This paper investigates what it means for something to be a city by viewing the city as a complex system. Building a framework of cybernetic organicity drawing on the work of Deleuze and Guattari, Yuk Hui, and Benjamin Bratton, this paper looks at the ways in which an organ upholds its boundaries through constant maintenance, and that this process is necessary for the existence of the city-organ. The city produces, at this boundary, a fiction of itself perpetuating the message of the organ it delineates and protesting its entropic decay. Ultimately, the paper suggests that the city is a cybernetic cohabiter of our geo-social spaces, and that the city experience is a reciprocal loop of feedback between its mass of agents and the superstructure they uphold.
Why do I want to talk about The Line?
I find the concept of The Line to be both fascinating and deeply concerning. This ambitious project in Saudi Arabia’s “land of the future,” NEOM (a portmanteau of neo and Mustaqbal, meaning New Future) raises fundamental questions about the definition and essence of a city.
Absolute in its proportions and definition, the realization of The Line as a construction — a work of architecture — to any degree recognizable from the brochures would, in itself, be a monumental feat. Measuring 500 metres tall, 200 metres wide and 170 kilometres long, this desert monument will be the 6th tallest, and 4th longest building in the world, 34 times larger in footprint and over 1000 times larger by volume than the respective next largest buildings. It will be over 17 times as voluminous as the great wall of China. If built to its quoted specification, it will be the single largest construction, ever. The brochure material claims The Line will be a city in itself; home to 9 million residents, zero-carbon, and its services will be powered by artificial intelligence, in the desert. Such extensive resource management will mean data, vast quantities of it, on everything. From where you like to shop and for what groceries to how much water you use in your shower, this building will know more about its occupants than any other civil facility in the world.
What is a city, what does it do, and what implications do projects like The Line have for the city? At its core is a city merely a physical infrastructure, or is it something more? Is a city an agglomeration of agents, citizens, people, or humans? Is it an accretion of constructions, non-geological architectures, and delimited spaces? Or is it the meta-layer of community formed in such proximities, the flow of messages and information within its boundaries, and the exchange of the same without?
The construction of The Line as a building is not its realization as a city. The ingestion of inhabitants will mark the beginning of this question. Unlike linear city experiments of the past, and unlike traditional city planning, which allows for organic growth and development, The Line will be a solitary entity that embodies the whole. To metabolize, it will need to maintain its dissipative flux, but unlike the more traditional city, there is no recourse for metastasis, for the growth of tumours. All extension would be subject to the will and potency of the city authority, which in this case is the state itself. All aspects of the User experience would be mediated through authorized channels, social times for social spaces. As a city, it is not urban planning that would interconnect and reflect the spatial desires of the generational Users, but the Users who must reflect the desires of the space. And these desires as such are precipitated by that same city authority. The intention of this smart city will require sensing on an immense scale, and the data on all its occupants will necessitate a total relinquishment of privacy. In other words, to maintain control, and with no allowance for non-linear growth, this will be a deeply Totalitarian place.
I am a Londoner. I grew up in Croydon and have only ever lived, studied, or worked within the M25. In my life I have never spent longer than 3 weeks away from London, and I hesitate to imagine I have spent more than a continuous 2 weeks away from an urban environment. I hope to examine my relationship to the city, to the city I know and love, and many ideas raised may reflect a London-centric worldview.
I will use The Line’s proposed architecture as a model to investigate architecture, before addressing two other relationships that a city has with information, and production. Finally, I will circle back and examine, through the lens I have created, the question: What exactly is The Line?
City and Architecture
The image of the planned city
The Line is not the first attempt to conceive of a planned, linear city. The idea has been trialled and conceptualised within a number of projects since the mid 19th century. Although the ideas I wish to explore apply, I believe, to planned cities generally, I will focus on the linear city for examples as the most extreme form of the planned city, and the form in which The Line itself takes.
The first notable modern attempt to construct a linear city is the Ciudad Lineal, built on the outskirts of Madrid. The architect Arturo Soria y Mata thought the line enabled an infrastructural transport spine – a tram – that would make movement through the city more efficient, and support offshoot communities as further lines.
“The growth of linear cities is simple because the line itself can go on to infinity and at any point a new community can shoot off like the branch of a tree, the tributaries of a river, the veins of the body”
The geometry of the city here suggests a limitlessness, which is in a way a reflection of the hubris of its architect. That a city might go on forever is a question of its communities, its localities, not simply its geometric linkage. The linear city puts into view that which intra-connects cities, its transports, its communication, all as being along a central fibre that efficiently distributes resources along the line. If localities form within such a city, we might see a split between two cities on the line and ask ourselves how each might be defined against the other.
For the unplanned city, or one undergoing a more ‘natural’ growth, we can see that they often start as individual, tenuously linked hubs, with their growth leading to a merging or swallowing of one by the other. Examples of this are numerous in the old world, The City of London and The City of Westminster, and the many towns around are now all part of the same megastructure of Greater London, the towns of Buda, Óbuda, and Pest in Hungary, either side of the Danube comingled into Budapest, and now areas such as that between Beijing and Shanghai are forming into mega-conurbations over incredible spans. Yet these city-entities began as separate and formed together, the linear city would begin together and, through its forming of localities, separate.
“Many of these ideas were taken up by groups of architects who saw the city more as a work of art than a living system, more as a machine that could be designed using simple principles of interaction and location than an organism whose own forces held its dynamic structure together.”
The core investigation of this essay is the question of what a city is. I propose looking at a city not as a geographic entity but as a complex system, that the city is something akin to a super-organism, or super-organ within which organelles such as ourselves act according to our own internal decision-making faculties, but that the city also acts back to us, through its architectures, its infrastructures, its capturing and repurposing of information produced within it. I will look at the way in which a complex system acts, how this can be applied to the concept of an organ, and how such interactions make seemingly intelligent decisions. It is a look at how a system of energy capture, flow, and direction can accomplish a liveliness that performs similarly to a consciousness and how a consciousness can produce such a thing as a self. I would like to make a case of fractal self-similarity between complex systems, and position our own selves as one example, whole unto ourselves and yet still part of greater complexes, that not only do we act upon the world, but that it reacts upon us, and the ultimate expression of such a thing is this concept called a city.
The City as Technical Object
There is a phenomenon throughout history of attempts to explain complex systems through the language of the technology of the day. It is understandable considering the more impactful and more ubiquitous a technology becomes, the more integral it is within the functioning of a complicated social or mechanical system, and the larger and more complex those systems become, it is rational to assume that that technology is closer to a fundamental description of the nature of complexity itself.
“The city as computer, appeals because it frames the messiness of urban life as programmable and subject to rational order.” 
Descartes viewed the body as driven by pistons, the Victorians saw the body as driven by steam, we now know the human body is activated through electro-chemical impulse. But what drives it, what within a central nervous system, and how it controls, responds to, and manipulates the body is still up for grabs. And I am sure a “solved” model for a human brain would nevertheless fail to satisfy many about what’s really going on in there?
Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash projects computation onto this question, positing the brain as hardware and the self as software. The story put forward during the novel is that humanity existed in a sub-conscious state of automatisms, acting as their functions within early society, dictated by the ancient Sumerian language that acted as an original language whose instructions the brain was wired to follow. Eventually, a priest crafted a prayer that acted as a computer virus, one which activated the consciousness and free will within a recipient who would then pass it on, allowing more abstracted languages to form and becoming the myth of the tower of Babel.
Whilst it is a fun story, I think Snow Crash does give us a couple of insights about the connections which can be drawn between language, consciousness, computation, and the city. Language is the interface of thought, and between citizens is the medium through which messages are passed. These messages take on their own their own lives, reshaping and evolving, and reflecting back onto the language itself, causing it to change and adapt accordingly. This process of change and adaptation, effect, and reflection is an occurrence beyond the plan of any space. It is an emergent property of agents within and arranged by an architecture, that seeks to repurpose and alter that architecture for its current needs.
As such, for a city, a planned city, the outcome is not the plan, the material existence of the city isn’t its planning, it is something less and something more. The image of the planned city is as a singular expression of language, it is a technical object, perfect in form and function, so long as it is asked to be and do neither.
“The desiring-machines attempt to break into the body without organs, and the body without organs repels them, since it experiences them as an over-all persecution apparatus.” 
This plan can be viewed as a Deleuzian body without organs, resistant to change and accepting only of its own decay. The plan alone is not a functioning city, its mapped delineations are not effected delineations performing the functions of organs. In this way its architectural hierarchies are only so because the plan says so, but enact themselves only when the city is energised with citizens.
The desiring machines of the citizenry then through their functioning attempt to break into the architectural skin of the city, they deface it, they damage, they wear, they tear, they are the entropic actors, shattering windows, littering. They impress upon the architectures its meanings, its inflows and outflows, they manufacture its relationships to other architectures by their purposing of it. The city acts to repel these actors, organising itself in response to them. This produces new citizen behaviours, and the recursive loop is effectuated.
The bureaucratic ideal of the city is to possess no citizens. The municipal administration is constantly burdened by the complaints of those to whom it caters, matched by the break-down of its function-machines due to entropy.
“From a certain point of view it would be much better if nothing worked, if nothing functioned.”
When the function machines are not called, they can decay freely. This decay isn’t troublesome because it is not called upon the city to act as if it hasn’t occurred by functioning. The apparatus of any system is perfect until it is used, at which point it is inadequate.
“By reducing technical objects to their schemes, one returns to idealism and unconsciously denies materialism. The created is never equal to the scheme that created it, nor is it equal to the elan vital that runs through the process of creation.”
The made thing is not the idea of its creation, nor is it the spirit of its own creation. The city cannot exist as a technical object in its entirety. Whilst it is the subject of its subjects, and is manufactured of their schema, its enaction denies its ideal existence, but this being is also more than its materialism. The city proper can never be created but is merely the expression of its own elan vital, self-creating, self-perpetuating through its own existence.
If the city is a human production, then it is an expression of human needs and desires as mediated through community or society. These needs respond and change in concert with the changes they institute, leading to further repetition of recursive loops. The program is written by the program itself.
The High Rise and Its Dreams
The eponymous High-Rise in JG Ballard’s novel acts much in this way, beginning as a scheme, and through its liveliness expressing itself back onto those living within. It is also, for our purposes, a planned and linear city, though one reaching skywards. Similarly to The Line the High-Rise, with its swimming pools, gyms, supermarkets, dentists, and schools, is near enough a city as a single, fixed architecture. In this, the two are comparable as the ultimate expression of forward planning, necessarily designed to work, totally and flawlessly, from the beginning.
The building is created by its architect Royal to be the epitome of modern day enmeshing of style and function. From the layout of the elevators and the parking, down to the coffee pots and tableware.
“Reluctantly, he knew that he despised his fellow residents for the way in which they fit so willingly into their appointed slots in the apartment buildings, for their overdeveloped sense of responsibility and lack of flamboyance. Above all, he looked down on them for their good taste. The building was a monument to good taste, to the well-designed kitchen, to sophisticated utensils and fabrics, to elegant and never ostentatious furnishings. In short, to that whole aesthetic sensibility which these well-educated, professional people had inherited from all the schools of industrial design, all the award-winning schemes of interior decoration institutionalized by the last quarter of the century.
Royal detested this orthodoxy of the intelligent. Visiting his neighbours’ apartments, he would find himself physically repelled by the contours of an award-winning coffee pot, by the well-modulated color schemes, by the good taste and intelligence that, Midas-like, had transformed everything in these apartments into an ideal marriage of function and design. In a sense, these people were the vanguard of a well-to-do and well-educated proletariat of the future, boxed up in these expensive apartments with their elegant furniture, and intelligent sensibilities, and no possibility of escape.” 
The residents move to the High-Rise for these temporal-spatial reasons of convenience and function carried by the elegance of its designs. In other words, for the technical object of the building and the morality of modern upper-middle class life it implies e.g. of smug, quiet respectability. The functionality of the building itself signifies higher living, extending their bodies, augmenting their biology through architectural appendage.
Conversely an architecture must develop social augmentations as its stasis requires it to draw in energy from the external world. These “ghost-acres” (farms, fuel, resource) can be viewed as part of the wider structure of a city, and the larger it grows, and the more it dominates and controls these areas, the more we can view them as non-geographically contiguous regions of the parent city. The ghost-acres produce their own identities, localities that often define themselves around the resource and specifically against their parasitic parent. 
Themselves perhaps smaller cities, these satellites and their relationships add to a web of texture that forms region, nation, state etc that describe in lower resolutions the fractal interplay of these self-similar systems.
The techne of the High-Rise begins to fail, even before the story starts. The planned city denies its own materiality, which includes its inhabitants and the implication of time that comes with them. The facilities are inadequate, inaccessible or suffer enclosure by the stratified communities within the building. The city that actually exists within the High-Rise is an archipelago of factions competing for resource and, most predominantly, mobility.
The viscosity of flow through a structure is pertinent to how effective it is in communicating and addressing needs and desires, stresses, tensions, and compressions applied to it. Where the High-Rise or The Line are concerned, it is taken that residencies are uniformly distributed throughout, yet resources and localities must still arise, and this uniformity thus becomes challenged.
“The uniform distribution of population is transformed to one where population (and its density for each unit has the same area) is proportional to the accessibility of each location.”
Each unit apartment needs to access resources, local amenities, and local services to a basic extent, and as a city of 9 million residents, The Line must also be providing unique amenities, museums, stadia, shopping districts, plazas. This requires a robust transit system in any city, lest a football match or concert bring the entire city to a standstill. When this is a purely linear system of transit, these areas become major choke points. Transit methods must go through them to reach areas of the city on the other side. Furthermore, these are the areas around which population will congregate in its distribution. The Line claims of being a 15-minute walkable city, where amenities and jobs are within that radius. If there are concentrations of jobs such as in a shopping district, then there will be a concentration of people needed to work these jobs that must be placed near, whilst equally those wishing to shop in these areas will apply the same pressure.
“The problem with specifying a linear city in the way proposed is that there is no sense in which the city is in equilibrium.”
Such areas are sure to arise, one problem any congregation solves is geographic friction of distance. A city pulls in from its surroundings the necessities for living, food, goods, information, and within its walls these necessities congregate amongst themselves. Shops and restaurants co-locate, the pulling of customers to an area, or pooling of delivery resources create economies of scale for all involved, including the customer who doesn’t need to traverse temporal-spatial, financial, or energetic constraints to be able to acquire their desired good or service, when all are available within a given locality. For the city to exist it must be allowed to flow and reshape itself continuously to allow such localities to form, mould, develop and dissipate. But within a fixed structure such as the High-Rise or The Line this cannot be allowed or enabled, or at least the barriers to doing so suffer a great friction of their own.
“Populations are assumed to interact regardless of how distant they are from one another, even though the hyperloop technology in Neom would still embody a friction of distance. The implication is that the interaction potential is the same from any cell to any other, that is, that the notional distance … is constant or even zero. Thus Tobler’s (1970) Law does not apply. This almost smacks of teleportation, but in essence, the notion that people will travel in the way assumed is an extreme fiction, and if any such city were to be built, it would soon begin to unravel and collapse to the sort of urban forms that characterise cities that evolve from the bottom up, in fact, as most cities do”
“Everything is related to everything else, but near things are more related than distant things” – Tobler’s First Law of Geography
Infrastructure is the ossified energy flow of the city. It is what enables the organization of the city. It is born out of the living city, and it is the skeleton which the living city erodes.
The activity and importance of the elevators is a central motif through the story of High-Rise. Royal’s elevators in the plan are the efficient manoeuvre of goods and people to their rightful places within the High-Rise’s structure, formulating the organization of the building and fixing within its architecture the hierarchies of its inhabitants.
The energising of the building however, contrasts with this infrastructural mode. The elevators suggest flow, and initially are used as such, but when the factions within the tower begin to form, we see this architecture being unfit for purpose as the elevators invade the forming factional organs. These factions in turn struggle against them to build identity, leading to the damage, and the destruction of the elevators.
The metaphorical imagery of the lifts as social mobility, with violence enacted on the lower floors (classes) through the vandalism of the elevators is clear. The elevator that doesn’t suffer this fate is the express elevator, which is infrastructurally part only of the upper floors going straight to the 35th floor, representing inherited wealth of the upper classes or the inbuilt structures to divide the same. Royal extends its use out as the penthouse faction seeks to grow its ranks and form a buffer zone to the lower floors.
This here is the bottom-up forming of a locality within the linear structure Batty talks about as occurring after the unravelling of the previous expected, planned homogenous use-spread of the city.
“Linear cities usually have one central seed site and although historically, cities tend to only have one core, since the industrial revolution as cities began to grow and new technologies enable rapid movement to distant places, a degree of polycentricity has emerged.” 
Again, High-Rise is a fiction, and an extreme one at that, but it explores the psychology of a fixed space for a dynamic population. We can see these divisions forming based on a psycho-social need for identity and otherance.
Royal represents the new aristocracy, a subset of jobs and their shared cultural practices (tennis), given power through capital (new money), which is then exploited to cement their position of superiority. Literally. They represent the Capitalist Realist sentiment that all things are the domain of capital, and that social superiority is a matter of location of, and proximity to, capital. The virtuousness is inherent through all classes is that the upper floors are more desirable. The architecture of the High-Rise is the enactment of this principle.
We saw in the earlier quote that Royal, the planner, sees the entire building as the new proletariat, he sees an equality, a similarity between all parties within, as dictated through his design. And yet, the architecture reflects onto its inhabitants a need to manufacture these distinctions and identities.
The common culture held by the upper classes leads to the total colonization of amenities such as the swimming pools. The hostility of the High-Rise towards children is also an expression of the Capitalist Realist city’s attitude towards the vulnerable. Further outlined in the hypocrisy that Royal himself is disabled due to his accident. The affordances for all that are promised by the state, are privatized by the wealthy and any service that can’t be is violated.
The situation within the High-Rise performs a negatively spiralling loop between the formation of identities, their expressions upon the architecture, and this new infrastructural, spatial relation then exacerbating the need for identity formation in order to combat it.
Lacan refers to this as the Big Other, the aspect that cannot be allowed to acknowledge the actual experiential reality of the social field. The upper classes in the High-Rise live in comfortable squalor with no superior to blame it on, and only the defence of this territory from the lower classes to bind them together. The middle classes live to serve the building, natively realigning to its impressions upon them, and the lower classes seek to imposition themselves on those above. (I use these class terms not to make a wider point about classism and the city, but to make use of the distinctions created within the story that serve a second function as class-based social commentary). The Big Other here represents the psychological investment into the building and produces the inability to leave despite its deterioration, because they are part of the city-building. 
The inhabitants do not buy into it with only their money, it is the morality in the architecture that they are purchasing. They each are part owners of the building. The inhabitants invest their psychologies, and their time into the building and the state it represents. It is the creation of their own narratives within the space that provides the value. There is a virtual life within the building they are each living and as such are tied to it. Even Wilder, obsessed with the building’s failures and inequalities, cannot see outside it, even going so far as to bring his work as a documentarian into the building.
And this I believe is a constant that will hold true for The Line and for any locality. Investment, as time, as money, as effort, is reciprocal and as much as you might influence and effect the architectures both constructed and social, they too manipulate you.
“By its very efficiency, the high-rise took over the task of maintaining the social structure that supported them all.” 
And where these structures are more fixed, more permanent, they have more of an effect impositioning their inhabitants. Those unable to enforce their will, but comfortable enough to adapt and adopt new modalities, who believe themselves untethered, are in fact the most impacted and ineffectual. As Royal’s assessment of Liang goes, whilst Liang believes himself detached, he is perhaps the High-Rise’s most perfect inhabitant. They are the class of the wilfully disaffected, disinterested and hedonistically aberrant. The atomised individual. No desire for privacy, in love with surveillance and the meta-data capture of themselves. There is a post-sociality implied in the tenants of the High-Rise.
In contrast to the fixed High-Rise, we can explore the metastatic growth of a transport infrastructure by looking at the roads around the city of London, which were a product of common transport routes into the city in conjunction with easier crossing points on the Thames. Although the city has its origin in Roman Britain, its road system is mainly derived from the medieval period when the city saw a re-energisation after the Norman conquest. The roads within the city took their forms from the routes of citizen flow between areas of resource (the river, surrounding fields), trade (the markets), spirituality (Westminster Abbey, Parish churches) and power (the Tower of London, city gates).
The intricacy of these flows developed as the city built up with and around them, such that by 1666, when Christopher Wren was tasked with rebuilding the city after the Great Fire of London, his plans for wide avenues and an end to the medieval winding streets clashed with the private land of the city. The landlords, and tenants, wanting to operate or rebuild their homes quickly, as such remade much of the old streets. The city architecture here becomes from the inertial energy of the city before the fire and cannot be simply considered as the bricks themselves. The bureaucracy of the city is part of that architecture. Though the structures were no longer physically standing, their legal and spatial relationships were still extant. Even if the architecture had been built to a plan before, now this city was anew, remade in the image of the old, healed to continue, like a living body, remaking as best as can be, reflecting its flows, rather than reorganising.
A future implication for Wren’s work, that can be seen from all over London, is St. Paul’s Cathedral, which by law must be visible from select protected views. In the modern age of skyscrapers, this has led to building architectures such as The Cheesegrater so named for its inclined side made so as not to obscure the view. The positioning and capacity of office and apartment blocks, and their effects on the flows of people, and weather systems throughout the city is here affected by the consequence of an architectural construct. We can see here a loop forming.
Inhabitants build out of it the city of their desires rather than the city of their dreams. The city I’m referring to is something akin to a holobiont such as coral. It is the psychosocial mass, its active agents, and its ossified infrastructure. A city’s architecture is a congealed inertia of movements, needs, signals, desires, of identities and conflicts, of geographies and accidents. These are energy stores and flows, both potential and actual.
City and Information
Meta-Data and Networks
There is always from the point of view of the subject a binary between the subject itself and an object receiver or emitter of data. For example: A performer (emitter) plays to a listener (sensor), clearly between the two we have a binary between two singulars. Now consider the context of the performance, it takes place in a music studio, Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 Pt. 3 “Ruhevoll” is played and lasts for 20 minutes. This is data produced by performing itself and the observation of it by the studio microphone, not by the emitter alone. This is the meta-data of the performance.
Now say we have many listeners who are all singularly transfixed and not in communication with each other, listening via radio. Here we have a singular in many binary connections to other singulars. There is now relational data that is produced by these many sensors communicating at once with the singular emitter.
Finally, imagine the performance is happening within a concert hall, where the audience can now communicate (seeing each other’s enjoyment, clapping at the end). Here the data emitted from the stage is being refracted, analysed, and reformatted by each audience member. The meta-data of the performance now includes this relational data produced between the audience in response to the performer. This also can be viewed as a singular in binary communication with a singular multitude. The way of viewing this depends on the resolution at which the meta-observer is viewing the performance.
For a system of messages to be organising it must be generating new information. Sensory input data alone cannot be enough as this will either produce a random or predetermined effect in the subject. Norbert Wiener uses the example of dancing figures on a music box where their reaction to the given stimulus is always the same pre-programmed pattern of dance.
Feedback is the mechanism of difference; meta-data is the produced information. In a system where a combination of sense data and previously captured data is fed into the decision apparatus, the exhibited behaviour is to measure the performed action against the intended action enabling a control mechanism to deduce knowledge about its relationship to the external world having measured the internal model against that world. This can then lead to prediction, a developed form of data that has gone through analyses under the internal model of the external world.
This sensing and analysis inside complex systems happens within Bergsonian real time, rather than Newtonian spatial time.  For the subject to meter itself against the outside world, its experience of the outside world cannot happen faster than its capacity to sense. Or rather, the speed of sensing is the speed the outside world runs at in relation to the system, and the speed at which that data is processed is the perceptual frame of reference for the system.
This experience of real time is unique to complex systems, whose degrees of feedback lead to the system itself being changed in a recursive manner. The processing of a loop can be considered the period of perception, but it must be stressed that the system itself perceives no granular makeup of time in this loop but experiences it as a continual span. This contrasts with a mechanism, that when taken aside from its environs (because everything is experiencing entropic decay and as such is always continually different) experiences no real time and can only be measured externally in the granular spatial time.
“Mechanism is an artificial system that is deprived of “real time,” since the mechanical parts don’t have a history. Every state can be restored according to an external cause.” 
This restorativity is not the case for systems with feedback. A complex system cannot be wound back and so passes from one state to another with a permanence. Hui uses Bergon’s finality to illustrate this, if finality could be an internal property, e.g., the end could be seen from the conditions of the start, there is no passage of time as that start “already implies the end” and all conditions in between. If we can take a system and position it exactly to a point in its cycle and know exactly how, when, and that it will return to this state or another, it can be considered a mechanism.
We can then argue for an indeterminate universe, as a universal mechanism would reject Heisenberg uncertainty and place it as a problem of the granular resolution of a Planck length. As such, given a universal yet quantum scale, all things are subject to the passing of time as measured by the absolute increase in entropy, and such no true mechanism exists.
The investigation of, understanding of, and quantization of nature and natural systems into repeatable, discrete packets of information acts to break into the understanding of life as simply a problem of the resolution of investigation of recursive loops, we mechanise these loops, and their contingency becomes a problem of probability that we can account for. This “understanding of nature already reveals a technical form” and we see here produced a cybernetic nature, whereby “the organization of a machine should be valued by its capacity to deal with these different notions of contingency and their classification, instead of mere automatism.” 
Bergson’s mechanical system cannot express real time, but the interrelation of these systems produces meta-data, which is the organising force within the larger enveloping system. Through the analysis of contingency brought about through indeterminism of action in the recursive loop, the system organises itself, creating on the scale of observance, information about the organ as a whole, to be witnessed by the organ itself. The organ acts as the emergent self-production of mechanical iota, it exists not as the expression of a single mechanum, but as the meta-structure which captures the mechanical field and binds them through a comparative meta-analysis of their functions. The organ maintains in its energy flows the biases of its mechanisms as expressions of inertia within those flows. This inertial memory acts upon the individual mechanism to function accordingly, completing the loop.
“[the organ] is situated in a system and in reciprocal relations with other parts; it adapts itself to the system while at the same time modifying the system, which in turn conditions its further mode of operation; it becomes its own condition through the feedback of the whole organic system.” 
“The purpose of a system is what it does” -Stafford Beer
An organ is an entity unto itself, whole in its existence as a function machine. Messages are the purpose. An organ might manufacture wine, it might present it in a glass, or it might process it into urine, but in all forms an organ produces meta-data, and sends this to its neighbours in the common body.
What it does is what it was always meant to do. The control mechanisms within a system may bring it to heel if the initial outcomes were undesirable, of which humans or other organelles may be part. But the system itself, if relying on feedback as part of that control mechanism is an organ unto itself. And the organ is whole regardless of its intended outcomes if it can function as a system in communication with both itself and the outside world.
“The theory of the message among men, machines, and in society as a sequence of events in time which, though it itself has a certain contingency, strives to hold back nature’s tendency toward disorder by adjusting its parts to various purposive ends.” 
We can such view the organ as the organising system of messages that flow into and out of it, confined by the boundary dictated by its production of meta-data. Take the thought experiment of the Chinese box, whereby a message in one language goes in, and a message in another comes out. The box alone is not an organ, it is merely a function machine, it produces a difference. The loop of organicity occurs when the meta-data is produced in the comparison between the two messages to determine how they are different, or at the very least, that they are different. This analysis of incoming data produces the meta-data that lays the foundation for feedback. The city performs as an organ of this loop, producing itself, within a nature, as an organ distinguishable within this nature.
The Network Effect
Meta-data is thus produced by the formalisation of energy into information and can be seen to be anti-entropic; Entropy is the measure of disorganization, the process by which structure decays, and is always on average increasing throughout the universe. In localised systems however, entropy can be seen to decrease. Norbert Wiener explains that the information in a message from an emitter to a sensor can be considered ‘a measure of organisation’ that is ‘essentially the negative of its entropy’. Meta-data comes additionally.
The production of meta-data scales with the size of a network exponentially as each node (when both sensor and emitter) produces relational data to each other node, the inferences from which become more precise. This increased efficiency of data-production is the network effect.
However, this may not mean greater accuracy as noise within a network also scales. Information that is sent is not always received in its intended manner. As information is formalised by a receiver, data points and relationships between them can be read differently given the different relational aspect of the sensor node to the emitter. These variations in the produced information are considered “noise”. Noise will usually filter out, averaging down to a mean that is reflective of the consensus position. If this noise begins to become formalised, a new, alternative consensus can be reached by members of the network and this we can view as “agitation”.
Symbols and Infrastructure
This agitation gives rise to new expressions of ideas, new language, new symbologies. And in time with continued use, if these agitative subnetworks grow, and their symbols proliferate, these atlases can become incorporated by the wider network, adding depth to, or sometimes replacing existing signifiers. Symbols are the expressive shorthand of a meme, and within a network can be varying degrees of fluid, representing common information flows, such symbols then find themselves codified into the architecture of a system as infrastructure should the effectiveness and longevity of their use warrant such investment.
A physical example might be a desire path in a park, a route commonly used to cut a corner or traverse the park in a particular way, or the often-found route around the edge of the park that a multitude of runners trace over. Initially we have virgin grassland as dictated by the park authority. The citizens then use the park and produce memetic behaviours arranged around the park’s geography, such as walking across the grass between locations inside or outside of its boundaries. Over repetition this kills the grass and compacts the soil along the route, further defining the path for future travellers who then follow this deadened line, a desire path is formed. Eventually the park authority might see fit to concretise this path, for more efficient movement, better weather management, for greater accessibility, or perhaps in the event of many crisscrossing paths, to create fewer routes to limit damage, but that might be more favourable to follow. As such the symbol of travel becomes ossified as infrastructure which then alters the route travelled in future. Should these representations not be maintained, the system will decay and so shall its representation, eventually reverting to a field of grass, with concrete paths cracked and overgrown, disorganised.
Standardisation, by bureaucratic decree or by inertial build-up, reduces frictions in the communication of memes, and allows the network to function more efficiently and effectively. The effectiveness of a message is in its penetrative power. Codified built symbols of representation are useful within a society to impress upon its Users expected behaviours for the better functioning of the network as a whole and provides the basis on which it may scale.
“Standardization drives logistics, and logistics in turn enables geopolitical ambition and momentum. … We appreciate the role of railroads, telegraphy, and telephony networks as the infrastructure of globalization, and their speed for the acceleration of the modernities of space and time, but perhaps we underappreciate the metastructuring importance of mundane anonymous standards to turn isolated mechanical inventions into infrastructural innovations… The centrifugal standardization of how individual components interrelate and assemble into higher-order systems, whether physical or informational, is as important as what any part or component may be.” 
An individual traffic light, being a techno-mechanical innovation, representing a standardised expectation of behaviour, may restrict flow for a car or pedestrian, but the system as a whole enables a better flow of traffic and therefore goods/information/energy throughout the system as a whole. Such a set of conventions and technologies that builds up road systems, Bratton calls a platform:
“A standards-based technical-economic system that simultaneously distributes interfaces through their remote coordination and centralizes their integrated control through that same coordination” 
The traffic lights are an interface with the road system, the symbol through which we commune with the flow of traffic throughout the city, the check-measure in the platform to co-ordinate future flows. But they are not, fundamentally, and respectively the highways themselves or the structure which underpins the language of communication. And of further importance is their ability to reshape and be remade by the agents using them. For instance: some traffic lights are hard coded patterns, I’m sure. Some use weight sensors in the roads to know when there are vehicles waiting, and some are in fact controlled by the buttons at crossing points, and quite possibly there is a combination of all three at work. The Brattonic User has an influence over the whole system by engaging with and using the platform, but as the larger, authoritative entity, it is the platform that will usually express greater influence onto the User.
“The right to address and be addressed by the polity would be understood as some shared and portable relationship to common infrastructure. Properly scaled and codified, this by itself would be a significant (if also accidental) accomplishment of ubiquitous computing. From this perhaps we see less the articulation of citizenship for any one city, enclosed behind its walls, but of a “ citizen ” (Is that even still the right word?) of the global aggregate urban condition, a “ citizen-user ” of the vast, discontiguous city that striates Earth, built not only of buildings and roads but also of perplexing grids and dense, fast data archipelagos. Could this aggregate “ city ” wrapping the planet serve as the condition, the grounded legitimate referent, from which another, more plasmic, universal suffrage can be derived and designed?” 
As organisms and identities ourselves we have agency within the grander city to effectuate our whims within the flows of the platform. And grander still, extra-geographic platforms capture us within their boundaries and reflex with us to happenings across boundary lines, hyper-spacing localities.
It is curious the repeated feature-grabbing and homogenising occurring across platforms, as each mega-corp tech-giant seeks to capture the totality of the market for attentions, as the city captures the experience of space. The mediatising post-lexical communication, the commentary-short-video-format-like-button-hashtag-DM-open-fora-moderated community-sponsored-post blob that becomes of platforms as, for the sake of growth, they delocalise and generalise, constructing the vogue architectures of digital space and interface.
This manner of de-specialising, disorganising (Or perhaps generalisation is super-organising), the demand on communities to form localities across platforms that require perpetually more engagement, in more varieties of expression, seems determined on forcing such localities to fixate on one ecosystem, to develop platform sovereignties in the techno-cognitive space, creating frictions of distance between them. The tech-giants want to keep users in-platform, and we can see with Twitter’s recent attempts to ban external platform linkage, that there certainly is an appetite for such borders to form from the view of the platform authorities.
But the spaces are not the authorities, and these digital poleoids (city-like) are not the platform architectures. As discussed, the system, when called to act, is immediately inadequate to function, and such functions are abraded by agents within the system to remake architectures to their state of flow. (A famous example is the arising of the hashtag on Twitter).
There is a tendency to invoke a schism between the machinic and the organism and proclaim the impending supremacy of the former over the previously dominant latter. As such machinic, platform-bodies arrest our attentions, capturing, manufacturing, and moulding our identities, we see within them a mirror world, reflective and disconnected from our own. But these clearly are nascent cybernetic organs, sites of governance, of our behaviours, ideals, and desires. Yuk Hui asks us to engage with the method of machinic interaction with the world (the algorithm) as simply that, rather than considering the algorithm as the thing itself. The algorithm is the architecture through which an accreted knowledge is enacted (activated/ passed/ engaged with/built upon/reorganised/interpreted/decoded). The rapidity of these platform’s change represents the impermanence of the digital material, but their change itself reflects the platform-consciousness, the accretion, the inertia of meta-data analysis by and of its agents, and by and of its architecture.
An organ is its architecture, its agents, and its flows, it exists in space, in time, and in loop-time (real time).
City and Production
Q. Above all, what does the city produce? A. Itself
Meta-data is the virtual layer of communication, the unreal, the map, the produced fiction that delineates the real. The network, (and what is a city but a network, or how would a city be without a network?) is the gross entity of meta-fiction. The network is the virtualised actuator of Benjamin Bratton’s Stack, which activates each layer appropriately in response to the coming input, and with each activation signals (signifies?) to its neighbouring nodes of it doing so. In this way the network is not a Borges’ cloth map marked a mile to a mile, but a hyper-cloth marked a mile to a mile to a decade to a ton to a dollar. The network is not merely a facsimile for the city but is itself the hyper-structure of the entity it traces. The network functions closer to Borges’ inspiration, Mein Herr from Lewis Carroll’s Sylvie and Bruno, whereupon finding the farmers objecting to a 1 to 1 ratio map suffocating their fields, now uses “the country itself, as its own map” which “does nearly as well”. For there is no mapping sufficient to describe or direct the bounds of the city when the act of mapping is itself a productive agent of the city’s meta-structure, and, conversely, this cartography is already produced as redundancy by the city function, in that activation within the network is consumption, analysis, and reproduction of the meta-data describing the network itself.
“For the real truth of the matter — the glaring, sober truth that resides in delirium — is that there is no such thing as relatively independent spheres or circuits: production is immediately consumption and a recording process without any sort of mediation, and the recording process and consumption directly determine production, though they do so within the production process itself.” 
A feedback mechanism is here presented, all agents within the city are part of and act upon its network and the network of the city embraces and re-acts upon its agents. There are no singular quanta that might be packaged alone, aside, or exceptional to the city in this sense. Every node within the system is present as the making (and unmaking) of its boundaries, and without each individually, though it may still be the same system, this is the product of the mapping of its concurrency. A break in this productive-consumptive cycle is the formation of a new system, with a new birth state, and as such a separate entity that cannot be considered as the former state-occupier. In such a case, any agent, any node within the re-incarnated network is a new instance of its functional mode.
Such feedback within the elements of a network can act to provide self-amplifying loops whereby a commodity’s exchange value produces its social values, and such its usefulness to the network as a whole is considered irrelevant beyond the continual production of these values. In these circumstances the feedback loop inevitably leads to the production of waste because there is no end point in the loop, it can wind up or wind down, but requires an external impetus to begin and end. The network as such can be considered self-similar or fractal, as each cluster of nodes can be viewed close-up as its own network.
Society constructs its own delirium by recording the process of production; but it is not a conscious delirium, or rather is a true consciousness of a false movement, a true perception of an apparent objective movement, a true perception of the movement that is produced on the recording surface. 
The metadata cast by the relationships between emitters and sensors, and its inherent description of the network, are the dis-conscious (The delirium) of the network itself, it is the reflectivity of the society, the inferential layer.
Commodity Fetishism and Meta-Production
If we investigate the useless object, the art object, the true commodity, whose value is value, where the mythos of its being is of being desirable, yet through mass production is attainable, we can see this waste most clearly and egregiously, as its productive costs are from the beginning marked as an energy loss for the network. A recent example is the planned “elimination” (sending to landfill) of excess Funko-Pop toy figurines to the tune of $30 million. An incredible waste of productive energy is being exchanged to maintain the speculative value of the commodity because the cost of storage has become excessive.
Or we could look at Amazon’s waste that consists both of useless objects, mass used, overproduced items of a cheapness and lacking quality such that their existence within a crowd of other similar objects targeting minor functions is the justification for itself, e.g. the fidget spinner. And the useful e-waste, objects like laptops, headphones and televisions. The driver of consumption here is the affectation of luxury, wanting the object as symbol as well as useful. The paradox for a company such as Apple, who in this regard are notorious for overpricing their goods, as well as manufacturing an ecosystem of proprietary platforms, is that the goal is for everyone to have an iPhone or a MacBook. However, if the laptops were cheapened by their over productivity, the parent company loses a perceptive desirability as a result of that consumptive desire for the creation of an overpriced product of non-exclusivity, i.e., mass produced scarcity. Therefore, the perception that its price-tag be both justifiably high and as such not attainable for everyone, despite its obvious ubiquity and the necessity for e.g., a smartphone when navigating the modern world, is what keeps it, the iPhone or MacBook as a specific branded product, as both desirable and necessary.
The attitude produced by this is one of gatekeeping, to intentionally misplace the use-value of a commodity, to level its possession in the hands of the “unworthy” as an indictment of the grander society (See complaints around the unhoused having iPhone, or the class-based snobbery around flatscreen TVs in the 2000’s). The ubiquity and availability of these commodities is hidden behind the symbol of exclusivity and expense that drives their leveraged purchase as well as the judgement of undeservedness. I wonder if the Romans complained about poverty similarly: The plebians on the grain dole keep buying lapis lazuli sculptured gods for their shrines, they can’t surely need the wheat.
The upholding of these relational values then leads to such items, of considerable cost and at considerable cost, being dumped or otherwise destroyed. The market rationalisation for this fixates on the speculative value of the corporate node within this network, more than the efficiency of the network itself. The stock, as signifier of this, as such bears no relation to the meaningful use-productivity of the corporation. Perhaps a link can even be made to this waste itself being the signifier for productive desire. If waste can be taught to be ignored, branded packaging littering the street still acts as free background advertising, spread by consumers, the consumption itself providing messaging and impetus for more.
Digital consumables are perhaps the nearest perfect entity of this consumption loop. Such items, skins in video games, anything involving a loot box – neo gambling mechanic, exemplify consumer as identity. Every example will carry some such freemium model, trial runs when starting to play the game, a method of earning loot box tokens in game. These present to the User a manner of distinguishing oneself, and conversely to their peers, a manner of othering them. And they are presented initially for free, normalising mass-produced personalisation to effect an emotional weight invested in the platform, and thus lessen the felt impact of handing over “real” money.
But these systems are in their entirety scarcity fabrications. The Pokémon card must be produced; its waste built on its desire is controlled but still manufactured. The Pokémon company may be able to make as many cards as they like but there is still a physical limit to their productive capacity. And in whatever manner they manufacture scarcity, it is manufactured. A digital consumable is the assignment of a number or hash key and relates to an infinitely copyable file. They are to all purposes limitless for miniscule cost and anyone computer literate enough to ctrl+c, ctrl+v has the capability in re-producing what has already been designed. My home printed Pokémon card is an obvious fraud, but my copied CSGO skin would be the real thing.
We yearn for the waste, the redundancy, because the waste gives us value. We desire for decay because through it we may identify ourselves as similar or opposed, but know it is the state into which we are always falling.
“Desiring-machines work only when they break down, and by continually breaking down.” 
To work, to desire, to live is to constantly rebecome, to entropically fall and then grow, not to counteract that entropy itself. These counteractions are the recorded surface of the city, that is itself the body without organs, the dissipating, un-aliving, disorganizing de-structure. The future-space of passive inaction whose definition is no longer one of the self, but that of the other as determined by another self. The residual eminence of the desire for self-determination, the waste, to be furrowed and extracted from, to become anew subject to new niche desires.
The Production of Nature
“Producing-machines, desiring-machines everywhere, schizophrenic machines, all of species life: the self and the non-self, outside and inside, no longer have any meaning whatsoever.” 
Deleuze and Guattari speak about the mechanism of life, the flow from entity to entity as being universal. They position a mechanistic universe that is function-led, and so by extension the self is a complex of functions. Ergo to “become one with nature” is to position any separation between the self and nature as a projection on the part of the self. To be relieved of humanity in this sense is only therefore to forgo the continuous production of nature, of the self, of the city. A function in this case would not be productive, but mechanistic, meaning a function is a method, a set of flows, a construct of relations that can be called upon. A function acts only to be, it does not decide to not be. The projected division between the self and the functioning machines is the decision to not be natural.
Technology and the concept of the “manmade” is an architecture crafted to maintain this projection of a separate nature. As an architecture, this is an idea that has been growing and calcifying for much of civilizational history. It is an idea that has become common knowledge due to the convenience of its use, for the production of the self, and the production of otherness.
Aristotle’s writing on nature talks about an entity in process and that is productive, dynamic, and not static. In his work, “phusis” (from which we derive the word physics, physical) would be the closest approximation to an idea of nature or order that could be opposed to “techne” (from where we get technics, technical). But the human was part of phusis, capable of artifice, of creating techne, but they were not in themselves separated from nature.
This Aristotelian order was a virtue embodied by the polis (city), the ordered state of civilised humanity, the practical opposite of how a westerner might define such things now. We can view from here the city as understood to be falling along the lines of the natural more than it is a technical object. The barbarians, those outside the city walls and the lands of the Greeks, were uncivilised, disordered, chaotic and were seen to be the true opposite to phusis.
This moral line of chaos as the opposition of nature has been kept throughout its use in the west, but its relationship with the city has flipped. The Romans idealised the bucolic landscape in its simplicity and tranquillity when compared to the busy, dirty, and squalid cities. For the Christian Europeans nature itself was the presence of God’s creation, His order, over which man had been given dominion. “Nature” appeared to agree that man (specifically man) was master of all things under God.
Manuel DeLanda explains the division of the city from nature is a fiction that requires constant maintenance against the encroachment of “weeds” (i.e., pioneer crops attempting to reclaim the temperate forest) and is deemed as holy and just. We can see here finally a physical, biological boundary definition of nature to match the moral divisions given before, and through its metaphor of gardening see the othering inherent in the production of nature.
The division itself needs to be addressed and maintained, the threatening entropy of natural encroachment, by flora, fauna, and culture, is constant. The city, like a Deleuzian desiring-machine is continually breaking down, it is a dissipative structure, constantly being defined by the production of its definition. The citizens create the border of their productive lands, for fuel, food, or raw materials, and then the city reflects back to them the need to protect the territory as part of its own sovereignty and maintain the flow of goods into and through the city proper.
By manufacturing nature, the city is producing itself through the constant upkeep of its border, visible only during its moments of definition, and otherwise in constant decay and at mercy to the greater universal entropy of the nature it is producing.
The City Organ is the meta-observational platform of our urbane lives. It exists not as a mechanistic entity, product of our design and creation, but as the cybernetic cohabiter of our geo-social spaces. The city experience is a reciprocal loop of feedback between its mass of agents and the superstructure they uphold. The architecture alone, devoid of agents, stands as a crumbling body without organs, lacking the purpose and division of its liveliness. The agents, unconstrained, are organs to themselves and would be left to either fabricate their boundaries or dissipate. The city as a snapshot, frozen in time, devoid of its flows, is relationless, inorganic.
When considering The Line it is impossible to think of an organic citizenry, reflecting on the architecture and addressing it to their needs, its geometry, its predetermined architectural mass so impossibly pre-formed. Localities will need to arise to meter out flows, but if allowed to evolve these will produce dead zones and population spikes, performing feedback loops of oscillating demand and neglect along its length, as localities form, merge and dissipate. To combat this, I can only imagine an underclass managing all these expectations, being unconsidered within the homogenous plan. This underclass is no doubt meant to be performed by the city itself, by its nebulously described AI control systems, but even if such a premise were to realise, what room would there be for contingency within these control systems? Given the greater authority of the Saudi state itself, it can be reasonably concluded that the confines of behavioural expectation may be slim and tied to the currency in your wallet. As such The Line may be more of a hotel than a city.
We coexist with the spaces we inhabit, acting with, in the service to, or as recipients of the city functions. The city seeks through its expression of self, the production of itself, perpetuation of the message of the organ that it delineates, protesting its entropic decay. Its agent flows build up on its inertial banks, calcifying into the architectures and infrastructures of our urban spaces. But the city extends beyond the physical, beyond the real, it is a virtual hyperweb of its present, its presence and its performance. We task of the city our needs and desires and the city functions back to us by changing the sorts of tasks we think about.
 Soria y Mata in Michael Batty, “The Linear City: Illustrating the Logic of Spatial Equilibrium,” Computational Urban Science 2, no. 1 (February 20, 2022), .
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 Shannon Mattern in Arieff, Allison. “The One-dimensional City.” New Statesman (1996) 150, no. 5603 (2021): 18.
 Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash (Penguin UK, 1994).
 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (The Athalone Press Ltd, 1984)., 9
 Ibid., 7.
 Yuk Hui, Recursivity and Contingency (London, United Kingdom ; Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield International, Ltd, 2019)., 177
 JG Ballard, High-Rise (Harper Perennial, 2006)
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 Meriel Jeater, “How London Rebuilt after the Great Fire,” Museum of London, November 3, 2017, https://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/discover/housing-crisis-1666-london-rebuilt-after-great-fire.
 Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings (London, U.K.: Sphere Books, 1968).
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 Ibid., 164
 Ibid., 164
 Ibid., 189
 Ibid., 191
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 Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings (London, U.K.: Sphere Books, 1968)., 27
 Ibid., 21
 Benjamin H. Bratton, The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2016)., 45
 Ibid., 42
 Ibid., 10
 Brian Fung, “Elon Musk Says Twitter Will Ban Some Links to Other Social Media Sites, Sparking Backlash | CNN Business,” CNN, December 18, 2022, .
 Kate Scott, “The Pragmatics of Hashtags: Inference and Conversational Style on Twitter,” Journal of Pragmatics 81 (2015): 8–20, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2015.03.015.
 Yuk Hui, Recursivity and Contingency (London, United Kingdom ; Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield International, Ltd, 2019).
 Lewis Carroll, Sylvie and Bruno. … Concluded, (Macmillan and Co, 1893)., 169
 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (The Athalone Press Ltd, 1984)., 4
 Ryan Dinsdale, “Funko Is Sending $30 Million Worth of Its Products to a Landfill,” IGN, March 3, 2023, https://www.ign.com/articles/funko-is-sending-30-million-worth-of-its-products-to-a-landfill.
 Richard Pallot, “Revealed: Amazon Destroying Millions of Items of Unsold Stock in UK Every Year,” ITV News, June 22, 2021, https://www.itv.com/news/2021-06-21/amazon-destroying-millions-of-items-of-unsold-stock-in-one-of-its-uk-warehouses-every-year-itv-news-investigation-finds.
 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (The Athalone Press Ltd, 1984)., 8
 Ibid., 2
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