[-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 55, Issue 14 - ""Participatory creativity as a prerequisite for community formation"

MAZALI TATIANA tatiana.mazali at polito.it
Tue Jun 16 16:55:37 EST 2009

Dear all,
it's my first 'post' in Empyre, thank you to Paul Woodrow 
to have suggested me to joint this space of discussions.
My name is Tatiana Mazali, I'm an italian post-doc 
researcher. My areas of activity: Communication and Media 
Sociology, Cultural & Media Studies, Audiovisual 
Languages, Performing Arts.

Here I want to partecipate in the thread opened by Simon 
Biggs, "Participatory creativity as a prerequisite for 
community formation" with a reflection concerning the 
project ZEXE.NET by the artist Antoni Abad. I'm very 
interested in this work and I'm doing a research about 

Let me start with some theoretical key points about 
'participatory culture' and 'performativity' and let me 
finish with a short description of zexe.net

Individuals and groups themselves ‘perform’ using social 
network sites. Their profiles provide these subjects to 
put their own identity, representations and ‘friends’ to 
the test’. But social network spaces are not simply 
representational spaces: they are performance spaces. They 
are constructed social and relational spaces where 
identity is created, and where, above all, “we act”.
With the rapid growth of social spaces on the web (virtual 
communities, chat, forum, etc.), whose interactivity 
highlights its key ‘relational’ nature, the web as 
interactive space has given way to to the web as a 
relational space.
Currently, social network sites has completed this shift 
from interactivity to ‘relational’ and from ‘relational’ 
to ‘participation’. Henry Jenkins defines typologies of 
‘participatory culture’ as follow:
Affiliations (Friendster, Facebook, message boards, 
metagaming, game clans, or MySpace).
Expressions (digital sampling, skinning and modding, fan 
videomaking, fan fiction writing, zines, mash-ups).
Collaborative Problem-solving (Wikipedia, alternative 
reality gaming, spoiling).
Circulations (podcasting, blogging).
Rheingold anticipated this scenario with the definition of 
smart mobs: they represent a dynamic sociality, nomadic in 
mobility, a hybrid structure of social interaction - 
face-to-face and virtual - not only virtual community but 
social network, not only class but mobs, a dynamic and 
always changing agglomerate of people made aware through 
and by the technologies they use.
Social network sites, which is primarily organized around 
people and not interests, represent both a continuation 
and an extension of this concept. They have dramatically 
revealed the close relationship between virtual and real 
Participants in many of the larger social network sites 
are not necessarily "networking" or trying to meet new 
people; instead, they are primarily communicating with 
people who are already a part of their extended social 
Social network sites have provided online communities with 
a new organizational framework. Early public online 
communities (and current websites dedicated to communities 
of interest) were structured by topic or according to 
topical hierarchies. Social network sites, however, are 
structured with the individual at the center of their own 
community and networks.
Some social networks cater for the production and sharing 
of specific media (youtube, flickr), we can say that they 
are media-centered; other web spaces are persons-centered 
or ties-centered (Facebook). The question here is how does 
the ‘production’ level (user generated contents) link to 
the construction of networks and participation level?
Participatory culture shifts the focus of attention from 
one of
individual expression to that of community involvement. 
Web social network spaces are an important field of 
investigation when analysing the dynamics of collective 
elaboration of the representation of a group, which goes 
directly to the heart of production of the image and 
consciousness: social and collective practice. On the web 
2.0 platform, especially in social network sites, it makes 
the transition from imaginary to action; we pass from a 
representational space to a relational and performative 

This line of thought can also be approached from the 
theoretical point of view of performativity. The term 
performativity comes from the linguistic field of John 
Langshaw Austin and I use its characteristics to explain 
the social network models on web 2.0 platforms. These 
characteristics are: act (an act implies making to exist, 
so creativity in action; the act creates a step between 
content and form, it is therefore subversive); 
satisfaction versus truth; and strength versus meaning.
Nowadays we talk about performative technologies and 
performative identity to stress the process and 
relationship involved. The performative activities are 
fundamentally processual, a part of them will always 
remain subject to transformation, and will be absolutely 
impossible to define.
The performativity is linked to the event, the event is 
linked to the bricolage and the bricolage is linked to the 
new technologies: the bricoleur (word related to 
Lévi-Strauss) makes/processes structures by means of 
combining the events.
A performance is, in fact, a thought in action. It is idea 
and action simultaneously. It is processuality open to 
improvisation and experimentation. It is 
interdisciplinarity and concrete multimediality. In the 
performativity and in the event, technology and art have 
intrinsic affinities. They are both in unstable balance 
between structure and event, necessity and contingency, 
interiorness and exteriorness.

The project ZEXE.NET by the Catalan artist Antoni Abad is 
an important example of ‘architecture’ of participation 
and socializing of spaces and tools. Started in 2003, the 
project explores the creative possibilities of web 
communication networks supported by mobile technologies, 
focusing on the creation of digital communities by using 
mobile telephones equipped with built-in camera.
 From 2003 to 2008 the open platform zexe.net has been 
used to create specific projects with the following 
communities: Madrid prostitutes, Sao Paulo motoboys and 
motogirls (city pony express), Mexico city drivers, 
persons with limited mobility in Barcelona and Geneva, and 
many other local communities. These new ‘broadcasters’ 
have sent over 30.000 contents (photo, video, texts) via 
MMS on www.zexe.net.
The platform is based on web 2.0 features: user generated 
content, tags to describe, to organize and to search 
contents in real time database built by users.
The key point of the project is the strong connection 
between real and virtual communities: digital community 
originates from the local community that has specific and 
localized values, problems, identity. The online database 
makes it possible to establish a connection between 
individual’s multimedia devices, and proposes an 
alternative view of the space (city, area, …) based on the 
specific group’s problems and expectations.
TAGS allow to link the individual mobile production of 
contents with the collective elaboration of the same 
contents. Thus, we have the individualization of creation 
of contents on the one hand, the social re-shaping and 
redefining of the same contents on the other. Local and 
individual point of views establish ties with their local, 
real, communities by means of the digital space.
Zexe.net develops a network of “citizen ethnographers”, 
which means that users become critical investigators of 
their own community. Taxi drivers in Mexico City, 
prostitutes in Madrid, motoboy and motogirls in Sao Paulo 
are narrators of their experiences and broadcasters of 
their own stories. At the same time they aren’t mere 
annotators of their reality, they aren’t purely 
‘ethnographers’. A very important consequence of this 
project is the modification of representations and the 
transformation of the common conception diffused in the 
real communities.
In that sense zexe.net represents a very useful tool to 
form a new active public sphere; it’s a space for social 
criticism that starts from individuals and settles down in 
the real communities.
Zexe.net works through mechanisms of representation – 
video, audio, images, texts - but the result is not merely 
to give a visibility to specific socio-cultural groups and 
communities that usually are excluded from the traditional
mainstream media. In Zexe.net individuals and groups 
develop strategies of sociability and subjectivity; the 
digital ‘place’ generates unpredictable social 
interactions, it’s a space for unexpected and reconfigured 
social relationships, it represents a discursive place 
more than a ‘representational’ space.
The core of the projects in zexe.net is not the creation 
of a representation of a group but rather the activation 
of the agency and production of social relationships. That 
is why the project has strong ‘political’ consequences and 
a strong value of ‘criticism’ (the act of dissenting). We 
assist to a redefinition of the collective identity 
through individual actions that correspond to a criticism 
of the rules assumed by the community (values, social 
roles, etc.).
In terms of John Thompson, zexe.net is a form of 
reinvention of public sphere: a place/space being 
independent from any Institution; a form of public life, 
or ‘civil society’ that performs its constitutive function 
of ‘criticism’; a form of ‘open’ public sphere that 
corresponds to a creative space in which new symbols, new 
images and new shapes of social and collective identity 
For example, one of the channels in zexe.net canal*GITANO 
(gypsy community of Lleida) has created many conflicting 
situations inside gypsy culture, like the redefinition of 
the man-woman role and a criticism of the de facto 
authority of patriarchs.
An other channel, canal*CENTRAL, created for and with the 
members of the large community of Nicaraguan immigrants in 
Costa Rica, had to face political and technological 
constraints, finding temporary solutions in which the 
established rules were ‘suspended’. For example, there 
were legal problems with the mobile phones because they 
had been imported illegally from Miami and their software 
was not compatible with systems in
Costa Rica; it was very hard to obtain phone contracts for 
22 illegal immigrants when proving legal residency in the 
country is unavoidable requirement for accessing mobile 
telephone services.
In addition, the participants of canal*ACCESSIBLE (persons 
with limited mobility) in Barcelona created a map of 
architectural obstacles that was reproduced by local 
media, and city hall responded by distributing a map of 
“accessible Barcelona”.
The strength of Zexe.net, structured as a 
video-mobile-blog 2.0, comes from its taking root in real 
communities with their ‘tensions’ and potentialities. The 
goal is to generate real life itself through interaction 
with the environment.

regards :-)

researcher and lecturer - Politecnico di Torino
email: tatiana.mazali at polito.it
researcher and lecturer - Università Telematica 
Internazionale Uninettuno
email: t.mazali at uninettunouniversity.net
Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/pub/7/260/874
skype: TATMAZ

On Sat, 13 Jun 2009 12:00:04 +1000
  empyre-request at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au wrote:
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> When replying, please edit your Subject line so it is 
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> than "Re: Contents of empyre digest..."
> Today's Topics:
>   1. Participatory creativity as a prerequisite for 
>      formation (Simon Biggs)
>   2. Re: relational objects (nick knouf)
>   3. Inliveling the archive (Claudia Costa Pederson)
>   4. Re: Patrick Lichty on Participatory Art: New Media 
>and the
>      Archival Trace (rtf9 at cornell.edu)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Thu, 11 Jun 2009 14:48:45 +0100
>From: "Simon Biggs" <s.biggs at eca.ac.uk>
> Subject: [-empyre-] Participatory creativity as a 
>prerequisite for
> 	community	formation
> To: "soft_skinned_space" <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Message-ID: <C656C9CD.206E5%s.biggs at eca.ac.uk>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
>First I apologise for not contributing to this 
>discussion. I have been
> travelling and busy since my return. Due to this I have 
>not really been
> following prior threads closely enough to respond in 
>detail. It is easier
> for me to start a new thread, accepting that in doing 
>so, in ignorance of
> other discussions, I risk redundancy.
> I understand all art to be intrinsically participatory. 
>That is why, since
> the early 1980?s, I have primarily made interactive 
>artworks. My current
> thinking on this is focused on two things. Firstly, 
>expanded concepts of
> agency (what or who can be an active participant?) and 
>secondly, but
> directly emerging from the first question, how 
>creativity and knowledge
> formation can be regarded as forms of social interaction 
>rather than
> outcomes of activities. I am not going to address the 
>first question here in
> any detail as it is not explicitly evoked in Empyre?s 
>current theme,
> although I will suggest that Latour?s concept of 
>actor-network-theory can be
> seen as a useful platform for understanding interactions 
>between people and
> things and how these interactions altogether might 
>permit authorship and
> creativity to emerge as sets of discursive relations 
>rather than outcomes of
> processes.
> Here I will focus on creativity as a function of 
>communities and something
> that brings communities into existence.
> Specific creative communities can be regarded as 
>microcosms of larger
> communities. Communities of artists, as with other 
>communities, develop as
> cultural paradigms crystallise or dissipate. This is a 
>recursive and
> iterative process involving complex social interactions. 
>Particular creative
> communities can act as a lens through which social 
>change may be observed.
> Many contemporary communities exist as both local and 
>global phenomena, in
> Ocreative cities? and Oglobal networks?, and appear to 
>draw value from this
> conjunction of opposites. Many current examples from 
>networked culture could
> be cited here, from large scale communities of dispersed 
> (Facebook) to specialist communities with acutely honed 
>interests (Empyre).
> An insight here is that whilst creativity is often 
>perceived as the product
> of the individual artist, or creative ensemble, it can 
>also be considered an
> emergent phenomenon of communities, driving change and 
> individual or ensemble creativity. The key understanding 
>here is that
> creativity can be a performative activity (Latour?s 
>concept of
> actor-network-theory is useful here) released when 
>engaged through and by a
> community.
> In this context the model of the solitary artist, 
>producing artefacts that
> embody creativity, is contested as the ideal method to 
>achieve creative
> outcomes. Here creativity is proposed as an activity of 
>exchange that
> enables (creates) people and communities. Anthropologist 
>James Leach, in his
> book Creative Land (2003), observes and describes 
>cultural practices where
> the creation of new things and the ritualised forms of 
>exchange enacted
> around them function to both ?create? individuals and 
>bind them to social
> groups, thus ?creating? the community they inhabit. 
>Leach?s argument is an
> interesting take on the concept of the gift-economy. 
>Given this
> understanding, it is possible to conceive of creativity 
>as emergent from and
> innate to the interactions of people. Such an 
>understanding also combats an
> instrumentalist view of creativity and novelty, where 
>governments and
> corporations demand of artists and researchers that 
>their creations and
> inventions have clear social (read ?economic?) value. In 
>the argument
> proposed here, creativity is not valued as arising from 
>a perceived need, a
> solution or product, nor from a supply-side ?blue skies? 
>ideal, but as an
> emergent property of communities.
> Marika Luders (?Why and how online sociability became 
>part and parcel of
> teenage life?, Blackwell Handbook of Internet Studies 
>2009) observes that
> creativity Ois now commonly understood as part of what 
>constitutes human
> beings. Moreover, creativity is not necessarily (or even 
>ever) an isolated
> phenomenon?. Rob Pope ( Creativity: Theory, History, 
>Practice, Routledge
> 2005) states Obeing creative is, at least potentially, 
>the natural and
> normal state of anyone healthy in a sane and stimulating 
>community S
> realising that potential is as much a matter of 
>collaboration and
> Oco-creation? as of splendid or miserable isolation?. 
>Thus it can be argued
> that all communities are potentially creative.
> In this context we need to ask what ?creativity? is? We 
>can seek to situate
> it as an activity defined by and defining of 
>communities, seeking to
> transcend the debate on the instrumentality of 
>creativity and knowledge,
> situating innovation as an ontological factor in the 
>formation of
> communities. This approach allows the deconstruction of 
> perceptions of creative activities and the development 
>of a less reductive
> understanding of creativity and its value. Doing this 
>leads directly to
> fundamental questions regarding the public value of 
>creativity and the role
> it plays in creating communities. I would propose the 
>term ontopoeisis to
> describe these processes.
> This is the position I am currently trying to develop. I 
>am not sure where
> it will go at this stage. I am not even sure if my 
>thinking here is
> reflected in my own artistic practice. It might be, to 
>some degree, in that
> I involve audiences, spectators and often unwitting 
>passers-by in the
> generation of material that constitutes the actual 
>artwork ? and of course I
> recognise the all-powerful character of the ?reader? who 
>interprets a work
> into existence. But this is not quite the same thing as 
>what I am seeking to
> describe above. As an artist who is very much a product 
>of 20th century
> individualism, acting upon things and acted upon, 
>splendidly unitary in my
> identity, it is a challenge to understand something as 
>core to the sense of
> self as creativity in a new way, fundamentally different 
>to how familiar
> models propose it.
> As I argue that creativity is a process of becoming, so 
>to is coming to
> viscerally understand this.
> Regards
> Simon
> Simon Biggs
> Research Professor
> edinburgh college of art
> s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
> www.eca.ac.uk
> www.eca.ac.uk/circle/
> simon at littlepig.org.uk
> www.littlepig.org.uk
> AIM/Skype: simonbiggsuk
> Edinburgh College of Art (eca) is a charity registered 
>in Scotland, number SC009201
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> ------------------------------
> Message: 2
> Date: Thu, 11 Jun 2009 23:23:42 -0400
>From: nick knouf <nak44 at cornell.edu>
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] relational objects
> To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Message-ID: <4A31CA3E.3010209 at cornell.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=windows-1252
> davin heckman wrote:
>> Thank you for pushing on this contrast and making me 
>>think about what
>> I had kind of just glossed over.
>> I agree with Norah's idea about the critical necessity 
>>of decoupling
>> the trace from the original, even if we circle back to 
>>talking about
>> traces when we talk about originals.
> As I mentioned in an earlier post this week, I'm quite 
>interested in
> this notion of the trace vis a vis notation of 
>time-based works such as
> music, dance, and performance-in-general.  I would be 
>very interested
> for others more attuned to the world of dance and 
>performance to comment
> about the role/lack-thereof of notation in their work, 
>as it is
> something I have only been able to come at in passing. 
> This has become
> more interesting for me in the last day or so, as I read 
>about Merce
> Cunningham's plans for shutting down his company in the 
>future.  How
> does it work when one choreographer passes on a dance to 
>another?  What
> is the materiality of the trace, even if it gets turned 
>into a new original?
> nick
> ------------------------------
> Message: 3
> Date: Fri, 12 Jun 2009 01:10:07 -0400 (EDT)
>From: "Claudia Costa Pederson" <ccp9 at cornell.edu>
> Subject: [-empyre-] Inliveling the archive
> To: empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> Message-ID:
> 	<51722. at webmail.cornell.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain;charset=iso-8859-1
> Thank you. I like the reorientation of the present 
>discussion. In
> particular I appreciate the mention of the substantial 
>contributions that
> feminists set (what seems now long ago) to undertake in 
>relation to the
> activation of the archive (I was recently reminded of 
>this again during a
> visit to the Brooklyn museum in NYC where Judy Chicago's 
>Dinner Party has
> finally found its final resting place; amidst the 
>tomb-like atmosphere
> enveloping the installation its power was still very 
>much felt as a number
> of middle aged women orbited around the table reading 
>the names of real
> and imaginary women inscribed on the place mats and 
>floor tiles and
> discussing the piece with the spirited female museum 
>guard that
> enthusiastically shared her knowledge about the work...I 
>felt the
> compulsion to add some names to the table myself).
> On this note I would like to share some comments apropos 
>the issue of
> political art and the fallibility of such a project 
>posed by Ruiz III in a
> comment to my first posting. First, art and 
>representation is always
> political (the artists attached to the notion of so 
>called art for art's
> sake were fully conscious of the political implication 
>of such an
> statement as a jab at the a-political enframent of 
>aesthetics by the
> rising bourgeois order). Second, it is indeed not a 
>question of valorizing
> a particular epistemology over another (binary 
>though/argumentation is not
> for nothing throughly disputed by feminists conscious of 
>how binaries have
> systematically been employed as exclusionary moves and 
>as a sign of
> disengagement). The issue is not the positing of choice 
>between empiricism
> versus nomadic though or play; it is rather a question 
>of recognizing that
> all frameworks of knowledge have their limitations.  It 
>is thus a matter
> of thinking through these limitations and to reorient 
>thought from
> nihilist dead-ends toward the continuation of dialogue. 
>It is amidst a
> sustained dialogue that I believe we might find some 
>hope and in this
> process gain insights into ourselves and the 'others.' 
>Lastly I believe
> that the rational and the imaginary are equally 
>necessary in thinking
> through issues pertaining to representation and 
>power...at this point we
> may even need to dig deeper into the imagination to 
>argue our emancipatory
> visions.
> It is precisely this notion that drives the work of some 
>of the artists I
> previously mentioned.  Yes they are fully aware that the 
>art industry is
> fully implicated in capitalist reproduction; and yes 
>they know that the
> category of art is a 19th century bourgeois invention. 
> Nonetheless for
> better or for worse (and I think for better; I even 
>think them more brave
> for it) they continue to engage the art world as one of 
>the platforms
> (sometimes) available for dispersion (yes they are also 
> Here is why in the words of Faith Wilding, a admirable 
>artist, organizer,
> and feminist hailing from Paraguay:
> "Monumentality after all is the spectacular business of 
> culture. But it lives and feeds off a much more 
>fragmented cultural
> economy where varying and shifting power relations 
>operate. Oppositional
> and resistant cultural producers must be careful not to 
>romanticize and
> essentialize "outsider" positions because these are easy 
>to categorize,
> co-opt and render ineffectual. In fact, I don't think 
>radical and
> resistant artists should spend a lot of energy worrying 
>about co-optation
> since it will happen anyway--rather, we must think about 
>being flexible
> with our own tactics and moving faster than they can 
> P.S. On a great example of the activation of the archive 
>for emancipatory
> ends, I'm reading Michele Le Doeuff's Hipparchia's 
>Choice: An Essay
> Concerning Women, Philosophy, Etc. (1989). Hers is a 
>great work drawing
> from both analytical and continental philosophy and 
>relating it the
> question of women and philosophy (yes she mentions her 
>distaste to
> consider women as an ontological category and that is 
>why she wrote the
> book). I wonder why she is never mentioned or commended 
>for it. I promise
> to pick up the thread of the discussion on new media and 
>the archive in my
> next post. Salut.
> ------------------------------
> Message: 4
> Date: Fri, 12 Jun 2009 09:57:35 -0400
>From: rtf9 at cornell.edu
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Patrick Lichty on Participatory 
>Art: New Media
> 	and the Archival Trace
> To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Message-ID: <p06240801c6580e680df9@[]>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii" ; 
>>We are happy to to present Patrick Lichty's thoughts on 
>>the archival
>>trace in participatory net culture. You will recall that 
>>we have 
>>invited a few special guests to consider our subject of 
>>this month, 
>>Paticipatory Art: New Media and the Archival Trace.
>>From: "patrick lichty" <voyd at voyd.com>
>>Participatory Art:
>>The online world is one that is increasingly asking us to 
>>be more
>>"involved".  Social networking sites like Facebook, and 
>>user created worlds
>>like Second Life are becoming a primary locus of New 
>>Media practice.
>>Placing these cultural milieu in the context of 
>>historical frames such as
>>the "Happening", Fluxus, environmental theatre, and 
>>juxtaposing this with
>>contemporary tropes such as relationalism, how do the 
>>shifts and flows of
>>cultural engagement create critical spces to be explored?
>>For this month, I would like to discuss the past three 
>>years as one of the
>>leaders of the largest/oldest virtual worlds Performance 
>>Art group, Second
>>Front, an upcoming installation at the Chicago Museum of 
>>Contemporary Art,
>>called "Summer of Love 2.0", and thoughts for an upcoming 
>>discussion on
>>curating art in the public sphere at Eyebeam in NYC.
>>Patrick Lichty (b.1962)  is a technologically-based 
>>conceptual artist,
>>writer, independent curator, animator for the activist 
>>group, The Yes Men,
>>and Executive Editor of Intelligent Agent Magazine. He 
>>began showing
>>technological media art in 1989, and deals with works and 
>>writing that
>>explore the social relations between us and media. Venues 
>>in which Lichty
>>has been involved with solo and collaborative works 
>>include the Whitney &
>>Turin Biennials, Maribor Triennial, Performa Performance 
>>Biennial, Ars
>>Electronica, and the International Symposium on the 
>>Electronic Arts (ISEA).
>>He also works extensively with virtual worlds, including 
>>Second Life, and
>>his work, both solo and with his performance art group, 
>>Second Front, has
>>been featured in Flash Art, Eikon Milan, and ArtNews.
>>He is also an Assistant Professor of Interactive Arts & 
>>Media at Columbia
>>College Chicago, and resides in Baton Rouge, LA.
>>Renate Ferro and Tim Murray
>>Co-Moderators, -empyre- a soft-skinned-space
>>Department of Art/ Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art
>>Cornell University
>>empyre forum
>>empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> -- 
> Renate Ferro
> URL:  http://www.renateferro.net
> Email:   <rtf9 at cornell.edu>
> ,
> Visiting Assistant Professor of Art
> Cornell University
> Department of Art, Tjaden Hall
> Ithaca, NY  14853
> Co-moderator of _empyre soft skinned space
> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empyre
> Art Editor, diacritics
> http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/dia/
> ------------------------------
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> End of empyre Digest, Vol 55, Issue 14
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