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Text Analyzer Reveals Emotional 'Temperature' of Novels and Fairy Tales

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the fahrenheit-451-surprisingly-chilly dept.

Books 65

KentuckyFC writes "Stories are a powerful channel for communicating emotions. But while they have been studied in detail by generations of critics, there is little in the way of objective tools for analyzing and comparing their emotional content. That looks set to change thanks to one data mining researcher who has applied the process of sentiment analysis to novels and fairy tales that have been digitized on Project Gutenburg and the Google Books Corpus. The results show the density of emotions in different parts of a story and how the emotional 'temperature' changes throughout the tale. For example, this guy has used the technique to compare the emotional content of the entire collection of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales to reveal that the darkest story is a tale called Gambling Hansel; clearly a lesson to us all."

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I usually start with a Gambling Hansel.... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45009115)

then I move to a Dirty Gretel and finish all off with a move I call the Sugar Fairy Plums.

Ironic captcha: bodice

Re:I usually start with a Gambling Hansel.... (2)

alphatel (1450715) | about a year ago | (#45009291)

Sadly Gambling Hansel isn't nearly as dark as Hansel and Gretel or Hans in Luck. So I guess the algorithm sucks?

Gambling Hansel: not dark at all (3, Interesting)

themushroom (197365) | about a year ago | (#45009423)

I didn't find it dark at all, not nearly as dark as the tales Disney sanitized. I mean, it's about a gambler who beats both God and the Devil even if he has lousy luck with mortals prior to getting rigged cards and dice.

Re:Gambling Hansel: not dark at all (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#45009675)

well it's pretty dark that seemingly people on earth have no choice but to gamble nor do beings in hell and heaven.

other than that, it's pretty light hearted for a grimm.

there's even 7 years in gambling hansel during which nobody dies, since he beat death too - and his soul lives eternally in gamblers.

so the algorithm is pretty contextually unaware. maybe it just counts nots and buts. waste of time anyhow, even if it did get me to read gambling hansel.

Re:Gambling Hansel: not dark at all (1)

steelfood (895457) | about a year ago | (#45011317)

It's actually one of my favorites. I read through the whole collection as a child, and even having not read any of the stories again for over 20 years, still remember how he cheated Death, the Devil, and God Himself. It was amusing at the time, and still is now. What I took away from the story back then was that Someone fucked up big giving him the stacked deck and loaded dice.

As far as I can recall (note that I haven't read them in some 20 years), there are definitely darker ones that don't involve death, or only invoke death as a means to ultimately resolve the story.

Re:I usually start with a Gambling Hansel.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45013895)

Hans in Luck is dark? How so?

Maybe you didn't understand the message.

I'd like to see the emotional temperature of A Son (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45009127)

I'd like to see the emotional temperature of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Re:I'd like to see the emotional temperature of A (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45009155)

Eddard dies.

Re:I'd like to see the emotional temperature of A (1)

GingerTea (2800525) | about a year ago | (#45023741)

Eddard dies.

So?

Gutenburg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45009133)

O tempora, o mores...

This Guy (2)

sexconker (1179573) | about a year ago | (#45009147)

The summary doesn't even mention the researcher's name? I mean, I agree that this is useless, pointless "research". But if you're going to piss about and drop Project Gutenburg and "Google Books Corpus" which are only tangentially related, couldn't you at least give "this guy" a fucking name?

Re:This Guy (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about a year ago | (#45009175)

Ahhhh.... This guy... *points at guy...*

Re:This Guy (1)

nightsky30 (3348843) | about a year ago | (#45009239)

ALWAYS reminds me of this guy [knowyourmeme.com] .

Re:This Guy (1)

d'baba (1134261) | about a year ago | (#45009737)

Zaphod is just This Guy

Re:This Guy (2)

mugurel (1424497) | about a year ago | (#45009219)

It's Project Gutenb*e*rg

Re:This Guy (2)

sexconker (1179573) | about a year ago | (#45009235)

It's Project Gutenb*e*rg

And that's what I initially typed. I had to force myself to copy Gutenburg from the summary.

Re:This Guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45009447)

that struck a nerve with me as well.

It's a Pot Boiler! (2)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#45009225)

"How yer know that?"

"It's written in charcoal."

i'll get me coat

The "eight fundamental emotions" (3, Interesting)

PapayaSF (721268) | about a year ago | (#45009263)

From TFA:

Analysing the emotional content of text is also becoming easier. In recent years, researchers have built up significant databases of the emotions that a given word evokes. This is part of the new field of sentiment analysis in which common words are categorised as positive, negative or neutral and associated with one of the eight fundamental emotions—joy, sadness, anger, fear, trust, disgust, surprise and anticipation.

I don't know about anyone else, but I found that bit as fascinating as the text analyzer itself. But where does laughter fit? Shouldn't it count as a fundamental emotion? Or is it considered just a sub-category of "surprise" or "joy"?

In any case, I wonder if someone could combine all that with the 36 dramatic situations [wikipedia.org] and a few other components, and create a program that writes stories....

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (1)

LordLimecat (1103839) | about a year ago | (#45009421)

they didnt fit satisfaction in there, not buying it.

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (1)

PapayaSF (721268) | about a year ago | (#45009471)

I could see classifying "satisfaction" as a type of "joy."

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (2)

dougisfunny (1200171) | about a year ago | (#45010521)

That is a rather limited way to look at satisfaction. Relief, catharsis, vengeance, schadenfreude, comeuppance to name a few could all be descriptive of something satisfactory, but might not cross over into joy so much.

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (4, Funny)

sconeu (64226) | about a year ago | (#45010027)

That's because the authors couldn't get no satisfaction, though they tried and they tried, and they tried, and they tried.

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#45015579)

they didnt fit satisfaction in there, not buying it.

Guess they.... "couldn't get no..."

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (2)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about a year ago | (#45009915)

I don't know about anyone else, but I found that bit as fascinating as the text analyzer itself. But where does laughter fit?

Yeah, while this theory of emotions surely has some good aspects, forcing ALL emotionally charged words into these categories will obviously skew the data in certain ways. When a model like this is used to classify something much more complex, the ultimate data analysis often tells you more about the model than about the data. Are we actually tracking the changes in "sadness" and "fear" over the course of Hamlet, or are we tracking some arbitrary dividing line that this model forces us to use to classify words?

Moreover, these sorts of "digital humanities" projects that just analyze a corpus by counting up occurrences of words are always incredibly limited. It's so easy to skew the data just because a character or place or something in the story happens to include a word that is "emotionally charged" in a particular way in this model.

For example, I note that "Godfather Death" is nearest to "Gambling Hansel" in terms of the "darkest story" in the study. While the story is dark, it's actually rather short and a very simple moral, with a main character who is a remarkable healer. The main character doesn't do too well at the end, but in the gamut of Brothers Grimm stories, this one doesn't have a lot of "dark" details. I assume, instead, that this story gets rated as very "dark" because one of the main characters happens to be named "Death," a word that has a very negative valence in the model. Write a happy story at a bar called "The Good Death" (referencing either bravery or sexuality), include a few other character names or place names that recur frequently but just happen to sound "negative," and I bet this algorithm will judge it "dark" too... or at least not as "positive" as the plot would suggest.

I'm not saying such studies are useless. But they really need to factor in context, multiple meanings, and especially other factors that might lead to high frequencies of their chosen "emotional" words, like proper names or other plot points that may not actually be representative of the vocabulary and emotions of the story overall. In essence, for anything meaningful to come out of word frequency studies, you actually need to read the text as well and take account things that would obviously skew the data.

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (2)

PapayaSF (721268) | about a year ago | (#45010021)

But they really need to factor in context, multiple meanings, and especially other factors that might lead to high frequencies of their chosen "emotional" words, like proper names or other plot points that may not actually be representative of the vocabulary and emotions of the story overall.

You are correct. Obviously this sort of text analyzer is still in its infancy. It would be interesting to throw some oddball stories at it and see the results. E.g., here's a story filled with unpaired words [newyorker.com] . I wonder what it would say its "emotional temperature" was? And of course the program would totally miss the humor. (Note that the New Yorker blew the formatting when they put this online, and that the actual story starts with the third sentence: "It had been a rough day....")

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (2)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#45010213)

I think laughter is a response to an emotion, not an emotion itself. Thus you can have nervous laughter, or joyful laughter, or laughter of relief.........

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (2)

PapayaSF (721268) | about a year ago | (#45010339)

Hmmm, interesting. But what is laughing at a joke? It isn't necessarily nervous, or joyful. It's sort of a relief, in that the tension of the buildup is released in the punch line, but that doesn't seem to be the same as "laughter of relief." Humor, or laughter, just seems to me to be as core of an emotion as fear or anger, but maybe psychologists and data miners don't see it that way.

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year ago | (#45011061)

Agreed. Laughter of relief is laughing when something turns out not to be as bad as you thought it was going to be, which is the polar opposite of humor.

A sufficiently lighthearted story can often be described as simply the absence of darkness, but that's not necessarily the case for all humor. Consider the whole genre of dark comedy, in which the story is funny, but involves really dark, depressing situations that are merely portrayed in a lighthearted way.

IMO, there's definitely a category of laughter that I would describe as "laughter of absurdity". It's every bit as visceral as pain, sadness, joy, etc. So humor (or, if you'd prefer, jocularity) is definitely an emotion.

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (2)

hyperfine transition (869239) | about a year ago | (#45010619)

From TFA:

In any case, I wonder if someone could combine all that with the 36 dramatic situations [wikipedia.org] and a few other components, and create a program that writes stories....

Someone has ... every Hollywood studio has it running on their server farms

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45010743)

Actually a guy named Will Shakespeare had that all figured out about 500 years ago.

(captcha: costumes)

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45011577)

I wonder if someone could combine all that with the 36 dramatic situations [wikipedia.org] and a few other components, and create a program that writes stories....

Judging by the past 50 years of Hollywood movies, I'd say someone's already perfected campbell_plot.pl, though.

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (2)

Panoptes (1041206) | about a year ago | (#45012025)

"This is part of the new field of sentiment analysis in which common words are categorised as positive, negative or neutral and associated with one of the eight fundamental emotions - joy, sadness, anger, fear, trust, disgust, surprise and anticipation."

Codswallop! This notion has been around for a very long time under the name of connotation. Giving something a new name and peddling it as a new concept doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the writer's competence or integrity.

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (1)

Msdose (867833) | about a year ago | (#45015835)

The most fundamental emotion is guilt. The lack of recognition of this in this study makes me wonder if they are using science to flog their religious agenda.

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45037269)

Well, what they have done is do a lot of research over many years, look at things like body language and that kind of stuff in different cultures and decided the things that where the same where
'fundemental' YMMV

Quite how they decided that,

I'm happy you fucked yourself

or, oh that's a lovely shirt your wearing

meant one thing or the other, Christ only knows!

i'm happy you happy! (no your not your a lining manipulative bastard... for a start I'm not happy you fucked me over and saying so doesn't make that the case and if you where happy you would be more generousness, happy people are more generous.)

the research didn't seem to be any kind of meta-analysis and I don't know if they accounted for splitting and other things when marking those 'fundamental' emotions.

Re:The "eight fundamental emotions" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45037317)

So there are thins like this:

http://www.non-verbal.info/2012/01/emotions-7-universal-primary-emotions.html

But that misses some stuff,
e.g. 'rejection' rejection is somatically linked to pain.

one day they will stop calling them 'emotions' and start calling them, 'feelings!'

Think of the Children (2)

Froeschle (943753) | about a year ago | (#45009281)

After reading this article I can only say that I am grateful to have my own childhood behind me.
[the end]

Tropes (2)

PRMan (959735) | about a year ago | (#45009305)

Let me know when it can call out all the TVTropes in a story...or would that cause an endless loop?

Re:Tropes (2)

vlueboy (1799360) | about a year ago | (#45010101)

Let me know when it can call out all the TVTropes in a story...or would that cause an endless loop?

This troper believes that the fun in visiting tvtropes is knowing other geeks have enjoyed each story... or *hated* it, and in many other ways been driven to break down the story for your enjoyment due to resonating with that story emotionally. Call it pride in exclusivity, sort of like coming to slashdot looking for fellow geek observations, tips, jokes, and so on. In short, tvtropes is fun because you're finding someone else that you share some knowledge with in a way the corresponding Wikipedia article cannot fulfill.
So... once a computer is doing the "thinking", even making a knowledge tree 1000 times denser than the depth of TVtropes, we'd know there is no emotion in it, and that it won't be growing on its own from outside contributions, or real-life anecdotes tangentially related to the content, or even grow (would the computer be "watching" new series and recalculate everthing, or would it be too busy maintaining a finite set of data frozen in time.) It COULD be done given enough tech, but knowing implementations, it'd feel like landing at some endless Google linkbait farm that links endlessly to itself, and TRYING to force yourself to enjoy the crickets chirping while you click.

Re:Tropes (2)

Zanadou (1043400) | about a year ago | (#45010257)

This troper...

There's a trope for that.

Here is the PowerPoint for the paper (4, Informative)

TedTschopp (244839) | about a year ago | (#45009331)

Here is the a good summary of the work in a PDF of a PPT.

http://www.saifmohammad.com/WebDocs/LaTeCH-emotions-in-books.pdf [saifmohammad.com]

Ted

Re:Here is the PowerPoint for the paper (2)

retchdog (1319261) | about a year ago | (#45009997)

1. used Mechanical Turk to get people to report association of words with emotions
2. determine emotion by counting(!) corresponding words with weighting proportional to association, using sliding window in time.
3. generate pretty but almost meaningless plot [postimg.org]
4. profit?

hint: Dramatic tension is often created through irony. The audience knows that the doom of character X (e.g. Walter White) comes when he finally comes to trust character Y (e.g. the white nationalist thugs) implicitly. Goddammit, at the very least look for some negative auto- [wikipedia.org] or cross-correlations [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Here is the PowerPoint for the paper (2)

tinkerton (199273) | about a year ago | (#45011903)

Here's a good basic emotion measure: adjective count. It covers the bulk of written text even though one can find ways around it.

The Bible? (1)

GodWasAnAlien (206300) | about a year ago | (#45009445)

> Text Analyzer Reveals Emotional 'Temperature' of Novels and Fairy Tales

How would the Bible be colored?

Per book should be interesting.

Re:The Bible? (2)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#45009529)

Wouldn't the steamiest book of the Bible be Fifty Shades, umm, Song of Solomon?

Re:The Bible? (2)

retchdog (1319261) | about a year ago | (#45010029)

my favorite book of the Bible is Ecclesiastes [bartleby.com] which, being basically an existential musing on the meaninglessness of life by, ostensibly, King Solomon, is considered so out-of-place that scholars have been trying for about two thousand years to figure out why the hell it was included in the Hebrew canon.

Re:The Bible? (2)

TedTschopp (244839) | about a year ago | (#45010121)

The best answer that I have heard is that the existential nihilism that is covered by the book is an important aspect of Jewish / Christian traditions and that all wise people must confront it and think about it. The idea is so central that it even suggests the idea that God himself wrestles with this question and more specifically in the Christian Tradition this is what the Christ wrestled with on the cross when he cried out "Why have you forsaken me?" The saints, holy people, and mad men through out history have all struggled with this and were all changed by the questions asked by this book.

Re:The Bible? (1)

retchdog (1319261) | about a year ago | (#45010589)

And again, the Christians have to retcon Him into every piece of scripture, thereby fundamentally changing its meaning. (I'm not Jewish, btw, I just find it to be an odd obsession.)

But, back on topic, I agree with your general interpretation.

Something that's perhaps overly interesting to me is that the Christian bible usually has something like this translation ``I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all," while the Hebrew bible usually says something like ``... but time and fate happen to them all."

If you're going to interpret this as betiding the crucifixion, I think `fate' would fit better, but for some reason they do it the other way around. Maybe Jesus was none of these things, so it specifically doesn't apply. I dunno.

Re:The Bible? (2)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year ago | (#45010745)

You misunderstood the comment. TedSchopp is saying these are such fundamental questions that every Jew and Christian grapples with, even the Christ who is regarded by Christians as the incarnation of God. The saying of Jesus on the cross "Why have you forsaken me?" is very much of a piece with the existential despair of Eclesiastes. What could be worse for Jesus at that point than feeling that not only is he dying in this horrific way, but that it is a completely meaningless experience, as is the whole of his life and maybe nobody even cares what is happening to him?

Christianity is supposed to be an answer to the questions raised by Ecclesiastes. It is all about life not being futile in the big picture and God actually caring what happens to people. Without the thoughs and feelings expressed in Ecclesiastes, one would have to ask what Christian salvation is even for.

I find it the most universal of all the Judeo-Christian scriptures. It's not just Jews and Christians who must grapple with the apparent meaninglessness of life and the futility of our actions and desires. Everyone must. Every religion and philosophy, if it's worth anything at all, must address these issues.

Re:The Bible? (1)

Msdose (867833) | about a year ago | (#45016113)

As the story is of Jesus as an icon representing the breast at which the child is re-borne, His comment reflects the fact that the success of his mission (saving the fetus after its fall from the womb) is ignored by religions who confiscate the icon to justify their own power and profit, fixing what they claim His failure.

Re:The Bible? (1)

TedTschopp (244839) | about a year ago | (#45030227)

Thanks you got my meaning and made it clear than I could myself.

Re:The Bible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45011597)

And again, the Christians have to retcon Him into every piece of scripture,

Le brave. Please ride your hobby-horse back to Reddit while the grown-ups discuss.

Re:The Bible? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about a year ago | (#45026451)

and more specifically in the Christian Tradition this is what the Christ wrestled with on the cross when he cried out "Why have you forsaken me?"

He was quoting Psalm 22, not wrestling with his conscience. Psalm 22:1 says "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?" It continues, in Psalm 22:14-21

I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax;it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet
17 I can count all my bonesâ" they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog!
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen!

He was begging God to end the pain of this life and take him to the paradise he had just promised the thief who had just converted -- crucifixion is the most horrible form of torture ever invented.

Re:The Bible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45017171)

But without that book Pete Seegar wouldn't have written Turn, Turn, Turn which comes straight from that book, and the Byrds wouldn't have made it famous. Ecclesiastes: The folk-rock book.

There's prior art... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45009469)

...it's called a "reader".

Related stuff by my wife on tagging narratives (4, Informative)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about a year ago | (#45009559)

Mainly by hand though. Free book: http://www.workingwithstories.org/ [workingwithstories.org]
Free software for communtieis: http://www.rakontu.org/ [rakontu.org]
Related business process patent (sadly) when at IBM Research: http://www.google.com/patents?hl=en&lr=&vid=USPAT7136791 [google.com]
Past commercial software: http://www.sensemaker-suite.com/ [sensemaker-suite.com]
National security (does have some automatic aspects): http://app.rahs.gov.sg/public/www/content.aspx?sid=2955 [rahs.gov.sg]

There is a lot you can do with stories once they are tagged for emotional intensity, whether automatically, by the teller, or by other people. Stories are all around us, as we try to make sense of our lives and events in our communities. So this sort of technology to tag emotions in stories is much more far reaching than just being about fiction. It can be used to design better products, to help communities figure out what to do about a pressing issue, to resolve conflicts, and to see emerging trends. That is one reason such work is funded by the intelligence sector (as well as businesses and some non-profits). She's been trying to make these ideas freely available to everyone, but it has been a slow going slog to follow the path of free and open source for all this.

By someone else on the relation between emotion and reason:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Descartes'_Error [wikipedia.org]

Text Analysis... (2)

David_Hart (1184661) | about a year ago | (#45010913)

So, this analyses text and emotional connotation of words to produce an emotional score for each story. Yet, it has no way of divining context, whether or not a particular section of the story is funny, or if a death causes an emotional reaction of sadness or satisfaction (i.e. the character was evil, deserved it, etc.). In other words, it's an arbitrary system that may work at a basic level but will still get a lot of things completely wrong... at least it's a start, I guess...

Why won't it read. (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about a year ago | (#45010977)

WHY!

Accuracy? (1)

Oligonicella (659917) | about a year ago | (#45011429)

"The sun shone brightly, streaming into their contented lives to bring warmth and security, allowing them all to feel it's glowing influence. Or so they wished."

My guess is that the program wouldn't find that grim or depressing at all. Context is everything.

Re:Accuracy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45011605)

Context is not everything. You're using an example with a surprise twist ffs.

As a human reader as well, you feel that the text is positive until you arrive at the final sentence, or at least that's the writer's likely intent. The majority of the text is positive and an automated analysis should reflect just that and not color the rest of the text based on a final detail.

"Would you like an apple?"
"No, eventually it will be a core!"

Computational linguistics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45012017)

There seems to be a rising interest in computational linguistics on ./ recently. But the tags and categories for the stories are all over the place.
I am a student in this area and believe that it will be an interesting branch of research in the years to come. I think that it would be fitting to create an own category for CL for several reasons. The first reason is that some authors with no background in CL post stories here that make me cringe (like the translating without dictionaries story a few days ago). And of course would it be nice to make people aware of this field of research and the stories easier to browse.

For everyone who is interested: http://aclweb.org/

Simple (2)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#45012907)

if (text contains 'Natalie Portman' && text contains 'grits') temperature='steamy';

Dead Poets Society (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45013097)

Excrement! That's what I think of Mr. J. Evans Pritchard! We're not laying pipe! We're talking about poetry. How can you describe poetry like American Bandstand? "I like Byron, I give him a 42 but I can't dance to it!"

Borrow the NSA's? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45013149)

My bets on the next leaks are on a database of all americans that ranks each individual's "shoot 'em up" threat level based on analysis of all your comms + browsing habits and social network.

For the mass of cowardly americans shivering in fear from the constant stream of terrorizing news, it will be a "tough choice," but their fears will seal the deal. Our children will curse us (but only in well guarded thought).

Carpe Diem (1)

Richy_T (111409) | about a year ago | (#45013541)

I preferred the version with Robin Williams.

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