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Psalm 144:4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.

Tag Archives: media

The TV Remote

eugene-polley-remote(Credit: AP Photo/LG Electronics)

On 22 May 2012, Eugene Polley, the inventor of the TV remote control died.

Eugene Polley(Photo: http://www.gizmodo.com.au/)

I imagine, like myself, not many people knew this man’s name and yet, for all those people who own a television (99% of the US population and Probably a similar amount in th UK, bearing in mind that 84% of britons receive digital TV) the remote control has profoundly and quietly moulded your life and habits.

Back in 1955, we had far less channels to watch, yet now, the constant channel flipping in any household is pretty much taken as normal.

How has it changed us? Well, if you want more, deeper detail on the mechanics, have a look at a previous series on this blog about ‘Message and Media’, however, to put it succinctly; the ability to change TV channel without needing to get up from our comfortable armchair or sofa has, in the words of Zoe Williams, Guardian Columnist, on the today programme on BBC Radio 4 Wednesday 23 May 2012 (feature from 1:41.58), has turned us into ‘attention deficit, sensation seeking watchers’.

Zoe went on to state that the TV remote has changed our behaviour and attitude to television and in response to the new way we view television, the medium itself had altered, programming now panders to impatient people wanting immediate gratification and simple points. We can’t settle on anything any more especially if we don’t like / can’t cope with what we are watching, if it is too challenging, we can flip channels until we can rest on something more comfortable.

Has that affected our spirituality? I imagine so. Not only has the medium of TV become a shaper and non-neutral purveyor of the messages it transmits, but the way we use TV with a remote control has shaped the way TV is delivered and our approach to endlessly seeking something new and fresh, whilst often only being truly content with old and comfortable programmes.

Are we, in our spiritual journeys constantly in search of new and fresh, yet having great difficulty letting go of the old and ‘comfortable’?

Are we having great difficulty in settling on the truths that God has laid out for us and the experiences of that truth which he invites us into? Do we constantly search for something different when we are not entirely comfortable with or are overly challenged with the things that God is laying in front of us?
Do we seek to twist and wrench scripture to our own ideas, asking God to make it a bit more palatable to us, rather than saying “This [the bible] is what is true and if there’s a difference between this and me, I’m the one who has to move”? {Quote From Gerard Kelly}

What influence does TV, the TV remote, and the adaptation of both media to each other and so to us have on your life, your spiritual journey, your relationship with God?

You can answer the question, or hop channels, flip over to another blog! ;P

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Message & Media (part 11) – Display Screens & Projection

We spent a little time within the workshop going through the details of projection screen technology, something which is very common now within our churches and many other contemporary church settings.

Every medium embeds other media. The internet embeds Video, text, audio, pictures and so does slide-show software like PowerPoint or Keynote. You can embed any media you like within it.

There are some key, important things to consider when using projection screen technology, things that we might not be immediately aware of.

1. Visual processing matures faster than auditory processing (i), which leads to Vision dominating the other human senses (ii)

2. A projected image is made as light is shone through an LCD display OR as light is bounced of an array of tiny little mirrors. This image is made up of pixels or points of light, and in between the pixels there are gaps.
Your brain needs to make up the bits in between the pixels so it takes mental processing power to look at a screen.
At the same time, where the optic nerve connects to your eye, there is a gap in the recieving hardware of the eye, which leads to the famous “blind spot”. To compensate for this your brain keeps your eyes in constant motion and “fills in” the blind spot, so it’s not noticeable. (iii)

3. With the above points in mind, it becomes almost obvious that to process both audio and video at the same time, you have to work harder (iv).

If we understand the power of PST to dominate us, we can turn that inherent power to our own ends, it provides the ability to FOCUS.
The screen is a magnet of the eyes.
If you really want people to pay attention, use a screen, it really does focus people, It’s rare that there is something on a screen and someone isn’t looking at it; Just watch people as they pass the window of Comet or Dixons.

However, with that incredible ability to be an eye-magnet, PST can make worshippers less aware of the persons around them; they can engage in less eye contact and other forms of human interaction for fear of missing something on the screen.

Ill-concieved use of PST in worship unwittingly sets up a competition between what’s projected on the screen and the human voice doing the preaching, praying or singing. And it’s a contest that PST always wins because, as Richard Lischer has observed, when the brain is asked to listen and watch at the same time, it always quits listening.

A classic example of the conflict that can arise is if you project pictures of an event or project behind what people are sharing verbally. It can create the kind of conflict talked of above, where the audio and visual information can end up being paradoxical and confuse people in the congregation. Either people enjoy the pretty pictures and switch off listening or they only take in a fraction of the information you want them to.

Don’t forget, the Screen Always Wins.

The screen is the ultimate relic of the electronic age, and the legacy of the electronic age is tribalism – corporate mass experience.
Generally, PST creates a corporate experience not more individual experience which, when singing together as a congregation can be a really good thing. The Hymn book is ultimate relic of the print age and the print age is all about individualism. There is the danger that using PST heavily can produce passive consumers in church, but there is definitely the positive possibility that it obsolesces the hymn book (alters the use not completely prevents it), and therefore free up the limbs of worshippers enabling them to express themselves physically during sung worship – through dance / clapping / raising hands etc.

There are occasions or circumstances when computer-generated visual aids can be used meaningfully in worship & other church settings:

The display screen, coupled with a live video camera can gives ability to enlarge and focus on certain parts that would otherwise be lost. The Church Shane Hipps was part of had a potter come in and make a pot on their wheel using the video feed to zoom right in on what the hands of the potter were doing. This gave the whole congregation a close-up view of the skill and dexterity of the potter and provided a powerful analogy for the work of God moulding us.

Another way to use PST appropriately is to project an image that can convey something that cannot be displayed or delivered in words.

In all these situations, it is vital to ‘give the screen the floor’! Let the screen win instead of competing with it. And whatever you do, make sure you do it well, don’t do a half-baked job or have a ‘that’ll do’ attitude, if necessary, ask someone who is an expert in computers or in the use of slide projection software.

Other points that we covered included the concept of always using PST it to enhance what you want to say by showing what you want to illustrate and engaging with it along side the audience. Don’t use it just because you can, it has the ability to detract from what you want to say. Try not to use it just for aesthetic, that rarely adds anything to the message.

Try not to confuse people by doing too much or having non-relevant things projected on the screen. Excessively exciting animations or slide transitions may be clever but they are often just really distracting from what you want to share.

Use it to enhance the corporate experience by leveraging the focus it gives.

Lastly a point on slides within a projection sequence: Bullet points trivialise content! They’re often used in business settings and all people want is a hand out of all the bullet points so they can get the vital information. The trouble is, the poetry and beauty of spoken word and the resonance and spirituality of the preacher is lost when we bullet-point. There’s nothing quite so good at chipping away eloquence, rhythm and genuine engagement from a speaker than throwing up all the main points in bullet form. Bullet points don’t capture the beauty and mystery of the Gospel.

Lets take an example from the Second World War. On June 4, 1940 Churchill made the second of three major speeches, this one possibly being the most famous. Here’s a written excerpt and the audio underneath it.

We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

We shall fight on the beaches audio

Now have a look at the following video of the same talk as if Churchill had delivered it with bullet points. It’s almost comical, it certainly trivialises his points and removes all gravity and seriousness.

Yes, by all means use Projection Screen Technology, but understand it’s inherant power first and if you still choose to use it, use it well.

(i) Clin Neurophysiol. 2010 Jan 15. [Epub ahead of print] – Auditory and visual novelty processing in normally-developing Kenyan children. – Kihara M, Hogan AM, Newton CR, Garrashi HH, Neville BR, de Haan M.
(ii)

  1. Howard IP, Templeton WB (1966) Human spatial orientation. (Wiley).
  2. McGurk H, MacDonald J (1976) Hearing lips and seeing voices. Nature 264: 746–748.
    Rock I, Victor J (1964) Vision and touch: An experimentally created conflict between the two senses. Science 143: 594–596.
  3. Shams L, Kamitani Y, Shimojo S (2000) What you see is what you hear: sound induced visual Xashing. Nature 408, 788:
  4. Shams L, Kamitani Y, Shimojo S (2002) Visual illusion induced by sound. Brain Res Cogn Brain Res 14: 147–152.

(iii) Randall Hand “How many pixels do we need anyway?” May 26th, 2009 Vizworld
(iv) Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Sep 7;273(1598):2159-68. – Resolving multisensory conflict: a strategy for balancing the costs and benefits of audio-visual integration. – Roach NW, Heron J, McGraw PV.

Message & Media (part 10) – Workshop Summary 3

I believe that culture and the way people receive messages is changing, the trend from the onset of modernity – the age of the printing press – was from an experiential, visual, communal, holistic model to an individualistic, highly rational concept of the gospel. With the continual march into and through post-modernity, we are seeing the trend reverse towards a much more visual, communal, experiential model again.

Personally, I think that’s fine, I believe that some of our methods and thus our message should change as part of God’s ongoing creation, revelation to and relationship with God’s people. That change need not be feared, Jesus himself modelled this same approach.

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Matt 9:16-17

Jesus understood the intimate connection of medium and message, container and content.
Jesus came proclaiming a new message, not just new methods, he says “you have heard that it was said… but I tell you…” 10 times in Matthew.

God invites us into the dynamic unfolding of His drama in which He is working to bring the world back into a reconciled relationship with himself. It’s the story of God and God’s people at work in the world, not a set of static propositions or set of ideas to assent to.

Yes, indeed, we need to be careful not to adopt our culture’s methods, norms and goals wholesale, If we do, we can put our light under a bowl and loose our saltiness, regardless that it may have stemmed from a legitimate desire to be relevant and contextual.

But the message of the gospel is bound to shift and change as God’s spirit moves in this world. If we claim the message is unchanging, we risk boasting of a kind of omniscience in which we presume we know the totality of God’s plan and inexaustible mysteries. In that kind of setup, the ongoing work of God through his spirit becomes no more of a ‘dashboard ornament’ – if we presume we have discovered the one, simple and unchanging message for all times and all places. Our posture should be humility and discovery. Remaining faithful to scripture does not mean doggedly holding on to some fixed and permanent idea of right doctrine until our knuckles turn white and our fingers drop off. We should be trying to develop a communal sense of patience to discover the gospel, God’s current plans and works, the courage to name them and the humility to hold them in open hands to allow it to be touched by God’s voice in scripture and the breath of God moving among us.
(Paraphrasing Shane Hipps)

If we continue to remember that we are the best medium and the message, and the way we live our lives, as God lives in us, both individually and corporately as Christ’s body – the Church, then we will be able to deal with the changing media and cultural landscape God’s way.

Message & Media (part 9) – Workshop Summary 2

We are, inexorably and undeniably in the age of electronic culture.

We explored what media choices are now available and drew a ‘Media Web’, exploring briefly the different media and all their links!

With this available ‘Media Web’ in mind, we then looked at some other key questions to ask before we jump in to using any form of media.

Who are we trying to reach?

Do we understand our ‘target audience’?
Remember, people may not use or interact with a media form in the same way you do!
Do we need to find a member of the target audience that shares our passion for the message to advise us on how to best utilise the medium?

Are we, like Jesus finding a way to connect with the people that are searching, the hopeless, the unreached.

If we understand who the message is for what would that do to the way we do things?

Remember, Marketing is not the same as Outreach. But they need to go hand in hand.

At this point in the workshop, there was complete freedom to choose to explore any media type in greater depth and as a kind of case-study for the McLuhan analysis tool, ‘twitter‘ was chosen by the group.

Here’s what the group came up with (for an explanation of how the tool works, have a look at Part 3).

Twitter-Analysis

At The Bethel, we use twitter to publicise the podcast, notify people of what is happening with various activities and provide occasional, possibly even irregular, apposite quotes and bible passages that we feel moved to share. The podcast notifications are set up to be automatically tweeted when the podcast file is uploaded and the rest of it takes very little, if any time or effort. For The Bethel, twitter is a small tool and very low maintenance, it’s used more as a publicity or broadcast medium than a conversational or engagement medium.

Next Post will wrap up the rest of the workshop and then I’ll do a post detailing use of display screen projection as I think it deserves a post of its own.

Message & Media (part 8) – Workshop Summary 1

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will
Romans 12:2

With respect to media there is a very real sense that we can easily be ‘conforming to the patterns of this world’ if we fail to understand our media & media choices.

Media is not just a neutral conduit through which information passes, we have looked at this earlier in the series.
The media changes the message. Or as McLuhan said

“The Media is the Message”

If the media is conflicting or inappropriate to the message, the message changes into something we don’t want it to be or is lost completely.

Our current media landscape is like our cultural landscape it is in a constant state of flux. Always changing, always developing.
How prepared are we to put God’s message into the places where people are now searching, the places that perhaps didn’t exist before?

We then looked into what media forms we currently used as a group, at a personal level and a church level.

I took a moment at this point to emphasize the message that Tim Genders was making in his talks at the wekend, that the most important, oldest, most reliable, most tried & trusted, most effective, best possible media form is YOU (or me – it is the human being).

This is bourne out in Jesus being God’s medium and message.

‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’
John 1:14

So individually and more importantly, corporately as part of the church, as members of Christ’s body, we are now God’s medium and message in the world.

The scriptural vision of the church is one in which individuals exist for the sake of the community and the community exists for Gods mission in the world. God chose the church, in all its various and disparate, both sometimes flawed and sometimes beautiful ways, not just individual Christians as the medium for his ongoing mission.

We are the medium, individually, but, more importantly: corporately. How this looks in reality will vary from congregation to congregation but the experience within our churches should be one of a foretaste of Gods kingdom as we hold faithfully to God’s agenda and try to live his message.

So if what we do doesn’t look like Jesus, it’s not the right message, whatever we are saying. If the whole picture of the medium of us in our churches doesn’t look like Jesus did, it won’t matter what we say or preach, the message is not coming across right, we are living a paradox.

We have the ability as God’s current medium in the world to enhance his message or to undermine it by how we behave.

With us being the medium and the message, it is through relationships that we spread God’s message. That’s the way God did it, if we are to reflect God’s methods, then relationship is the way to use our medium to show God’s message.

Outreach or preaching is best and most effectively carried out through relationship. Real, face-to-face interactions with real people, which can then be carried on and forwarded and maintained through other forms of media or technology.

We briefly looked then at the second most common media form that has shaped the world we live in to date, It has influenced the whole of current society, how we learn, work, live, everything: Print as I expanded in part 4 – ‘Modern Relics’.

The printed page is the ultimate relic of the modern age and the printing press.
It creates the perception, as letters and words follow a sequential pattern on a page that we can be completely logical, rational, sequential, objective. It also reinforces private learning and individualism.

How relevant is print today? In the world of church, in the area of preaching and sharing God’s message. Does the way we are affected by print change the way we view and interact with and share God’s message?

We discussed some very real examples of how print media has been good (Newbury placing an advert in a local circular and having a great response to a kids summer club, and some kids keeping coming afterwards) but also examples of how recent print media has been of little or no value (Handing out foreign language flyers in Bulgaria, with little or no uptake / 20,000 flyer drop in Manchester with a return of [if we are very generous] 0.0015%).

A Quick run through of Print options (add anything in comments if you have more to add to this):

  • Poster / Billboard / A-board – Useful, static info, portable info for events.
  • Invitations – Only really good if personally handed to people you have a relationship with.
  • Newsletter – Could it be electronic or opt-in?
  • Booklets / Pamphlets – Could they be moved to be Web based?
  • Leaflets / Flyers / ‘Bills’ – Very low return on High financial & time investment.

We also touched on making sure that if we move things towards electronic medium, we are careful not to then leave out a generation that are not connected electronically.

I’ll cover the rest of the workshop in the next post, that’s more than enough for this one!

Message & Media (part 7) – Online Resources

Yet another follow-up to the workshop, this post is basically a list of links that provide very interesting reading or short videos on the subject.

Mobile technologies are the future (at least in Africa)

Fernando Gros asks “Is Facebook making us stupid?”, then follows up by commenting on “The Distraction Economy“.

Tiffany St James on “The Social Impact of Technology“.

A fascinating interview with Shane Hipps entitled “Media and Message, Pixels and Faith“. This covers quite a lot of ground, some similar to the workshop.

A review of the possible deleterious effects of social networking Five Most Deadly Side-effects of Social Networking

A recent paper on the use of twitter – “Social interaction via new social media: (How) can interactions on Twitter affect effectual thinking and behavior?

A Killer article on social media – “The Twitter Trap” This is an absolute must read, thanks @benemmens for that one.

There is more out there, if you find anything else, please share it in the comments or email it over to me to include.

Message & Media (part 6) – Further Reading

Following on from the workshop at the weekend which I sincerely hope you found useful, here are a few books that I showed you and I would recommend them as great reads if you want to dig deeper into the understanding and analysis of media, especially within the context of church and outreach. I’ve listed them in order of importance regarding my opinion of how much they speak into this conversation on media and church.

The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture: How Media Shapes Faith, the Gospel, and Church – Shane Hipps (affiliate link)
Get a Grip on the Future without Losing Your Hold on the Past – Gerard Kelly (affiliate link)
Flickering Pixels – Shane Hipps (affiliate link)
Flickering Pixels (Kindle Edition) – Shane Hipps (affiliate link)
Twitturgies – Gerard Kelly (affiliate link)
Six Habits of Highly Connected People – Gerard Kelly (affiliate link)

This next one is a challenging and excellent read, completely in keeping with Tim’s message from the weekend and it’s all about someone who is completely living the message, Shane Claiborne understands totally that he is the media and the message.
Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical – Shane Claiborne (affiliate link)
Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (Kindle Edition) – Shane Claiborne (affiliate link)

I’ll throw this last one in as it has an excellent parable called “Translating the word” that drives at the heart of us being the Message and the Media.
The Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales – Peter Rollins (affiliate link)
The Orthodox Heretic: And Other Impossible Tales (Kindle Edition) – Peter Rollins (affiliate link)

I will, over the next week or so, try to summarise some of the thoughts we shared in the workshop and some of the extra things I shared on digital projection / use of slideshows as I felt like there was some excellent input from all of you people and it would be good to record as much as possible for reference.

Hope your fire keeps burning brighter and brighter.

God bless you all and thanks for sharing the hour and a half with me, I enjoyed it and hope you did too.

p.s. if you have any book / other recommendations, other comments etc, please continue to throw them into the pot in the comments section here.

Message & Media (part 3) – McLuhan

The Medium is the Message
Marshall McLuhan

Technology is not simply a conduit or pipeline – a neutral purveyor of information, but a dynamic force with the power to shape and change us regardless of content.

To avoid being consumed by it or left behind by it, we need to study the action of the technological whirlpool and navigate and harness it to our own ends by cooperating with it.
To shun it completely or embrace it openly without understanding it could have disastrous and unexpected effects.

So, we need to ask ourselves some questions when we start to make choices about what media we want to use.

What does it extend / enhance?
What does it reverse into?
What does it retrieve?
What does it obsolesce?

What does it extend / enhance?
Every new form of technology enhances something of our humanity or extends an older form of technology. To understand media properly, we must understand that all media is an extension of humanity.

The wheel extends function of the foot.
The telephone extends function of the voice and the ear.
The telescope / Binoculars extend function of the eye.

What does it obsolesce?
Any new medium makes an older medium obsolete, maybe not necessarily disappearing but function changing. For example, the car makes the horse & cart obsolete, but that merely transforms the horse & cart into a recreational, romantic or entertainment vehicle.

What does it reverse into?
When pushed to its extreme, every medium will reverse into its opposite intention, a good example being the car: originally intended to increase transportation speed, when pushed to its extreme, reverses into traffic jams and fatal accidents. This is the most difficult law to predict or anticipate

What does it retrieve?
Each new form of technology retrieves an experience or an older form of technology from the past. For example, email retrieves the technology of the telegraph so to understand a little more about the future effects of email, we would do well to study the cultural effects of the telegraph in the 1800s.

Lets use the wheel as an easy example

The Wheel

ENHANCES: Speed of transportation, personal energy saving.
OBSOLESCES: Need to use travel as a form of exercise – leads to obesity? Coach / work horses. Various manual labour with the introduction of the wheel into machinery.
REVERSES INTO: Danger to individuals – Road traffic accidents, societies built round the car like in the USA, reliance on speed of transportation over environmental factors – leading to global warming (debatable).
RETRIEVES: Ability to use something else to do the work for us. (Previous horse)

This is all very well and gives a fairly simple expansion of the effects of the technology of the wheel.

Why not try it on something a little newer – the Mobile Phone.

Here’s where you join in with your comments.

What does the mobile phone extend / enhance?
What does the mobile phone reverse into?
What does the mobile phone retrieve?
What does the mobile phone obsolesce?

Discuss!!

Message & Media (part 2) – Questions

It’s probably a good place to start by asking if there is anything pressing you want to look at in the workshop?

My plan is to cover the following, some to a greater degree than others:

  • Print media (books, leaflets, posters etc.)
  • Display Screen Projection
  • Mobile phones
  • Social Networking media (Facebook, Twitter, Myspace etc.)
  • Video media (YouTube / Vimeo etc.)
  • Web media (Blogs, websites etc.)

If you have a burning desire to go into some of these at greater depth, or if you have a particular media that you want to cover that isn’t listed or a part of one of the above that you want to expand, please put it in the comments below.

I’ll try to tailor the workshop to cover the stuff you are most interested in in greatest depth but also try to open our eyes to other media types and their effects on us.

Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog so you can get the posts automatically delivered to your email / newsreader if you forget to check manually.

Grace & Peace

A

Message & Media (Part 1) – Introduction

This year at the Old Trafford Fellowship Weekend, I’m leading a workshop called “Message and Media”.

Here’s the workshop description.

We are constantly surrounded and influenced by various types of media yet too often in our churches we can live as if some of these media forms don’t exist.
What would happen if we began to utilise them and harness their inherent power for the glory of God?
This workshop will explore and expose how different types of media (including data projection / display screen media, mobile phones, social networking, emerging technology and non-electronic media) affect us and our interactions with other people, and how we might use them in our worship and our outreach.
Please come willing to do plenty of work yourself!

With the web and ‘blogging’ being forms of media themselves, I thought it would be a good idea to embrace this ‘new technology’ in getting the ball rolling before anyone even turns up for the workshop session.

This next series of posts is aimed at providing some pre-workshop reading for everyone that is booked on to the workshop, a kind of catchup to cover ground that we can’t cover in 1.5 hours on the day, to get you as close as possible up-to-speed on what I have studied and the ideas I’ve come across or come up with over the last two years.

There is a lot of stuff to look at and I think if we can establish some basic understanding, the tools to analyse media and some general ideas and observations before the actual day of the workshop, it will make the hour and a half we have on the day more fruitful, more enjoyable and we should be able to have a much more diverse and sharing time rather than me trying to put a vast a mount of material in your direction for you absorb in a very short time.

I’m not sure just yet how it is going to pan out, exactly what topics I am going to cover and in what order within this series, but this week I’ll be putting a plan together and getting some structure in place to make it a bit more organised and logical / methodical.

It is now only four weeks until the fellowship weekend and I would really strongly encourage anyone that is planning to be at the workshop to read this series, to stick with it and to get involved by commenting below. It’s going to work a lot better if we all dialogue and share ideas than just me outputting to a ‘silent void’.

If you aren’t going to be at the workshop, or the weekend and have no real interest in this topic, then feel free to tag along too if you like and throw in any observations or ideas of your own. All input is welcome, indeed as much input as possible from the rest of you all is encouraged.

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