Category Archives: Smart City

Photo Essay on Madanpur Khadar JJ Colony

Please see below a Photo Essay by photographer Rohit Madan, including a 360 degree view of a busy crossroad in Madanpur Khadar JJ Colony, New Delhi, India, one of the areas our ‘Gendering the Smart City’ project is focusing on.

The photo essay forms part of our #GSCProject #AanaJaana exhibition taking place in Mandi House metro station, New Delhi from 1 to 31 January 2019. You can read more about the exhibition here and explore and share our exhibition event Facebook page here

‘Khadar ki Ladkiyan’ – An Exploration of Music as a Medium of Expression

Sunayana Wadhawan, Sound Artist and Music Director

It all began with the young women of Madanpur Khadar, when they voiced their idea for expressing their thoughts and experiences in the city through a song. Inspired by the youth and emerging alternative media around them, the young women began envisioning themselves as being heard and becoming visible in the fast internet world.

Music is a powerful instrument to connect with people, their personal experiences and their struggles. It is present in the personal as well as public spheres of our lives, and has the potential to overcome social and physical boundaries within and across communities. This was their first time trying their hand at an experiment with evolving genres of music like hip-hop and slam poetry, and we collectively turned it into an opportunity to find our voices, our rhythms, our styles, and think more deeply about our reasons for engaging with music.

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Image Credit: Sunayana Wadhawan
All the women involved in this song, including me, are women who are working and/or performing domestic work at their homes. We met every Sunday for a few hours as that was the only day we didn’t have to go to work outside. The sessions were based on the following themes that were covered over a period of 10 days in total.
 
  • Introductions and discovering rhythms: To work together, it was important to first get to know each other and share our personal stories and struggles, issues that affected us the most, our aspirations and our love for music. We respected the stories each one of us shared with the group, these stories accompanied by tears, laughter and much more. We also searched our memories for issues and incidents that affected women in cities to bring alive narratives and people’s stories previously missing in our conversations. While we acknowledged that our bodies were a site of violence in the city, we also discussed notions around desires for freedom linked to our bodies. This also led us to explore how and why we enjoyed dancing to songs from different regions and understanding how rhythms flow through our bodies and can give a sense of freedom of movement.

Apart from clapping and dancing, one of the exercises I conducted was an attempt to find a shared rhythm using a timing that we are all familiar with – the sounds made when we wash clothes. It was an extraordinary moment as all the women had different styles of washing clothes and each one of them was well versed with the actions and sounds involved in washing clothes – a domestic chore often delegated to women in the house. We all settled on one of the easier-sounding styles that helped us make the sounds collectively in rhythm and in unison.

  • History of hip-hop and finding your own genre: From discussing the history of hip-hop as a medium of protest and expression, to observing how hip-hop has been embraced in India over the last few years, we watched videos and grooved to different songs to become more familiar with the sound and delivery of messages through spoken word/hip-hop music. We also watched videos of emerging female hip-hop artists in India like MC Kaur, Dee MC as well as songs like ‘O Womaniya’ that revive local dialects, music instruments and traditions with the help of technology. We did a few exercises to come up with rhymes in Hindi and English, inventing words to find a way to express ourselves and help us warm up to writing our song.
  • Lyric writing: Taking from the conversations we had during our introductions, each of the women penned down their own story as well as the stories of others they had learnt about from the news or even their neighbourhood, in the form of prose, poetry and couplets. The challenge here was to let different stories emerge and express them in the least amount of words possible. We worked on the stories and rephrased them, added rhymes to them, and began reciting them to each other. We then stood in circles and recited different verses alongside some hip-hop tracks I had prepared for our sessions. This process also helped us edit and put the verses in an order that allowed the stories to become more connected and cohesive as one collective narrative, while at the same time retaining everyone’s individual voices and words.
  • Recording, tracking and mixing: Initially, we had planned to hire a studio and gain experience of working in a studio environment, surrounded with all its technologies, as budding artists. However, constraints on time, and being unable to get all the women to a studio for several hours on the same day, limited our options. We decided to take inspiration from our situation, absorbing it into the process of creating this song, and borrowed a good quality sound recorder to record each of the women singing/reciting different parts of the song. Their voices echoed through the lanes of the neighbourhood when they were practicing and collectively recording parts of the chorus and other lines. It was challenging to balance the sounds of a busy neighbourhood and the sometimes timid voices of women who were finding their inner strength to do justice to the emotions they tried to express in the song. Yet, we managed to find spaces in their homes, and Jagori’s local office, to record to our best abilities as the women juggled between their responsibilities and their excitement for recording their very first song.

Once the recordings were done, we heard them out and selected those that were well-recited and fit well with the tempo of the base track. After organising each of the voice clips of the track on software with the help of sound professionals, we worked with, and gave inputs to, the sound professionals to ensure the tracks were mixed in a way that separated each of the voices without making them sound disconnected.

Then came the most exciting moment for all of us – to hear the final track together. It was a Sunday again, and most of the women who took part were present during our first collective listening session. The happiness in the room was evident from the smiles on everyone’s faces at hearing their own voices in the final version of the track. Some of the women were so overwhelmed at their achievement that they had tears rolling down their cheeks.

 

It has been a wonderful and enlivening experience to be a part of this journey to find our voices, imbibe the joy and power possessed by music, and witness a growing sense of pride and confidence in the women as they expressed hope to continue making more songs and spread powerful messages in their city.


Read the other blogs on our new #GSCProject initiative:

‘Filming ‘Khadar ki Ladkiyan’ [Khadar Girls]’ by Nandan Latwal, our Film Director and Creative producer, here

‘The City is For You and Me’ with the music video by Dr. Ayona Datta, Project Principal Investigator, here.

Filming ‘Khadar ki Ladkiyan’ [Khadar Girls]

Nandan Latwal, Film Director and Editor

I was lucky enough to be a part of this research network and feel strongly about the overarching objective of this research project. My association with the ‘Gendering the Smart City’ project was quite serendipitous and has been rewarding in many ways. Without going into too much detail, I would like to share a few challenges that we had to face during the making of this video with the Khadar girls. 

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Poster created by: Ayona Datta

  • Availability – Although the Khadar girls might appear homogenous, yet the group was quite diverse in terms of identity. They ranged from unmarried, divorced, to single mothers; most of them were working outside their homes and some pursuing education alongside this. Amidst all the personal, professional and educational pursuits, it was tough for them to take time out for participation in the project and particularly for the film. The working women often came to the filming sessions even if they have to make excuses at work. Those who have to take care of their family were continually moving between the filming sites and their homes. 

  • Onlooker’s reactions – It is clear from the music video that it is of an open genre where the Khadar girls speak back to the city about their day-to-day challenges particularly around violence in public spaces. Most of this music video have been shot in the streets, main road and open market – places that are frequented by men in general. The Khadar girls had to withstand this male gaze in public places, often also from their neighbours or relative. Even though initially they were uncomfortable with this gaze, they stood firmly through this. 

Image credits: Ayona Datta
  • Infrastructural challenges – In the #aanajaana storymap Dr. Datta has shown how in recent years urban transformation has taken places in Madanpur Khadar JJ Colony. Khadar is on the outskirts of Delhi NCR with least or minimal infrastructural development. The roads were narrow with no public transport and modern monuments of garbage everywhere, with cows scavenging on them. On the last day of our shoot there were no electricity all through the day, no streetlight, and no place to charge our equipments. 

  • Breaking the ice with Khadar girls – My association with this project is nothing but serendipity and this serendipity happened on the night before the day of the shoot. So when we started filming, although Dr. Datta and her team had been working closely with the Khadar girls but my crew and I were strangers to them. To be able to achieve a music video of a good quality we felt that it was critical for us to know them better. We spent a half a day just to get familiarise with each others through various participatory video training sessions. 

Image credits: Ayona Datta
  • Facing the camera – With the advent of smart phone and cameras at both in the back and at the rear people have become adept at photography and taking selfies, but a camera with a cinematographer on the other end is still threatening to a lot of people. I have seen people serving at high posts in government and corporates stammering in front of a camera. Shooting with the Khadar girls was also not easy. We had to take numerous shoots for a single 5 second line and at time with a zero percent success rate. The first day was exceptionally challenging with little progress, but we began to have more of a rapport on the second day. Dr Datta also did a few shoots on the third day and practiced some of the shots with the girls. The last few days of shooting went smoothly with the last day going exceptionally easily as reflected in the video ending.

  • My strict task-master attitude – My personal attribute might have been a challenge for both the Khadar girls and me as director and producer in charge. As a director of the process I had to be assertive at various points and with each repeat shot I was also losing patience and failing to keep my calm. But at the end of the process the Khadar girls and I had come much closer than falling apart. We have ended the filming with a lot of mutual respect and camaraderie. I hope we can stay in touch and develop more films in the future.

Please click here to see Music video of ‘Khadar ki Ladkiyan’

📸 #AanaJaana [#ComingGoing] Twitter Selfie Photography Competition

The #GSCProject #AanaJaana [#ComingGoing] International Twitter Selfie Photography Competition is now open for entries!

About the Competition

The ‘Gendering the Smart City’ project research network team, in partnership with our societal partner Safetipin, institutional partner King’s College London, the One Billion Rising campaign movement and project funder, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), is organising an exhibition which will take place at the Mandi House metro station, New Delhi entitled ‘Art in Public Places – #AanaJaana: Curating Women’s Digital Stories of the City’ from 1st to 31st January 2019.

You can find out more about our upcoming research network exhibition and events, our aims and ongoing projects by exploring our interactive Story Map here and the exhibition information page here.

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How to Enter

To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, in the weeks leading up to the exhibition and during the exhibition month, members of the public are invited to enter our #AanaJaana [#ComingGoing] international photo competition by taking a selfie while travelling or using public transport, posting it on Twitter and tagging our competition hashtags #AanaJaana and #GSCProject.

The Prize

Each photo entry will be judged by our international research team based on its relevance to our project themes – women in the city, urban futures, urban mobility, smart cities, inclusive cities and right to the city, everyday cities and safe cities.

The winning entry and entrant will be featured on the ‘Gendering the Smart City’ project and King’s College London Urban Futures research domain websites and social media accounts. The winner will also receive an exclusive King’s College London branded notebook and pen.

Competition Rules

Each entrant can submit one selfie for the competition (using one Twitter account). This competition is open to all world-wide.

The competition will close for entries at 12 noon (India Standard Time) on 31st January 2019.

The winning entry will be announced via our project Twitter on 1st February 2019 after our ‘Gendering the Smart City’ research network project ‘Art in Public Places – #AanaJaana: Curating Women’s Digital Stories of the City’ exhibition at the Mandi House metro station, New Delhi has closed and the winner will be contacted via the Twitter account they used to post the selfie.

Contact 

If you have any queries regarding the competition, please contact our project Administrative Officer at marta.koch@kcl.ac.uk.

Please share this competition with anyone you think may be interested.

We look forward to seeing your entries!

Delhi Workshop: Gendering the Smart Safe City

Curating Digital Lives for a Feminist Urban Future

13th December 2018, India International Centre, New Delhi

This workshop seeks to establish an alternative framework for curating the smart safe city. It aims to engender current smart city agendas through young women’s everyday experiences of navigating the city. It will present different perspectives of mobility and safety generated by young women through participatory maps, photographs, videos and WhatsApp diaries maintained over a period of time. In doing so, it explores how women on the margins view, understand, and ultimately navigate the city through information and communication technologies (ICT) accessed from low-cost (and often low-tech) mobile phones.  It provokes us to think what safety means in a context where social media provides real time information on the dangers and freedoms located in the metro, bus, auto rickshaw, and walkways as well as the opportunity to express this in creative and poignant ways. It invites us to think how women living on the urban peripheries negotiate the ‘freedoms’ of moving in online space with the ‘dangers’ of going out into the city, or the limitations of engaging via digital technologies with the freedom of stepping out of one’s home. Through a convergence of artistic practice, digital media and architecture, this workshop will demonstrate the potential of a new kind of visual language of safety that is co-produced with the women. It will reveal the capacity of this language to move beyond existing data on gendered violence to highlight the gendered and socio-economic patterns of inclusions and exclusions brought about by a digital urban age.


As part of the United Nations #16DaysOfActivisim, we launched a hip hop song ‘Khadar ki Ladkiyan’ [Khadar Girls] co-written and co-produced with our participants at the event. See our Story Map of the process here.

Read the workshop concept note here.

Explore the event Wakelet with all of the Tweets before and during the workshop here

Watch our workshop videos featuring our #GSCProject team members and workshop participants – project societal partners, academics, experts, practitioners and community stakeholders – who joined us on the day below:

Read the workshop report by Project Research Assistant Arya Thomas here.

Programme

MORNING SESSION

9.30-10.00Participants start arriving with tea and coffee served
Project Outline and Findings
Chair: Kalpana Viswanath
  
10.00-10.30Dr. Ayona Datta (Principal Investigator), Reader in Urban Futures, King’s College London
Gendering the Smart City: Curating Gendered Digital Life in the Margins
10.30-10.45Dr. Padmini Ray Murray (Co-Investigator), Digital Humanities Course Leader, Srishti School of Art and Design, Bangalore
Sharing and Making Digital Knowledge: Using Wikipedia
10.45-11.00

Arya Thomas (Research Assistant) 

WhatsApping and Rapping with Young Women in Delhi’s Peripheries

11.00-11.15Rwitee Mandal, Safetipin (project societal partner)
Gendered Safety Maps of the Unmapped Peripheries
11.15-11.45Q & A
11.45-12.00Break for coffee and tea
Right to Urban Technologies
Chair: Padmini Ray Murray
 
12.00-12.15Sarita Baloni, Researcher, Jagori (project societal partner) 
Working with Youth and Technology in the urban peripheries
12.15-12.30Swati Janu, Senior Designer, mHS CITY LABS and Lecturer in Architectural Design, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi
Memory Cards and Vernacular Media 
12.30-12.45Krishna Menon, Professor, School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University
Gender and the Smart City
12.45-13.00Nayanatara Ranganathan, Manager, Freedom of Expression programme, Internet Democracy Project
Surveillance-As-Safety in Hi-Tech India
13.00-13.30Q & A
13.30-14.15Lunch

AFTERNOON SESSION

Curating the City with Art and Architecture
Chair: Ayona Datta
14.15-14.45Khadar Ki Ladki’ launch of music video and Q & A with participants and sound artist Sunayana
14.45-15.00Kruttika Susarla, Graphic Designer and Comic Artist
The Personal is Political
15.00-15.15Shveta Mathur, Visiting Faculty, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi and Coordinator, Urban Design Studio
Student Design Interventions in Khadar
15.15-15.30Sameera Jain, Filmmaker, Editor and Course Director, Creative Documentary program, Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication, New Delhi
About My Own City
15.30-16.00Q & A
16.00-16.15Break for coffee and tea
16.15-17.15Roundtable Discussion on Gendering the Indian Smart City: Contexts, Challenges and Future Directions
Moderator: Kalpana Viswanath, Co-Founder and CEO, Safetipin 
Janaki Abraham, Associate Professor in Sociology, Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi
Anjilee Aggarwal, Director, Samarthyam
Sohini Bhattacharya, President and CEO, Breakthrough
Mriganka Saxena, Founder, HTAU (Habitat Tectonics Architecture and Urbanism) 
17.15-17.30Final reflections and moving on to next phase of project
Ayona Datta and Padmini Ray Murray

Funded by: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), UK 

Co-convened by King’s College London and Safetipin, Delhi

Local partners: Jagori and School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi

 

#MeToo has arrived in India, and it’s changing how technology is used to fight injustice

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Shutterstock.

Ayona Datta, King’s College London; Nabeela Ahmed, King’s College London, and Rakhi Tripathi, FORE School of Management

https://metoorising.withgoogle.com/embed

Spin the globe to India and you’ll see it’s lit up like Diwali: the #MeToo movement is rising, and – like its US predecessor – is largely being played out on social media, with very real consequences for well-known public figures. The campaign is not confined to large cities; among the top areas searching the term are small towns across India.

This moment has been a long time coming. The public accounts of violence shared by women using the #MeToo hashtag stretch back to memories of growing up, entering the workforce, walking on the streets, using public transport and other settings typically encountered throughout the course of life.

Recently, the Indian state attempted to use smart technologies to deliver safe cities for women. The strategies used to address both online and offline violence include installing surveillance systems such as CCTV cameras, facial recognition, license plate recognition and social media monitoring. What makes these strategies “smart” is that they are integrated into centralised police command and control centres, to monitor and increase response rates.

Yet one of the flagship smart safety apps, Himmat – launched by the Delhi police in 2013 to enable women to alert police control centres of the location of violent incidents in real-time – had only 30,000 users in a city of 19m, and was declared a failure by a parliamentary panel in 2018.

A right to technology

Clearly, technology has divergent outcomes: it can escalate a global movement for gender justice, but it cannot be taken as a panacea for deep-rooted social problems such as violence against women. This raises further questions about who has access to technology, and how it can be used to document violence.

In India, these questions are significant because 26% of the population has access to the internet, compared to the US and the UK where it is 88% and 90% respectively. The demographic of people who use the internet is also skewed in terms of age, gender and geography: 75% of mobile internet users in India are aged 20 to 30, while only 5% are over the age of 35. What’s more, 89% of mobile internet users are male, and only 27% live in smaller cities.

Mobile internet users: mostly male.Lidear21/Shutterstock.

A recent study highlighted that although more people of different ages and incomes are starting to use mobile phones across India, there are still barriers to access: currently, only 45% of people in lower income groups have a mobile phone.

Working women often use mobile phones which belong to male household members, and can be used to monitor their movements. The lower purchasing power of these families means that they mainly have access to older models bought secondhand, with little capacity to download data-intensive apps and other web content.

When they do use the internet, working class women often do so for practical purposes – searching for employment, transport options, childcare and so on. Mobile phones themselves can even be seen as harmful mediums of violence against women, by means of abusive texts or cyberstalking – as #MeToo has shown.

Speak, witness, curate

We three academics are part of a larger group of researchers and social organisations, who have been examining the links between access to digital technology, urban infrastructure and violence against women in India, as well as considering how women themselves speak about and document these connected issues.

Based on our research, we see the right to technology as a key means of fighting gender injustice, in all its forms, in the 21st century. A right to technology means developing women’s capacity to speak about violence. More than simply giving women the freedom to speak via mobile phones, a right to technology would expand their use safety apps and global hashtags to include text messages, pictures and videos shared between private support groups.

A woman captures an image of a space where she feels unsafe, using a mobile phone.Project participant/Gendering the Smart City, Author provided

It also means developing the potential of low-cost, lightweight mobile technologies to enable women to speak of violence, giving them the confidence to locate their violence – in the home, street, buses, workplace – and name its perpetrators, whether that’s family members, colleagues, friends. The purpose of this speech? To be believed, to not be shamed, to remove their perpetrator or to claim justice through the courts.

A right to technology is also about developing a society’s capacity to witness violence through technology. This means expanding how violence is seen and heard, from the #MeToo hashtags to the range of social, legal, policy and infrastructural blindspots which enable violence to continue on an everyday basis and be perceived as normal.


Read more:

India: why collecting water turns millions of women into second-class citizens

 


Woman captures the intimidating and time-consuming experience of taking public transport, using a mobile phone.Project participant/Gendering the Smart City, Author provided

It means seeing violence in the absence of safe spaces, lack of access to safe and reliable public transport, safe drinking water or public toilets. It means perceiving violence in stories of everyday struggles with mobility, unemployment and education. It means witnessing violence in women’s inability to speak without a #MeToo movement, or even despite a #MeToo movement.


Read more:

Indian women confined to the home, in cities designed for men

 


A right to technology also means building women’s capacity to curate violence through a variety of media. This means women can actively select and present a variety of personal stories of violence in their daily lives – monsoon rain floods, waiting for public transport, moments of panic in buses filled with men and restrictions on mobility.

A woman’s mental map, marked with the points on her route where she felt unsafe or was harassed.Project participant/Disconnected Infrastructures and Violence Against Women, Author provided

The maps and pictures shared by women living in the urban margins show the mundane ways in which violence against women and other forms of injustice are interwoven in their everyday lives. This bottom-up viewpoint disrupts the Google worldview of #MeToo trends, seen from a global perspective, and allows women who are too often overlooked and excluded from urban technology to curate their experiences of violence, within or without the #MeToo movement.The Conversation

Ayona Datta, Reader in Urban Futures, King’s College London; Nabeela Ahmed, Postdoctoral Research Associate, King’s College London, and Rakhi Tripathi, Associate Professor in Information Technology, FORE School of Management

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

‘Fast Urbanism: Speed and Time at the Margins of the Indian City’ Keynote #CIG50 #CIG18Maynooth

Project Principal Investigator Dr. Ayona Datta gave a keynote talk entitled ‘Fast Urbanism: Speed and Time at the Margins of the Indian City’ at the 50th Conference of Irish Geographers (CIG) from 10 to 12 May 2018.

Maynooth, 10 May 2018

Speed is fundamental to shaping visions of the modern city and of contemporary urban life. Notions of speed and the acceleration of time have produced distinct conceptualisations of rapid urbanisation as a rush towards progress and modernity. In India, speed is shaping new vocabularies of the future (fast forwarding, future proofing, leapfrogging, race against time), new urban tropes (smart cities, safe cities) and new domains of state rule (streamlining bureaucratic and regulatory processes, efficiency measures, egovernance, Big Data). In this paper, I argue that speed is also fundamental to the conceptualization of ‘new solutions’ to ‘old urban problems’ of Violence Against Women (VAW). By examining the trope of the ‘smart safe city’ this paper examines how speed is conceptualized in the rolling out of safety apps and what this means for those living on the margins of both smart city and safe city in India. Taking India’s recent national initiative to create 100 smart cities I will argue that the focus on the smart city as a strategy of gender safety is a co-optation of women’s bodies and spaces within the logics of a ‘technological fix’. This paper will examine how transformations of ideas of speed and time in the smart safe city shapes practices of measuring, visualising and representing violence, how those on the margins encounter and negotiate the spatio-temporalities of violence, and what this tells us about how we create gender just urban futures.

Have a look at the Wakelet of the event by clicking below:

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Digital Geographies Working Group Symposium ‘Justice and the Digital’ #DGWGSymp 

Project Principal Investigator Dr. Ayona Datta was invited to speak at the Digital Geographies Working Group Annual Symposium ‘Justice and the Digital’ on 6 July 2018.

Project Principal Investigator Dr. Ayona Datta was invited to give a presentation at the Digital Geographies Working Group Annual Symposium ‘Justice and the Digital’ at the Interdisciplinary Centre of the Social Sciences (ICOSS), University of Sheffield on July 6th 2018.

The symposium aimed to explore ideas such as digital (in-)visibilities, voice/voicelessness online, data ethics and data justice, digital divides in access and affordability, uneven digital literacies, justice and inclusion in digitally mediated/smart cities and using digital forms of protest to address social and environmental (in-)justice, featuring panels with high-profile researchers and practitioners as well as three participatory strands of talks, ‘digital shorts’, from members at all career stages, and discussions.

The strands were:

1) Citizenship, Protest and the Digital

2) Data, Justice and the Smart City

3) Justice and Global Digital Inequalities

You can find out more about the symposium here and explore the event Wakelet here.

Gendered Data in Smart Cities Story Map

Combining approaches from urban geography, gender studies, software ethnography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), this mapping project is a unique interdisciplinary international collaboration between King’s College London and Gendering the Smart City project (#GSCProject) societal partners Safetipin and Jagori in India.

Data has been collected on infrastructural blind-spots using innovations in digital technology and open-source mapping, and on violence against women (VAW) through participatory mapping of infrastructure and social usage of public spaces by women, in the selected low-income neighbourhoods of Madanpur Khadar and Badarpur, Delhi.

⬇ PLEASE CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW TO EXPLORE OUR #DIVAWPROJECT STORY MAP.

THIS STORY MAP WAS CREATED BY SASHA MAHAJAN, URBAN PLANNER – DESIGNER AT CH2M/JACOBS.

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