What is Contemporary? A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding the Present.

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s essential to stay informed and up-to-date with the latest trends and happenings. But what exactly does it mean to be contemporary? The term ‘contemporary’ is often used to describe the present time, but what does it encompass? This guide will provide a comprehensive understanding of what it means to be contemporary, from art and culture to politics and society. So, buckle up and get ready to dive into the world of the present!

Defining Contemporary: Exploring the Present

The Meaning of Contemporary

When we talk about contemporary, what do we mean? This seemingly simple question has a complex answer that requires a deeper understanding of the term and its implications.

  • Understanding the term and its implications

Contemporary can be defined as something that exists or happens in the present time. However, it is not just limited to the here and now. It also encompasses a sense of relevance and timeliness, making it a critical concept in understanding the world around us.

For example, contemporary art refers to art that is created and produced in the present day. It reflects the current cultural, social, and political climate and often seeks to challenge traditional norms and expectations. Similarly, contemporary music refers to music that is currently popular or in vogue, and contemporary literature refers to literature that is written and published in the present day.

  • Examining its use in various contexts

The term contemporary is used in many different contexts, each with its own specific meaning and connotations. For instance, in architecture, contemporary design refers to a style that is modern and current, but also timeless and enduring. In fashion, contemporary style is characterized by a mix of classic and modern elements, with a focus on comfort and functionality.

In addition, the term contemporary is often used in contrast to historical or traditional contexts. For example, contemporary dance is a style of dance that emerged in the 20th century and is characterized by its experimentation and innovation, in contrast to traditional dance forms that have been practiced for centuries.

Overall, the meaning of contemporary is multifaceted and dependent on the context in which it is used. However, at its core, it refers to something that is current, relevant, and reflective of the present time.

Contemporary vs. Modern: What’s the Difference?

When discussing the present, two terms that often come up are contemporary and modern. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they actually have distinct meanings.

In order to understand the difference between contemporary and modern, it is important to first define each term.

  • Contemporary refers to the present time, or the time during which we live. It can also refer to something that is currently happening or being produced.
  • Modern refers to a period of time that is characterized by a particular set of cultural, social, and intellectual conditions. The term is often used to describe the period of time between the 16th and 20th centuries.

Despite these definitions, the terms contemporary and modern are often used to describe similar things. For example, a contemporary art exhibition might feature works that were created during the present time, as well as works that were created during the 20th century.

However, it is important to note that the terms contemporary and modern can also be used to describe different things. For example, a modern building might be one that was built during the 20th century, while a contemporary building might be one that was built during the present time.

Ultimately, the difference between contemporary and modern comes down to the specific context in which the terms are used. While both terms refer to aspects of the present, they can also be used to describe different time periods and cultural conditions.

It is worth noting that the distinction between contemporary and modern is not always clear-cut. In some cases, the terms may be used interchangeably, depending on the context.

In conclusion, while the terms contemporary and modern are often used to describe similar things, they do have distinct meanings. Understanding the difference between these two terms is crucial for understanding the present and its cultural, social, and intellectual conditions.

Contemporary Art: A Visual Representation of the Present

Contemporary art is a visual representation of the present. It is a reflection of the current cultural, social, and political climate. Contemporary art encompasses a wide range of styles, movements, and mediums, making it one of the most diverse and dynamic art forms.

In recent years, contemporary art has gained widespread recognition and appreciation, with museums and galleries dedicating significant space to contemporary art exhibitions. This section will explore the evolution of contemporary art, as well as the major movements and styles that have emerged in the art world today.

Evolution of Contemporary Art

Contemporary art as we know it today began to emerge in the mid-20th century, following World War II. It was during this time that artists began to experiment with new styles, techniques, and materials, pushing the boundaries of traditional art forms.

One of the most significant developments in contemporary art was the rise of abstract expressionism in the 1940s and 1950s. This movement saw artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning using bold brushstrokes and vibrant colors to create large-scale paintings that expressed their emotions and ideas.

In the 1960s, the conceptual art movement emerged, with artists such as Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Kosuth challenging traditional notions of art and creating works that were more idea-based than material-based.

Major Movements and Styles in Contemporary Art

Today, contemporary art encompasses a wide range of styles and movements, each with its own unique characteristics and influences. Some of the major movements and styles in contemporary art include:

  • Abstract expressionism
  • Pop art
  • Minimalism
  • Conceptual art
  • Street art
  • Digital art
  • Installation art
  • Performance art

Each of these movements and styles has had a significant impact on the art world, and continues to influence contemporary artists today.

In conclusion, contemporary art is a dynamic and ever-evolving art form that reflects the current cultural, social, and political climate. With its diverse range of styles and movements, contemporary art continues to push the boundaries of traditional art forms and inspire new generations of artists.

Contemporary Music: Sounding the Present

The Development of Contemporary Music

Contemporary music, as we know it today, has been shaped by various historical events, cultural shifts, and technological advancements. It is a reflection of the current times and is constantly evolving.

One of the most significant developments in contemporary music was the emergence of electronic music in the mid-20th century. With the invention of the first electronic synthesizer in 1953, musicians were given a new tool to create and experiment with sound. This led to the development of various electronic music genres, such as techno, house, and electro, which continue to influence contemporary music today.

Another significant development in contemporary music was the rise of hip-hop in the 1970s. Originating in the African American and Latino communities in New York City, hip-hop was initially a form of street performance art that combined MCs (emcees), DJs, and breakdancing. It quickly gained popularity and became a cultural phenomenon, influencing not only music but also fashion, language, and art.

Influential Artists and Genres in Contemporary Music

There are numerous influential artists and genres in contemporary music that have shaped the current musical landscape. Some of the most notable include:

  • BeyoncĂ©: A multi-talented artist who has dominated the music industry for over two decades, BeyoncĂ© is known for her powerful vocals, impressive dance skills, and socially conscious lyrics. She has released multiple critically acclaimed albums and has won numerous awards, including 28 Grammy Awards.
  • Ed Sheeran: A British singer-songwriter who has taken the world by storm, Ed Sheeran is known for his catchy pop tunes and relatable lyrics. He has sold millions of records worldwide and has won numerous awards, including two Grammy Awards.
  • Drake: A Canadian rapper, singer, and actor, Drake has become one of the most successful and influential artists of his generation. Known for his emotional and introspective lyrics, Drake has released multiple chart-topping albums and has won numerous awards, including four Grammy Awards.
  • Taylor Swift: A pop superstar who has won the hearts of millions of fans worldwide, Taylor Swift is known for her catchy pop tunes and relatable lyrics. She has released multiple critically acclaimed albums and has won numerous awards, including 10 Grammy Awards.
  • Kendrick Lamar: A California-based rapper who has taken the world by storm, Kendrick Lamar is known for his poetic and politically conscious lyrics. He has released multiple critically acclaimed albums and has won numerous awards, including 13 Grammy Awards.

These artists and many others have helped shape the contemporary music landscape and continue to influence new artists and genres today.

Exploring Contemporary Issues

Key takeaway: Contemporary refers to the present time and encompasses a sense of relevance and timeliness. It is a diverse and dynamic art form that reflects the current cultural, social, and political climate. Contemporary art, music, literature, film, fashion, and architecture all reflect the present and are constantly evolving. Understanding the present requires an understanding of the term contemporary and its implications.

The Impact of Globalization on Contemporary Society

The Role of Globalization in Shaping the Present

In recent times, globalization has emerged as a prominent force that has significantly impacted contemporary society. The term globalization refers to the integration of economies, cultures, and societies across the world through increased trade, communication, and travel. It is a complex process that involves the flow of goods, services, capital, and people across national borders, resulting in the creation of a global village.

Key Aspects and Challenges of Globalization

One of the key aspects of globalization is the increased interconnectedness of economies and societies across the world. This has led to the growth of multinational corporations, the expansion of international trade, and the emergence of global financial markets. Additionally, advances in technology have facilitated the flow of information and ideas, leading to the convergence of cultures and the emergence of new forms of art, music, and literature.

However, globalization also poses significant challenges to contemporary society. One of the main challenges is the growing income inequality between developed and developing countries. While globalization has led to economic growth and prosperity in many parts of the world, it has also resulted in a widening gap between the rich and the poor. This has led to social unrest and political instability in many countries, particularly in the developing world.

Another challenge of globalization is the potential loss of cultural identity and diversity. As cultures converge and mix, there is a risk that unique cultural practices and traditions may be lost or diluted. This has led to debates about the impact of globalization on cultural identity and the need to preserve and promote cultural diversity.

In conclusion, globalization has had a profound impact on contemporary society, shaping the economic, cultural, and social landscape of the world. While it has brought many benefits, it also poses significant challenges that must be addressed in order to ensure that the benefits of globalization are shared equitably and sustainably.

Environmental Issues in the Contemporary World

Environmental issues have become a major concern in the contemporary world, as the impact of human activities on the environment has become increasingly apparent. Climate change, deforestation, and pollution are just a few of the many environmental challenges that we face today.

Climate Change and its Effects

Climate change is one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time. It is caused by the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which trap heat and lead to a rise in global temperatures. This has far-reaching effects on the environment, including more frequent and severe weather events such as hurricanes and droughts, rising sea levels, and the loss of biodiversity.


Deforestation is another major environmental issue, as it leads to the loss of habitat for many species and contributes to climate change. Deforestation is often driven by the demand for wood and paper products, as well as the expansion of agriculture and urbanization. This can have devastating consequences for the environment, as forests play a crucial role in regulating the climate, supporting biodiversity, and providing important ecosystem services.


Pollution is another significant environmental issue in the contemporary world. It can take many forms, including air pollution, water pollution, and soil pollution. Pollution can have serious health consequences for humans and animals, and can also damage the environment. For example, air pollution can contribute to respiratory problems and other health issues, while water pollution can harm aquatic ecosystems and make it difficult to access clean drinking water.

Other environmental challenges and concerns

In addition to these issues, there are many other environmental challenges and concerns that we face in the contemporary world. These include overfishing, habitat destruction, and the spread of invasive species, among others. Addressing these issues will require a collective effort from individuals, governments, and organizations around the world.

Technology and Contemporary Life

The Impact of Technology on Society

In today’s fast-paced world, technology has become an integral part of our lives. From smartphones to laptops, tablets to smartwatches, we are constantly surrounded by technology that makes our lives easier and more connected. However, it is important to understand the impact that technology has on society as a whole.

One of the most significant impacts of technology on society is the way it has transformed communication. With the rise of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, people can now connect with others from all over the world in ways that were previously impossible. This has led to a more globalized and interconnected world, where news and information can be shared instantly.

However, this increased connectivity has also led to new challenges, such as cyberbullying and online harassment. The anonymity of the internet allows people to say things they would not say in person, leading to a rise in online hate speech and violence.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Technological Advancements

While technology has brought many benefits to society, it has also created new challenges and issues. One of the biggest advantages of technological advancements is the ability to access information and knowledge more easily than ever before. The internet has made it possible for people to learn about anything they want, from the comfort of their own homes.

However, there are also many disadvantages to technological advancements. One of the biggest concerns is the potential for job loss due to automation and artificial intelligence. As machines become more advanced, they are able to take over many tasks that were previously done by humans, leading to the potential for widespread unemployment.

Another concern is the impact of technology on mental health. With the rise of social media and constant connectivity, many people struggle with issues like anxiety, depression, and addiction. The constant barrage of information and stimulation can be overwhelming, leading to negative effects on mental health.

Overall, technology has had a profound impact on contemporary life, both positive and negative. As we continue to rely more and more on technology, it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of these advancements and work to mitigate any negative effects they may have on society.

Politics and Society in the Contemporary World

Political Trends and Ideologies

In the contemporary world, politics plays a crucial role in shaping society. The political landscape is constantly evolving, with new trends and ideologies emerging that challenge traditional ways of thinking. One notable trend is the rise of populist movements, which often tap into people’s fears and frustrations with the established political order. These movements are characterized by their emphasis on the needs of the people, often at the expense of traditional elites and institutions.

Another important trend is the growing influence of technology on politics. The widespread use of social media has transformed the way political campaigns are run, allowing candidates to reach larger audiences and engage with voters in new ways. At the same time, concerns over the spread of misinformation and the manipulation of online platforms have led to increased scrutiny of the role of technology in politics.

The Role of Social Movements in Shaping the Present

Social movements have also played a significant role in shaping the contemporary world. These movements are often driven by issues such as inequality, climate change, and social justice. By bringing together individuals and organizations with shared goals, social movements have been able to mobilize public opinion and put pressure on governments and institutions to enact change.

One example of a successful social movement is the #MeToo movement, which emerged in response to the widespread problem of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. By sharing their stories and demanding accountability, survivors and activists were able to bring attention to the issue and spark a broader conversation about gender and power.

Another important social movement is the climate strike movement, which has mobilized young people around the world to demand action on climate change. By organizing mass protests and using social media to amplify their message, these activists have been able to put pressure on governments and corporations to take more aggressive action on climate change.

Overall, the role of politics and society in the contemporary world is complex and multifaceted. By understanding the trends and issues that are shaping our world today, we can better navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Understanding Contemporary Culture

The Evolution of Contemporary Fashion

Contemporary fashion is a constantly evolving and ever-changing industry that reflects the cultural, social, and economic influences of the present time. In this section, we will explore the major fashion trends and influences that have shaped contemporary fashion, as well as the impact of social media on the fashion industry.

Major Fashion Trends and Influences

Contemporary fashion is characterized by a blend of various styles and influences from different eras, cultures, and fashion movements. Some of the major fashion trends and influences that have shaped contemporary fashion include:

  • Streetwear: This trend emerged from the fusion of sportswear and urban fashion, and has become a dominant force in contemporary fashion. Streetwear is characterized by oversized silhouettes, bold graphics, and a focus on comfort and functionality.
  • Sustainability: With growing concerns about the environment and the impact of the fashion industry on the planet, sustainability has become a major trend in contemporary fashion. Designers are exploring eco-friendly materials, reducing waste, and adopting ethical production practices.
  • Technology: Advancements in technology have led to new innovations in the fashion industry, such as 3D printing, smart textiles, and virtual reality. These technologies are transforming the way fashion is designed, produced, and consumed.

The Impact of Social Media on Fashion

Social media has had a profound impact on contemporary fashion, revolutionizing the way designers market and promote their products, and how consumers interact with fashion brands. Social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook have become powerful marketing tools for fashion brands, allowing them to reach a global audience and engage with consumers in real-time.

At the same time, social media has also given rise to new fashion trends and influencers, who have the power to shape public opinion and drive consumer demand. These influencers have become an important force in the fashion industry, with many brands partnering with them to promote their products and reach new audiences.

In conclusion, contemporary fashion is a dynamic and ever-evolving industry that reflects the cultural, social, and economic influences of the present time. By understanding the major fashion trends and influences, as well as the impact of social media on the industry, we can gain a better understanding of what defines contemporary fashion and how it continues to shape our culture.

Contemporary Literature: Reflecting the Present

The Diversity of Contemporary Literature

Contemporary literature encompasses a wide range of genres, styles, and themes, reflecting the complex and multifaceted nature of contemporary culture. From realistic fiction to science fiction, from memoirs to poetry, contemporary literature offers a diverse array of voices and perspectives that challenge traditional literary conventions and expectations.

Some of the most prominent genres in contemporary literature include:

  • Realistic Fiction: This genre depicts everyday life and experiences in a believable and relatable way, often exploring themes of identity, family, and community.
  • Science Fiction: Science fiction imagines possible futures or alternate realities, often exploring scientific and technological advancements and their potential consequences.
  • Memoirs: Memoirs are personal narratives that recount the author’s experiences and memories, offering unique insights into individual lives and historical events.
  • Poetry: Poetry is a highly expressive form of literature that uses language to evoke emotions, ideas, and images, often exploring themes of love, loss, and the human condition.

Major Themes and Styles in Contemporary Writing

Contemporary literature is characterized by a range of major themes and styles that reflect the concerns and preoccupations of the present day. Some of the most prominent themes and styles in contemporary writing include:

  • Postmodernism: This literary movement challenges traditional notions of reality, truth, and narrative structure, often incorporating elements of satire, irony, and parody.
  • Magical Realism: This style combines realistic elements with fantastical or magical elements, blurring the boundaries between reality and imagination and exploring the complexities of identity and culture.
  • Experimental Fiction: This style pushes the boundaries of traditional narrative structures, often incorporating unconventional forms, techniques, and styles to create new and innovative forms of storytelling.
  • Social Justice: Many contemporary writers explore issues of social justice, including race, gender, sexuality, and class, often challenging traditional power structures and advocating for greater equality and equity.

Overall, contemporary literature reflects the present in its diversity, themes, and styles, offering a rich and complex tapestry of voices and perspectives that shed light on the challenges and opportunities of the contemporary world.

Contemporary Film: Telling the Stories of Today

The Evolution of Contemporary Film

Contemporary film, often referred to as the modern film industry, has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past few decades. The advent of digital technology has played a significant role in shaping the film industry, making it more accessible and affordable for aspiring filmmakers. As a result, the variety of films produced has expanded exponentially, offering diverse perspectives and narratives that reflect the complexity of contemporary society.

Furthermore, the evolution of contemporary film has been influenced by globalization, leading to a more interconnected and collaborative approach in filmmaking. International co-productions and the availability of global distribution platforms have allowed filmmakers to reach wider audiences and experiment with new styles and themes.

Genres and Styles in Contemporary Cinema

Contemporary film encompasses a wide range of genres and styles, reflecting the multifaceted nature of contemporary culture. Some of the most prominent genres in contemporary cinema include:

  1. Superhero Films: These films, often based on comic book characters, have become a dominant force in contemporary cinema. They often explore themes of power, responsibility, and the human condition, while utilizing cutting-edge special effects and action sequences.
  2. Drama: Contemporary drama films often delve into complex social issues, exploring themes such as family dynamics, identity, and personal growth. These films often feature character-driven narratives and emphasize emotional authenticity.
  3. Science Fiction: Science fiction films in contemporary cinema explore futuristic settings and advanced technologies, while often questioning the ethical implications of these developments. They often blend elements of action, adventure, and social commentary.
  4. Documentary: Contemporary documentary films cover a broad range of subjects, from personal stories to investigative journalism. They often utilize innovative filming techniques and strive to create an immersive experience for the viewer.
  5. Independent Cinema: Independent films, produced outside the traditional Hollywood system, often feature unique voices and perspectives, pushing the boundaries of conventional storytelling. They cover a wide range of genres and often tackle provocative themes and issues.

In addition to these genres, contemporary cinema also encompasses various stylistic movements, such as the use of found footage, mockumentaries, and non-linear storytelling. These styles add to the rich tapestry of contemporary film, providing audiences with a diverse and dynamic cinematic experience.

The Influence of Popular Culture on Contemporary Society

In recent years, popular culture has emerged as a significant force shaping contemporary society. It is important to understand how popular culture influences social norms and values, as well as how it shapes individual and collective identities.

  • The impact of popular culture on social norms and values
    Popular culture often reflects the prevailing social norms and values of a society. However, it can also shape them in ways that may not always be desirable. For instance, the promotion of consumerism through advertising and the glorification of materialism in popular media can influence people’s attitudes towards wealth and status.
  • The role of popular culture in shaping identity
    Popular culture plays a crucial role in shaping individual and collective identities. For instance, the representation of gender, race, and ethnicity in popular media can reinforce or challenge societal norms and stereotypes. Additionally, the rise of social media has given individuals the power to create and curate their own identities through the consumption and sharing of popular culture content.

It is essential to be aware of the influence of popular culture on contemporary society, as it can both reflect and shape our beliefs and behaviors.

Contemporary Architecture: Shaping the Built Environment

Major Trends and Styles in Contemporary Architecture

In recent years, contemporary architecture has been shaped by a diverse range of styles and trends. One of the most significant movements has been the rise of green or sustainable architecture, which emphasizes the use of environmentally friendly materials and techniques. Other trends include deconstructivism, which focuses on fragmenting and reassembling building elements, and biophilic design, which seeks to connect people with nature through the built environment.

The Role of Sustainability in Contemporary Design

Sustainability has become an increasingly important consideration in contemporary architecture. Many architects are now designing buildings that incorporate sustainable features such as solar panels, green roofs, and rainwater harvesting systems. This shift towards sustainability is not only driven by environmental concerns, but also by economic and social factors. As energy costs continue to rise and concerns about climate change intensify, sustainable design is seen as a way to reduce costs and mitigate environmental impact. Additionally, many people now expect sustainable features in their buildings, making it a key factor in attracting tenants or buyers.

In conclusion, contemporary architecture is characterized by a wide range of styles and trends, from green and sustainable design to deconstructivism and biophilic design. Sustainability has become an increasingly important consideration in contemporary design, driven by economic, environmental, and social factors. As the built environment continues to evolve, contemporary architecture will continue to shape our cities and communities in exciting and innovative ways.

Contemporary Design: Innovating for the Future

Contemporary design refers to the design styles, movements, and trends that emerged in the late 20th century and continue to evolve today. It is characterized by a focus on innovation, experimentation, and the integration of technology into various aspects of life. In this section, we will explore the evolution of contemporary design and the major influences and movements that have shaped it.

Evolution of Contemporary Design

Contemporary design has its roots in the modernist movement of the early 20th century, which emphasized functionality, simplicity, and the use of industrial materials. In the post-World War II era, designers began to experiment with new materials, such as plastics and synthetic fibers, and new technologies, such as computers and the internet. This period also saw the rise of the global economy and the proliferation of consumer culture, which influenced the direction of design.

Today, contemporary design encompasses a wide range of styles and approaches, from minimalist and functional to ornate and decorative. It is characterized by a focus on sustainability, inclusivity, and social responsibility, as well as a willingness to challenge traditional norms and conventions.

Major Influences and Movements in Contemporary Design


Minimalism is a design philosophy that emphasizes simplicity, functionality, and the elimination of unnecessary elements. It emerged in the 1960s and 1970s as a reaction against the ornate and excessive styles of the past. Minimalist design often uses a limited color palette, clean lines, and simple shapes to create a sense of calm and order.


High-tech design is a movement that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s, characterized by the use of advanced technology and materials in the design of buildings, products, and spaces. It emphasizes functionality, efficiency, and the integration of technology into everyday life. High-tech design often uses bright colors, bold shapes, and futuristic materials to create a sense of excitement and innovation.


Sustainability is a growing influence in contemporary design, emphasizing the use of eco-friendly materials and practices to minimize the impact of design on the environment. Sustainable design often incorporates recycled materials, energy-efficient technologies, and biodegradable materials to create products and spaces that are both functional and environmentally responsible.

Digital Design

Digital design is a movement that emerged with the advent of computers and the internet, emphasizing the use of digital technologies in the design of products, spaces, and experiences. Digital design often incorporates interactive elements, virtual reality, and augmented reality to create immersive and engaging experiences.

In conclusion, contemporary design is a constantly evolving field, shaped by a variety of influences and movements. From minimalism to high-tech, sustainability to digital design, contemporary design is characterized by a focus on innovation, experimentation, and the integration of technology into various aspects of life.


1. What is contemporary?

Contemporary refers to the present time, or the time during which we live. It is often used to describe art, culture, and other forms of expression that are current or popular right now. In this sense, contemporary can be seen as a synonym for modern.

2. What is the difference between contemporary and modern?

The terms contemporary and modern are often used interchangeably, but they have slightly different meanings. Modern refers to a particular style or period of time, such as the modernist movement in art or the modern era in history. Contemporary, on the other hand, refers to the present time, without any specific reference to a particular style or period.

3. What are some examples of contemporary art?

Contemporary art is a broad category that encompasses a wide range of styles, mediums, and approaches. Some examples of contemporary art include paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, and digital art. Many artists working today are considered contemporary, regardless of their specific style or medium.

4. What is contemporary culture?

Contemporary culture refers to the cultural practices and expressions that are popular or prevalent in the present time. This can include music, film, television, fashion, and other forms of entertainment and expression. Contemporary culture is often seen as a reflection of the values, beliefs, and attitudes of the society in which it exists.

5. What is the significance of contemporary?

The significance of contemporary lies in its ability to capture the spirit and essence of the present time. By understanding what is happening in the world around us, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the cultural and artistic expressions of our era. Contemporary also offers a window into the future, as it reflects the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of the people who are shaping the world today.

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