dr. Eikholdt, he has class during the time she had available to speak with us, so I will be conducting the interview in his place. We created our list of questions for Dr. Eikholdt last week, and I will be using this list to guide my discussion with her. Our interview questions center around gaining perspective on three key elements: 1. The case itself, 2. Community response/debate surrounding the challenge, and 3. General opinion on book censorship. Because of Dr. Eikholdt’s experience both as an educator and as an active participant in the Gwinnett County case, we hope to get her unique insight on the case in these particular areas. We are also hoping that this interview will offer an alternative point of view to Mallory and the Gwinnet County School system as the case’s two primary players. Dr. Eikholdt was involved enough with the case to remember it and give feedback— she is prominent enough a player, in fact, that Laura Mallory mentions her several times in post-case interviews—but is not so heavily associated with the case that she cannot speak freely about it.

In addition to preparing a set of questions for Dr. Eikholdt, Avery and I have also prepared for our interview by discussing our format and how we will incorporate the footage into our website. As I mentioned earlier, we are planning to use Zoom for our web interview with Dr. Eikholdt. I feel fairly comfortable with Zoom, especially considering the fact that we have used this technology for all of our class sessions this semester, but am a little wary running the software on my own and correctly capturing our footage without any glitches. To hopefully circumvent any of these technical difficulties, Avery and I are planning on conducting a practice interview on Zoom this Wednesday during our normal class block, since the entire group will not be meeting during this time. Along with testing out the technology, practicing ahead of time will give us the chance to air out our questions and determine if we need to adjust them or add anything before our official interview. Once we have our recorded interview with Dr. Eikholdt, we will head into the process of editing the footage. I plan on transcribing the full audio before we make any cuts, so that we have a complete record of the entire conversation.

After we have edited the interview to our desired length/pared it down to the most important details, we will put it on the “Community Response” sub-page under our Case tab. Depending on how much information we get from Dr. Eikholdt and/or how much we decide to incorporate additional statements from community members, we might create a separate sub-page dedicated to Dr. Eikholdt’s involvement in particular, but at the moment we plan to have only one page on this aspect of our project. With these plans in place, both Avery and I are prepared for and excited about conducting our first interview this week.

Progress Update: Preparing for Interviews and Finding New Resources

At the end of last week, Avery got a response from Lisa Eikholdt, one of the community members at the Gwinnett County hearing who spoke in opposition of the ban. Mrs. Eikholdt has agreed to interview with us, but first wanted to know what questions we would be asking so that she could prepare. This weekend, I created a list of questions specific to Mrs. Eikholdt’s involvement in the case, as well as some more general questions regarding her opinion on censorship. We plan on sending these questions to her this week, so that she has ample time to look over them in advance. Hopefully with this method we will be able to get her written responses to our questions if she does not feel comfortable with a recorded interview, although for the purpose of our site we would prefer the latter option.

I also found some amazing photos of Laura Mallory at the State Board of Education hearing taken by photo journalist Allen Sullivan. If we can get permission from Mr. Sullivan to use one or all of these photos on our website, I would like to incorporate them somehow. If we cannot get permission, then we may want to consider linking to his website so the viewer can still have access to these photos. The images are still available for sale on his website, which makes me doubt our ability to use them, but at the very least linking to Allen Sullivan’s webpage so viewers can have a visual glimpse into the court case would be worth it.

While looking for photos of the hearing, I stumbled across a Weebly site entitled The Harry Potter Witch Hunt. This site offers a fairly general overview of censorship cases aimed at the Harry Potter series in the United States. While The Harry Potter Witch Hunt could be a useful resource for contextualizing our case among others nationwide, we will have to be cautious as there is a clear authorial bias deeply in favor of the books. The real treasure trove of this site, however, is its Citations page. After going through the provided links on this page, I was able to find several articles solely dedicated to the claim that the Harry Potter books promote Wicca. While I was expecting plenty of resources criticizing the series for its portrayal of sorcery, I was surprised that the books promoting Wicca in particular is a popular critique. One new avenue which came to fruition within these articles is the organization Family Friendly Libraries. This organization, founded in 1992 by Karen Jo Gounaud, was dedicated to monitoring access to controversial library materials for children. While the group appears to no longer be active, it offers another context for national opposition to Harry Potter in addition to documentarian Caryl Matrisciana. Gounaud herself appears in three separate C-SPAN videos between 1994 and 1998, all of which pertain to censorship of materials available to children. Two of these three videos are about books in particular, while the third deals with internet access. While we may have difficulty obtaining the court photos from Allen Sullivan, I expect we will have a much easier time gaining permission to use clips from these videos on our site.

Survey of Technology

Library Resources

While we’re still figuring out the specific layout of our site, both Avery and I agree that we’d like to create something visually compelling. Ideally we’d like to incorporate as many mentally stimulating elements as possible, meaning we’ll need technology which can capture clear images, audio, and visuals. Fortunately for us, our campus library has plenty of media technology available for checkout: iPads, charging equipment, video cameras, photo cameras, MP3 recorders, laptops, calculators, projectors, sound systems, microphones, tripods, cables, card readers, and blue and green screens can all be taken out for student use. While we most likely will not need to use all of these items, it is beneficial to know that we have options in abundance. The video cameras, microphones, and tripods will be especially useful if our interviewees grant us permission to film our discussion. Once we have this data on film/audio, we can edit it in the library’s Video/Audio Editing Studio. We have access to an Experimental Tech Studio as well, but for the needs of our project I believe the Video/Audio Editing Studio will be much more useful. GCSU also has access to Lynda.com, an online training library with thousands of available software tutorials. I am especially excited about this resource, as someone who is not particularly tech savvy but wants to be able to do tech savvy things. Hopefully Lynda.com will teach us how to incorporate some new features or programming into our site.

Digital Tools

There are also plenty of digital tools beyond what is available on-campus which could help us create interesting visuals, especially when it comes to displaying data in new and interesting ways. Gapminder, for instance, is a digital tool which creates colorful, interactive charts and graphs. In relation to our case, we could track different reasons why the Harry Potter series has been previously banned or challenged. By using a graph instead of a whole page, we can add an interactive element to our website and save our text for more important topics, or those which require more in-depth explanation than is available in a chart. Another benefit of using this tool to track past bans on or challenges against Harry Potter is that, since we plan to contextualize our case in a study of the rise of the religious right in the 21st century, we can  survey popular a motivator religion is for seeing the books contested.

Another digital tool which might prove useful to us is textexture, which creates a visual map out of a piece of text. This tool could be useful for highlighting the most pertinent information within our primary sources, as well as annotate them with helpful notes for the reader. While we might not use this feature on every source on our site, implementing it in a few key places could be a unique way of conveying this information to visitor. For example, we could introduce the key players of the case, significant dates, and important arguments by using textexture on the State Board of Education’s summary of the appellate case.

Building a Website

First Steps

As we enter into the beginning stages of constructing our own website, we reach the element of this project by which I’ve been the most intimidated. Having never created an entire website by myself before, it seems like a daunting undertaking. I have, however, begun looking at other websites for inspiration. After going through several different sites, I’ve found a few in particular whose features caught my eye.

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media’s website was by far my favorite of the ones I explored, and the site I plan to use for our “Annotate a Website” assignment. They had several desirable features, including a direct internal link on their homepage which lead to an “about us” style section. The link to their creative commons license is also very helpful.

I love that their projects are organized into block-shaped links with images attached. Not only does this format make the page look clean-cut and neat, but it also makes projects easy to find. Their “who we are” page is really well organized, although Avery and I won’t need something that complex since it’s just the two of us running our site and not a full staff. The sidebar with different categories could also be a feature to consider when constructing our site.  While I loved the site as whole, there were a few features I would not want to replicate. The upcoming events/news blocks, for instance, are cool and useful, but would not necessarily be something I’d incorporate into our website. I would also want to put the contact information in a more visible spot, possibly in the “about us” section. The link to the homepage on the homepage also seems unnecessary. In general, however, I think the RRCHNM presents a solid model for us to look to when outlining our own site.

Understanding the World Today

I also looked at the website entitled Understanding the World Today.   Understanding the World Today has a much simpler format than the RRCHNM’s website, but I do like that they clearly explain the intent of the site on the homepage. I also like their links to social media, although we don’t have any coordinating social media accounts to connect to our site. We could, however, include our individual blogs, which would be an interesting option. The stats counter reminded me of making websites on freewebs as a child, but it is a fun little feature. I still probably wouldn’t want to add it to our website, but I enjoyed seeing it here.

I think the “featured websites” sidebar is a nice touch, but I would probably put it on a different page rather than display it one of the first things someone visiting the site may notice. Much like the RRCHNM creative commons/general citation info page, I find the Understanding the World Today legal page incredibly useful. I think having a similar page on our website would be helpful for ourselves as a guide and for our visitors.

The New Georgia Encyclopedia

I like the general format of the New Georgia Encyclopedia’s website, but I would prefer if it were centered or took up the whole page, rather than having the side image which is interesting but provides no additional information for the visitor. The block links like the ones on RRCHNM’s site are still my favorite feature of the websites I’ve viewed. They keep the format clean but interesting, and add an interactive element to the page. I also like how the individual entries are formatted. They have a textbook-esque division which I find visually appealing and easy to read.

The search bar is visibly displayed at the top of the page, and gives the option to filter results, which is a nice touch. I don’t know how we would replicate this feature on our site, but if we can I would like to have some sort of search feature.

Finding Our Case

We have a break in the case—we have a case! As I mentioned in my last blog post, Avery and I have had a bit of a struggle figuring out a subject for our project. We had originally planned on looking at the Georgia Literature Commission, but then decided that that was too broad a topic to cover comprehensively in one semester. We then thought Flannery O’Connor, as a prominent Georgian author, might drum up some interesting options. It is this idea which lead me to Georgia College’s Special Collections last Thursday to meet with a research librarian and see if there were any local censorship cases surrounding O’Connor’s work. While there I spoke to Holly Croft, a Digital Archivist and Assistant Professor of Library Science at Georgia College. We discussed the possibility of a case against O’Connor. While she was able to find proof that the author’s short story collection “A Good Man is Hard to Find” had been banned in Louisiana, there was unfortunately no recorded case against O’Connor in the state of Georgia.

Luckily, not all was lost. Professor Croft was extremely helpful, and compiled a list of possible leads for me to look into, as well as some digital archives to explore. I took these leads home and began another round of research. While there were a few possible cases that could have worked for the purposes of this project, the one which drew my eye was a case that Leah Tams had suggested to us during our last class. In 2007, a mother in Gwinnett County, Georgia challenged JK Rowling’s popular Harry Potter series because they “promote the Wicca religion and use of them by the Local Board violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” according to the public record of the case by the State Board of Education. The complainant, Mrs. Laura Mallory, originally launched her complaint at her children’s school, Magill Elementary in Loganville, GA. After the school decided not to remove the books from their media center, Mrs. Mallory appealed to the system level, the Local Board of Education, the State Board of Education, all of which upheld the original decision to keep the books in Gwinnett County Public Schools. On May 29, 2007 Superior Court judge Ronnie Batchelor upheld the State Board’s decision, ending the case.

Unlike the other leads we had looked into for this project, this case provided a wealth of resources even from a quick google search. After looking over our options, Avery and I have decided that this will be the case we focus our project on. Another unforeseen benefit of choosing this case is that I was a student of Gwinnett County Public Schools from kindergarten through high school, meaning that I was in the school system during the time of the case. While I do not personally remember the case going on, as I would have been ten at the time and the original complaint was filed at an elementary school about thirty minutes away from my own, I do have connections to a few of my former teachers, two of whom are high school English teachers and all of whom still work in Gwinnett County. Hopefully they will be able to provide some behind-the-scenes insight into the case, or their views of censorship in general as educators.

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