Archive for the MAIS Category

the land agent

Posted in MAIS with tags , , , , , on September 12, 2013 by onepercentyellow

In my first week of readings (last week… oops) for my Athabasca Anthropology 610 course, I came to a full stop in the middle of the book.

 “In indigenous concepts landscape has agency” (Johnson 204). 

Of course it does, but I have never heard it put this way before.  The agency of the land – the Gaia principle – imbues the land with not only its own existence, but its own set of relationships, its own choices and actions to be taken, and leaves us pondering what our own role is in that continuum of creation.  If landscape has agency, what am I in wake of the land’s power (being of and from it)?

And when I recognize that the Earth is its own living system, of which I am but a small part, I begin to relax and relinquish control, even in just a small way.  I give up control as I do when I set down the chip colonialism has placed on my shoulder.  I am not responsible for the “civilization” of the world’s people.  In fact, I don’t have the answers my culture tells me I have.  There are systems of knowledge I have never conceived of.  There are types of blindness I suffer because I have never been taught to use my eyes.

And I consider this against the human systems we have created – the economy, the military-industrial complex, the church, the state – I wonder if these reified systems, too, have agency.  Is there something living in them, a kind of animation?  Have they grown and experienced evolution throughout time, only to have reached their now monstrous form – all teeth and claws – at the head of the food chain?

And that brings me to the life that comes when we feed our traditions.  Those reified systems have reached their zenith because we have fed them.  We consult them; we speak their names; we channel our energy and beliefs through them, and, in turn, our lives are lived through them.  But is this relationship simply another empty cup to raise to our lips?  Are we satiating ourselves on a diet of empty calories and failing to dip into the nourishment of fellowship? 

I ask you to try this simple tradition.  Before your next meal, sit in contemplation of the food you are about to commit to your body.  Consider where each part has come from – the energy of the sun, the water and minerals from the earth, the lives that have ceased.  This is not an exercise in guilt, but one in gratitude.  And as you thank each part for its part, ready your body to receive this bounty.  Permit your body to exact the full transaction of energetic existence.  Breathe – knowing full well that it is not that you are pulling in air, but merely allowing it to enter your body – a place where it wants to be.  And then enjoy your meal.  It feels different to eat in this way.  This is presence.


Johnson, Leslie Main.  Trail of Story, Traveller’s Path: Reflections on Ethnoecology and Landscape.  AU Press: 2010. Print.

Slowly becoming

Posted in MAIS, Online, Uncategorized with tags , on September 4, 2013 by onepercentyellow

It has been a long time since I’ve written in this space.  I hope to remember to record my experience of presenting in my first academic conference at some time, but this is not what has brought me back to this space.  I’m here because I might just get the chance to share my great passion for connection in the digital world.  I might just be about to teach alongside my mentor – the person who has so greatly inspired me to consider the importance of taking on the vocation of being an educator.  I might just get to affect and be affected by a group of amazing Augustana students this semester.  And maybe this will help me reach that final goal – that final push toward the completion of my masters degree – and after such a long, tumultuous, and affecting road, I want to do it right.

So.  I’ve been invited to be a part of Spirit of the Land, an experiment in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) by the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta.  Now that all the big names have been dropped, I can tell you how this MOOC is different, how we’re shaping things to be our own, and how I have become passionate about my capability to contribute in a meaningful way.

Now I’ve been a student, staff, and most recently over the summer, an actual contracted instructor at Augustana for many years.  It’s been a foundational part of too many of my final papers to count.  Every time I write about education (which is a lot during my MAIS program in adult education) I reflect on the deep shifts of meaning I traversed through my time at Augustana.  I attribute this to the sense of responsibility Augustana and other small Liberal Arts universities have for the kind of people our students become. When I come into contact with an institution or a teaching methodology that does not pay attention to this fundamental connection between teacher and student, I balk. I cringe.  I shut down.  And then, since I don’t take things laying down, I push.  I know I have done my share of pushing in my program at Athabasca – some appreciated, some not – and that I will at some point experience the same when I meet myself in my own classroom.

It comes back to this.  When a student enters a classroom, s/he opens her mind, her way of seeing the world, her way of knowing, maybe even her heart, to the perspectives of the theorists taught in the class, and, what’s more, the perspective of the professor who is presenting the theorists taught in the class.  I remember in my first year at Augustana I was speaking to one professor.. asking “but if postmodernism is wrong, then…”

“wait a minute,” he said. “Who told you that postmodernism is wrong?  Perhaps you should decide that for yourself!”

Wait… I can do that??

So.. from that value-laden, and consequential perspective on being an instructor, I prepare myself to work on this MOOC… which is actually an OOCC, I consider what it is I’d like to contribute to the way the individuals in this course see the world.

First – what is Spirit of the Land about?  It’s about developing a community land-use ethic.  It’s about Aldo Leopold’s assertion that one day we will see the land and our relation to it in the same way we see our relationship to one another.  That we will feel ethically responsible for the destruction and desecration of life we are bringing about on our planet.  And we will do this in community, for “nothing so important as a land ethic is ever ‘written’.  It arises in the minds of a thinking community,” says Leopold.

Second – it’s about community.  It’s a course that is happening over breaking of bread with one another.  With “students” and “community members” cooking together and then sharing the nourishment of deep intellectual consideration of important issues.  It’s about connection.  It’s about conversation.  And it’s about bridging our classroom/intellectual/academic worlds with our embedded/emotional/physical/spiritual worlds.  And it happens together.

Further, it’s about connecting to the great healing stemming from the recognition of the great wrongs that have been done to the people whose tradition, language and culture grew from a relationship with the land we are living in and growing on.  The First Nations people who have, for so long, been relegated to the sidelines for their naive relationship to the natural systems of our planet. These people who can stand #idlenomore and are defending mother Earth with their words, their hearts and their bodies.

All of these things appeal to me greatly.  And I’m being given the opportunity to demonstrate how these types of connection can happen in the digital world.  Throughout my research into connectivist learning theory, I have grown to understand that the digital world is not just a place to go to get information, it’s a place to form a trusted network that moves beyond the vetted tidbits of information fed through the traditional forms of media.  Social networks are ways to understand the world from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.  When Arab Spring happened, when China shut down the internet, when #occupywallstreet led to campus protests being peppersprayed in a place of higher learning, I came to realize that people who are connected to one another without necessarily going through the mechanisms of censorship share the opportunity to make social truth transparent.  This is in direct opposition to those who perpetuate lies.

There are a lot of lies happening about our relationship to the natural world.  Our relationship to each other.  Our relationship to ourselves.  These lies can be combatted with a connection to like-minded individuals who have explored the importance of developing a healthy, balanced, ethical relationship to the systems that sustain life.

How can I not be absolutely honoured to be a part of something so beautiful?

The Social Artist – Interactivity

Posted in eci831, MAIS with tags , , , , , , on December 11, 2012 by onepercentyellow

Learning happens when the world bumps up against what you already know.  In our clumsy stumble through life we’re constantly colliding with new ideas in text, in music and video, in objects around us, and in other people.  The thrill of having your own notions of existence confirmed, and the conscious-raising experience of understanding a resistant view of the world is one of the great drives of education.  We want to understand our world no only for ourselves, but for each other.

In the educational world, it’s tempting to submit this interaction to a top-down structure that reinforces power relations found throughout society, but one of my favourite pedagogues, Paulo Freire, argues (with the help of Erich Fromm) that this type of interaction is a drive toward “necrophily”.

“The necrophilous person is driven by the desire to transform the organic into the inorganic, to approach life mechanically, as if all living persons were things… He loves control, and in the act of controlling he kills life” (Friere, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 77).

It is not enough to simply have interaction among the players in an educational enterprise.  We must encourage authenticity, presence, and a drive toward a dialogical method of teaching that will encourage a love of life through a profound curiosity and desire to interact with ourselves, one another, and our world.

A trip to the analogue world

Posted in MAIS, Online with tags , , , , , , on September 18, 2012 by onepercentyellow

Now I’ve been a digital student for about 3 years, and this weekend I had another chance to take my digital self into the analogue world for Athabasca’s first grad student conference.  While the nerves just about did me in, I made it through the weekend ecstatic about the whole experience.

First I must mention, I was presenting at the conference… a very applicable topic – autobiography and the digital world.  I wanted to use autobiographical theory to explain how we develop a believable, and hence FUNCTIONAL, digital identity.  A good autobiography, like a good digital presence, shares something of our humanness and makes us a REAL textual person – a person others can relate to, a story they can draw on in understanding their own journeys through life.  Like reading a good autobiography, meeting a digital self can help you expand what you believe is possible in a life.

Thiswhole process has been a huge exercise in reflection.  On the one hand, I was aware that the self most of my audience was familiar with was my digital self.  In fact, this is the a priori self – this textual, video, photographic avatar.  My analogue self would need to be consistent with my digital.  Not difficult for me as I’m pretty much the same person in both places, but I struggled with finding space to present all of the aspects of my digital self that I wanted to bring across in this analogue circumstance with its temporal limitations.  I only had 15 minutes (!!!!!) to present!  How could I possibly include everything in such a short time span?  I had to broaden my scope.

I decided to make my entire weekend a part of my presentation – again, not too difficult as my topic was autobiography – and meld the digital and analogue as much as possible.  Friday night’s meet and greet came and went and I introduced myself in both spaces, leveraging my more established digital self to make space for my analogue expression:

Saturday night I got to bring my ukulele-playing, participatory-music-promoting, dancing, laughing, kazoo-toting self!  The most precious moment of the entire weekend was when Terry Anderson, an educator and theorist I highly respect, played my kazoo along with the horn section of the band!  After interacting with everyone’s “real” self (and here I oppose it with their polished, professional, academic selves), how could I be nervous?

Sunday morning Katherine Janzen welcomed me with tales of metamorphosis in the educational journey.  The butterfly, present so much in my life this year, showed itself once again to remind me to step forward with courage.  And I did, with new friends in the audience, and old friends tuning in on #ds106radio.

I’m excited to put Mark McCutcheon’s (@sonicfiction) question to work in my further research.  What exactly do I mean by authenticity?  And I’m happy to have such a positive experience under my belt.  I will continue to use this research as I participate in conversations later this week on digital education in Liberal Arts universities.

But what I will take away the most is the confidence this experience has given me.  I wrote, I practiced, I edited, I practiced, I worried, I practiced and finally I presented.  While those 15 minutes were important, it was sharing my uke, my love of music, and my broader self that made the connections that will last beyond this presentation.  Once I had made a space for my whole person to attend the conference, that shy, self-conscious, impostor-syndrome-suffering academic wasn’t alone.  She had a musician, a gypsy, and a connected educator at her side, and with that host of selves lending their light, the academic in me could shine.

ART – keeping you real since the internet began

Posted in eci831, MAIS, Online, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 24, 2012 by onepercentyellow

Well, it’s that time again: the beginning of the semester.  While I have not signed up for my next MAIS course, I have been enticed into participating FOR REAL THIS TIME in #ds106, the MOOC with the MOST (other than ECI831 – sorry, all… @courosa still holds the special place in my digital heart!).  This coming as I prepare to present on autobiographical theory and digital identity development, or as I like to think of it – living the autobiographical self.  I put out the question – what makes people real in the digital world – to the #ds106radio audience on my birthdaycast.

So I have finally made my first true entry into the #ds106 world… I AM REAL!!! I can make an ANIMATED GIF!!! With @cogdog’s help, of course.

The Social Artist – What is liberal arts?

Posted in eci831, MAIS, Online with tags , , , , , on January 11, 2012 by onepercentyellow

The question, “What is a liberal arts university?” is a little like asking someone to describe post-modernism. Often people know more what it feels like and looks like rather than exactly what it is. A description involves questions of the value and purpose of a post-secondary education, and, as such, becomes a rather self-revealing political statement, rather than a detached list of descriptors. Individuals are involved in the telling of liberal arts stories, and perhaps this passion is the most revealing of all.

In this second video of the Social Artist, we discuss the makings of a liberal arts university in general. For me, this video has been created alongside readings in the theory of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) for my MAIS 638 course with Dr. Carolyn Redl. As a part of CDA not only am I considering the responses to the question, “What is a liberal arts university?” but this new theoretical background has me pondering the context each person inhabits in the liberal arts system and how that has influenced their responses. What’s more, I am reflecting on how my role as editor is manipulating the recordings to speak back to the audience in an abridged, entertaining and engaging format. I find it fascinating that in many ways, my own voice is populated by a series of clips of the voices of my interview subjects.

I have also been contemplating my goals in creating these videos. I want the story I am portraying to encourage people to take up their own conversations on liberal arts and online learning. From this perspective, I wonder how the individuals interviewed view the responses of their colleagues. From the social artist perspective, I wonder how presenting an audience’s words back to them influences levels of interest, involvement and buy-in on a project.

These ponderings are simply questions I have come up with along the process of creating the videos. I hope to share more of my reflections on the creation of the videos and the OLI process in this space. In the meantime, enjoy the show!

eci 831 week 5 reflection – a proposal in participation

Posted in eci831, MAIS with tags , , , , , on October 18, 2011 by onepercentyellow

It has been one of those interesting weeks…

P.S. Oh yeah… and Jim Groom rocks <—- this is not bait… ok, maybe it is! Here Jimmy jimmy jimmy….

Connectivism in Elluminate with George Siemens

Posted in MAIS with tags , , , , on November 19, 2010 by onepercentyellow

I recently had the great fortune of bringing together a community of people I respect.  We came together for a presentation on connectivism and a guest lecture by George Siemens.  First of all, I would like to thank George for coming to my session, and demonstrating what integrity in learning looks like.

While I recognize it is only one aspect of connectivism, the consistency between the words and actions of a teacher is key to establishing trust in a learning connection.  As the tenets of connectivism make no judgment in themselves on any type of hierarchy of connections, we can see any new connection as something worthwhile that has the potential to create new or interesting knowledge.  In agreeing to come to the session, and for staying much longer than originally anticipated, George gave me hope that I had the potential to create valuable knowledge in interaction with his theory.  While I’m not sure I had much interesting to say in the session (I was awfully nervous), I hope that my reflections on the theory from the perspective of some of the people in the room will help me elucidate some of the strong attributes of and questions I have for connectivism.

If we can consider anything consisting of a set of connections to be a learning thing, and if this includes biological systems such as our brain patterns, then could we also consider ecosystems and our planet to be learning things?  We certainly establish the first patterns in our pre-reflective mind by interacting with the forces of nature.  As we get older we begin to take for granted the physical nature of our being and begin to engage in the constructed reality around us, but as environmental educators and stewards remind us, the natural world is an entity with which it is important to connect.  The knowledge we can create with the natural world can be astoundingly beautiful and have dramatic effects on our systems of meaning and our health.

In addition, I see connectivism as a view of learning that could be used in community service-learning (CSL) models.  The image of connection between theories (shifting application of thought) and experience (shifting instance of being), is also at the root of CSL.  The deepening of a student’s relationship with a professor, theory or an organization that becomes possible when the connection between entities is considered an important aspect of knowledge, has the potential to fundamentally affect change in all entities.

Of course, as in all education, I must question where the power lays in this system.  In the online world it seems to hinge on the status as an early adopter, and by the amount that an individual contributes to a community.  In the analogue world, a relationship with a professor would seem to follow the same rules.  With the seemingly a-ethical stance of the theory, I wonder where grounding principals come from.  Connections are where knowledge is created, so any connection has merit.  It is the creation of knowledge that lends merit to the existence of connections.  What is the point of creating knowledge?  Is this a fundamental human need?  Or is the fundamental need to create connections and knowledge comes about as a fine side-effect?  I suppose I wonder what the underlying motivation is within the theory, as I am a bit skeptical of knowledge for knowledge sake.

Finally, the economics of connectivism continue to perplex me.  While there is much sharing and liberation of knowledge happening in the online world, the gift economy must be more sustainable to challenge our present economic model and the economy of privacy complicates our view of what comprises capital.  In the meantime I wonder how George encourages himself to make time to connect personally with small groups of people.  I hope that he enjoyed the session.  I certainly gained a lot in hosting it.

The elluminate recording will be available for about 2 weeks before my temporary account expires.  I hope you have a chance to check it out.  George begins his discussion at about 6 minutes in.

Elluminate Recording



Take your analogue friend for a digital walk

Posted in eci831, MAIS with tags , , , , , , on October 20, 2010 by onepercentyellow

Recently I read an excellent blog post by Mark A. McCutcheon (@sonicfiction), a professor in Athabasca’s MAIS program, discussing his interest in a student’s (@lectio) twitter-reading of a postmodern text.  As she read, she posted short messages showing synthesis of concepts and poking fun (as it should be poked) at that playful pomo theory.  The most interesting part of the post, however, came when Mark discussed the tension between engaging with or disregarding his student’s publically broadcast messages.

“I wasn’t sure about how to broach the topic at first, anxious that it would be a bit like jumping out of the blind to scare the wildlife one’s been observing.”

My first experience with an online course, sitting in on Alec Couros’ open-ed ECI831, was certainly one where all blinds were open.  Indeed, much of Alec’s life is open to anyone who wishes to investigate.  While I recognize that there are many tools and spaces available for those who wish to have a transparent classroom, I think it takes more than simple technology to move faculty, staff and students into the great beyond, even in an online university like Athabasca.  Connected leaders will need to model a new form of engagement and prompt others to embrace this shift in culture.  In this vein, I thank Mark for his post outlining his trepidation as well as the reward of “jumping out from behind the blind.”  I hope he continues to incite participation in interactive spaces.

Of course, there must be some pages that are restricted for various reasons, but I’m speaking more to the culture of Athabasca and other online learning spaces.  Moving into the online world in a real time and connected way can be frightening.  I recall not long ago being in my first MMORPG (massive multi-player online role playing game), Maple Story.  It’s a game my boyfriend was playing and is a Mario-brothers, collect-the-little-coins type game.  The first time I saw another player on the screen I felt a surge of adrenaline down my spine.  That character was connected to a PERSON on the other end somewhere!  How did that other person get into my computer?  It was a little like discovering there was someone in my home.

Since then I’ve gone through various stages of developing my online identity and now feel more confident in navigating this digital world, but I can still recall the chill I got that afternoon.  Walking into a room full of strangers is daunting, but we have been doing it all our lives.  The digital room is full of strangers without faces, without names, and sometimes who are not human (bots).  This step is not a small one, I recognize, but just as we develop personalities and values to filter which strangers we will talk to on the street, we gradually develop assertiveness to engage with digital strangers.

I think that a great way to facilitate this process is by taking others out of their homes and on digital walks.  I’d certainly like to thank @plind for taking me on my first digital walk!  We show our friends the sites, steer them away from the shady parts of town, and demonstrate the rewards on offer for those willing to embrace shared experiences in the digital world.  To me this also means opening the door to your home through that screen you’re looking at right now.  Perhaps by inviting someone in, you will encourage someone else to open a door.


The Muse and Motivation

Posted in MAIS, Online with tags , , , , on May 17, 2010 by onepercentyellow

I began my first MAIS course in February, and for the first month of the course, I was angry.  Again, there were many things to which I could attribute my anger, but a clear and dominant focus was Watson and Tharp (2007).  I didn’t want to be angry with them.  They had interesting things to say, and a clear and focused method for me to find my way to personal satisfaction, yet my discontent simply grew with each passing page.  These two well-meaning strangers were asking me to look at my life and decide on something that really needed to change.  They soothed me with the success stories of others, and, like TV evangelists, promised me salvation if I could just follow the simple steps.  The problem was, they forgot to tell me how to start.  What was I to do if I had no pressing problem in my life?  With course time ticking away, I decided to trot out an old muse of mine: writing.

Now a writing project wouldn’t have been all bad, and there are numerous articles in our course readings that talk about both the difficulty and reward available to those who decide to pursue a regular writing practice, (Epstein, 1997; Malott, 1986; Wallace & Pear, 1977) but the fact remained that I was never able to truly begin my project.  I seemed to be waiting for something, perhaps a spark of inspiration to free my pen.  I wore my flint to the nub, watching for the faintest tendrils of smoke, fan ready to encourage the fire to grow, but all I could conjure were flashes.  In the cold darkness of my frustration, I couldn’t see that my kindling was wet.

Anyone who has been caught on the side of the road with an empty tank can tell you how important it is to have sufficient fuel to reach your destination, and a self-change journey is no different.  Garrison (1997) encourages us to look at our “motivational reserve or fuel” (Garrison, 1997, p. 27) gauge to check that we hit the road with ample entering and task motivation.  Watson and Tharp ensured that I thoroughly checked my task motivation gauge, encouraging me to clarify my goals, anticipate problems, and believe in myself (chapter 2); and stressing keen self-observation, and identifying the indicators on the road to self-modification: antecedents, behaviours and consequences (chapter 3).  Watson and Tharp effectively guided me in consulting my “map of the future” (Watson & Tharp, 2007, p. 32) and asked me, “Where exactly are you going?” (Watson & Tharp, 2007, p. 32).  What they didn’t ask me is, “Why do you want to go there?”

Garrison’s discussion of entering motivation centers on “the process of deciding to participate” (Garrison, 1997, p. 26).  Until this point in my research, I hadn’t realized that my failure to persist in my writing project could have been caused by my indecision to participate in the first place.  This disorienting thought lead to a re-examination of my project.  Why did I want to complete this particular project?  What skills did I have to complete it?  And most importantly, what barriers was I coming up against that prevented me from beginning?  Garrison’s (1997) outline of the factors influencing entering motivation helped me look closely at my proposed project.  Certainly my writing project was of value, and I had the skills and ability to complete it: it was a project I had focused on for more than three of my undergraduate courses.  It was my attitude, and my reason for choosing this goal that were not sound.  I realized I had chosen this goal for shallow reasons.  I had academic success with this muse before, and I thought it would be easy to reproduce the experience.

Entering Motivation Factors (Garrison, 1997, p. 28)

I recently had the pleasure of watching the movie “Nine” (2009), a film about a famous Italian director tasked with scripting an epic movie about his country.  In the crucial moment, his muse enters and refuses to perform for him in his visionless picture.  She walks out and he crumbles, his career in ruins.  When I explored for myself my muse, this group of characters who had performed so well for me in my undergrad, I recognized that I failed to approach the wellspring of my inspiration with a proper spirit.  By assuming that my creative spirit would simply perform for the sake of my good grades, I objectified my muse.  I turned again to Watson and Tharp, focusing on Figure 1-1, Alternative III (Watson & Tharp, 2007, p. 5) where they graphically represent reality as “an interaction of person and situation” (Watson & Tharp, 2007, p. 5, ital. mine).  They construct this reality as “the point of view we will adopt in this book” (p. 5), but they only use an anthropocentric viewpoint of “the situation”.  They never concede that the situation can be viewed as the “other”, and interpersonal skills apply.  As Jodie mentioned in her May 12th post, “in order to change a behaviour that is holding me back from fulfilling my true potential, I must first accept it. […] We have to respect that the unwanted behaviour is a part of ourselves that grew organically in response to some stress or threat.  When we remove the behaviour through effort, will and trying, we threaten ourselves further and the behaviour digs right in.”  In order to prevent this “digging in” of behaviour, or abandonment by our muses, it is important, as a gesture of respect, friendship, even love, to interact with our situation and see what it has to say about our future.

The process of choosing a goal is important, not only so you know where you’re going, but also so that you can ensure you’ve got the fuel to get there.  By observing the world and interacting with our situation, we can see signs that point us toward success.  If I were to do this course again, I would start with the assignment outlining goals for the next year/5 years, record the frequency that I attend to each one of these goals within the first month of the course, and then choose a goal to focus on from there.  While it may not yield success, at least I would be following through on a goal supported naturally by my environment.  It may mean fewer uphill battles, and leave me with just a little gas left over to enjoy the ride.

Epstein, R. (1997). Skinner as self-manager.  Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis, 30(3), 545-568.

Garrison, D. R. (1997). Self-Directed Learning: Toward a Comprehensive Model. Adult Education Quarterly, 48(1), 18-33. Retrieved from

Malott, R. W. (1986). Self-Management, Rule-Governed Behaviour and Everyday Life. Behaviour science: Philosophical, methodological, and empirical advances, pp. 207-228 Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Marshall, R. (Director), Tolkin, M. & Minghella, A. (Writers). (2009). Nine [Motion picture]. USA & Italy: The Weinstein Company.

Wallace, I. & Pear, J. J. (1977).  Self-control techniques of famous novelists. Journal of Applied Behaviour Analysis, 10(3), 515-525.

Watson, D. L., & Tharp, R. G. (2007). Self-Directed Behaviour. Belmont, CA: Thompson.


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