Revising and Designing

•March 28, 2018 • Leave a Comment

After being able to figure out the basic mechanics of HTML and learning other media techniques, I’ve created content and put it on a website. But now, I want to be able to turn that content into affect. I want to turn that content into something that will impact people to think more about the role they play in our environment. Below are three of my ideas to enhance my website.

Aesthetic: Clean but not too clean

One of the major problems with the current state of my website is that it all seems to be too clean to be talking about pollution. Generally, when I think about designs I tend to go towards straight lines, geometric shapes, and white. I still want to incorporate the way that I design into my website, but I also plan to make it a little messier by adding an ombré effect to the background of the website. I got inspiration by looking at the photo of the air pollution below that was published by C Dynamics online. I want to make the top of the website a dark shade of grey and move downwards towards a lighter grey.

web inspo.jpg

Image Source:

Text/Font: Story telling

I still haven’t found the right font for my topic but I am continuously searching for one. I was really impacted by both the Food, Inc documentary by Robert Kenner and the Gasland documentary by Josh Fox. In Food, Inc, a Purdue farmer was interviewed about the industry operations and effects Within her statement Carole Morrison says “It’s just gotten to the point that it’s not right what’s going on an I’ve just made up my mind. I’m going to say what I have to say” (Robert Kenner. Food, Inc). She exposed the way that the chickens are treated to show how the system is failing environmentally and ethically to make room for more money. Then in Gasland, Josh Fox gets several people on his journey to show him the way that the water from their very own faucets are going up into flames. He presented every persons story in a way that made me feel like it was a burden that I had to carry. He also showcased the absence of most environmental representatives, which created a greater sense of desperation for the people (Gasland. Josh Fox.). Both examples contain genuine emotion and story telling. I want to rearrange my text to tell a compelling story the way these documentaries did instead of coming across as very straightforward, traditional academic work. Once I start interviewing people I plan to use their stories throughout the website so that I can make the topic more personal. I also want to incorporate text into my video (I will expand on this point below).

Images/Video: Interesting

I realize that my images seem to be too scattered and don’t have enough description. I plan to provide more descriptions and increase the quality of the photos. Earlier I mentioned wanting to incorporate text into my video. To do this I want to make a kind of animation, which will help with telling a story. This video published by Frontiers in Sustainability on Youtube will give you an idea of the type of text-incorporated animation I would like to attempt (Individual Sustainability. Frontiers in Sustainability). I think this component will keep my audience more engaged.


Josh Fox. Gasland. Youtube. 2010.

Robert Kenner. Food, Inc. 2008.


Media Sources

Frontiers in Sustainability. Individual Sustainability. Youtube. 2013.

C Dynamics. Environental, Health, Publications. 2014



Shangri-La–the utopia and dystopia

•March 28, 2018 • 3 Comments

In his book Lost Horizon, James Hilton depicted a dreamy place names Shangri-La—an earthly paradise, this Shangri-La locates at the deep valley of Himalayan area. Shangri-La is most worshipped for its breathtakingly beautiful scenery: azure sky as clear as a jade, green meadow with vibrancy, flowing creaks, etc.… Shangri-La is truly a place where beauty presents itself and disharmony goes away. Dystopia, on the other hand, tells the story of a world where chaos is full in house. In this imagined place, everything is unpleasant with the degraded environment.

(this is a slideshow please see all three pics 🙂 )



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Great contrast right? This sharp contrast happens to be my impression for Promenade of Industry after paying several visits. In light of this, I will polish my website in the direction of a “polarity” which will expose the great contrast between the weirdly beautiful view and the actually heavily polluted situation in the promenade of industry. In order to achieve this affectual effect, I will employ the technique that all the pictures on my website can flip so that when people hover on one beautiful image and click on it, the image would automatically flip and show another dystopia look of this image.

Also I’m trying to create a flow on my website that everything looks aesthetically attractive at first, but with the detailed explanation of my words, they will figure out the disharmonious factors that lay in the overall beautiful images. I want to make my index page into a short video, with a hyperlink at that could route to homepage. In that short video I will give a brief introduction of Shangri-La and of promenade of industry, but I will only give positive images of it. Then if the audience click on the hyperlink, they can go to the homepage where there will be a little game, asking you to find five trashes on a beautiful picture taken in promenade of industry (like the hidden object games). You can click on the trash once you find one (I’ll use the mask function to make hyperlink on each trash) and it will lead you to an explanation page where the true environmental situation in the promenade of industry is explained.

I want to design my website into this hidden object game because I want to make sure that the audiences know that the trashes don’t grasp their attention first. They care about the overall harmonious beauty first. If they were not asked to find out the trashes via the mini game, they would probably not notice the trashes at all. I want to express the idea that those smalls objects that don’t get into our attention first could actually be essential in an ecology. Also I want to point out that the promenade of industry, just like Shangri-La, may look fantastic at first, but actually there are lots of things that aren’t pretty in it, and they need close investigation. (This is the link to a rough footage that I took, which resonates with my aim. )

This is just a rough though that I have right now. I will add on this thought if anything constructive comes into my mind.

progress report

•March 28, 2018 • Leave a Comment

It’s been 2 months since we stepped in the DMTP classroom, lost, confused, and – I have to admit – a little bit scared. Although I can’t say I have lost those emotions entirely, I think I started to gain a pretty solid idea of what I want to do for the rest of our class. So far, I have been trying to portray the affect of my ecology, Southern Bronx, to my audience in the form of images, texts, and audio.

For the basic layout of the website, I am still in the process of figuring out the title photo. Currently, the home page exhibits the photo below. Because my title bar is gold, and my navigation bar is black, it seems that the title page may look slightly bland, in contrast to the vibrant colors that Bronx exhibit as a vibrant borough – I’m still searching for more inspirations on how to make my website display similar aesthetics as Bronx.


For the images, I hope to make slight adjustments to the color – after I changed the design of my website in the middle of the semester, I did not have enough time to adjust the hue of the photos to match the overall feel of the website I hope to achieve. After making adjustments, I would also have to reduce the file size of the image to make sure that the website runs more smoothly.

For the audio, I still am waiting to attend one of the offline events held by the Bronx Social Center – hopefully, my audio will come along soon enough.

While I was searching the web for inspirations for my video, I happened to come across a film created by The Root in August 3, 2017 detailing the pros and cons of the arrival of Whole Foods at Harlem. 

According to the video, some residents were excited to have a whole new selection of fresh and healthy produce. On the other side, people pointed out that the opening of a Whole Foods Market could substantially increase the rent of nearby residencies, thereby forcing residents of low income to move out – in fact, after Whole Foods opened in Midtown Detroit, the “media home sales in the area went from $19,000 in 2009 to $80,000 in 2015.” Furthermore, some pointed out that a majority of the Black population were not able to afford the products at Whole Foods – the entrance of Whole Foods is an indication of signs of gentrification, the influx of middle-class white residents, and hence the “nail in the coffin for Black Manhattan.”

It seems that Southern Bronx is running in a similar narrative – the entry of large corporations, specifically with low prices and a huge stock of products – have started to push out local retails out of business. With residents searching for cheaper options of better quality, and the entry of white, middle class residents who can afford to pay more, it seems that this trend will continue on, reshaping the retail landscape of the area.

For my video, I hope model after this video by detailing both the pros and the cons of gentrification. I plan to go around the district, asking residents what they think about the phenomena, and give a blueprint of how the retail landscape of Bronx will change in the next 10 years if this trend continues.

“Hometown Hero”

•March 21, 2018 • 1 Comment

update w/ prompt:

My web page design is going to be updated so that the index page features what will look like a chopped cheese and the navigation bar will be the materials that fill the sandwich.


Another theme I could employ would be to have the index be a bodega itself and then each page is something of a feature of the site. So the about page looks like the counter where you order, the gallery is designed like a menu, the video will feature the process of it actually being made.


In essence, the site will feel as though one is going to Hajji’s and ordering the sandwich first hand. I want to compose the colors and imagery for my design using photoshop to authentically convey the chop cheese through actual images of its elements.


For my blog post this week, and with our video projects in mind, I wanted to focus on the documentaries that have already been created and crafted to document the legend of New York’s chopped cheese.

First We Feast proudly presented their first documentary in the November of 2016 and chose New York’s favorite underground sandwich as their focus. The group published an article to their website which goes into great detail explaining their choice and the story the unfolded before them.

“Back in January, when we first investigated this iconic New York sandwich, we were told time and time again: to understand the real New York, you’ve got to understand the chopped cheese. What exactly is a chopped cheese, more familiarly known as a “chop”?

On the surface, that would seem simple. The bodega specialty gets its name from the “chopping” of hamburger patties, which occurs on the griddles in delis throughout Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Harlem. The minced meat is covered in cheese, slipped into a roll or hero, and dressed with standard-issue condiments.

But when we began to peel back the layers and ask questions about its origin story, how it became so popular, and why it’s so difficult to find one in lower Manhattan, we were introduced to a much deeper tale fueled by borough rivalries, hip-hop mythology, and hard-to-swallow truths, giving us a more meaningful glimpse into what makes this city tick.”

I found this recount very similar to my own experience with the chop cheese and its story.  The power of this sandwich and its meaningful impact reach far beyond what I initially suspected.

Their video does a really strong job of capturing the disillusionment and a general ignorance about this long-time New York classic right off the bat. The first minute is dedicated to a series of New York residents admitting they’re unawareness of its existence, ending with a man standing outside Hajji’s itself describing the chop cheese in near perfect detail. This really struck me and I really want to emulate this tone / affect in my own video. It got me thinking and brainstorming of ways and I realized I could branch outside of the deli and Harlem to gather footage that could have a strong impact.

First We Feast then cut to a map and a man’s voice over assuring the viewer, “if you want to understand New York, you have to understand the chopped cheese.” A great opener and a clear thesis, this reminded me that I should attempt to focus in on a message for the video to convey – similar to this one.

They made good use of maps, interviews, and all around compositional techniques and tactics to convey affect, a message, and the legend of the chopped cheese throughout the video. Everything was done with purpose and was really enlightening for my brainstorming and filming moving forward.

The article (mentioned earlier) ended with this resonating paragraph:

“So where does this leave the sandwich, as well as the people who take so much pride in calling it their own? “Hometown Hero: The Legend of New York’s Chopped Cheese” dives head first into these questions, giving you a chance to hear directly from New Yorkers who want to protect it, re-invent it, or simply remind you that there’s more to the sandwich than meets the eye.”


Art in Fighting Displacement

•March 20, 2018 • Leave a Comment

For my blog post, I am focusing on the Development Without Displacement Art Show that occurred from September 1-30, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Development Without Displacement Art Show exhibited local artists, poets, and musicians focused on displaying the power of art in building community and fostering people’s relationship to their community, land, and shared history. Because I could not find any documentation on the exhibits themselves, I will be focusing on the video created by the event’s organizers that appears at the beginning of the event description that speaks to Baltimore’s history and the issues within the community, specifically the push against Baltimore becoming a waste ground.

The beginning of the video introduces its two overarching elements: a quote about art from W.E.B. Du Bois and an image of the last house remaining in Fairfield, an area outside of Baltimore. The two concepts are seemingly disconnected, and resonate with the viewer in how bold and startling they are individually. It is also notable how the quote featured is from a prominent African American civil rights activist, who seemingly has no direct connection with art yet acknowledges art’s importance and impact. The video is narrated by Destiny Watford, an African American girl around the age of sixteen, who was the 2016 Goldman Prize Recipient in North America and a resident of Curtis Bay, a neighborhood a few blocks away from Fairfield. Watford uses a passionate tone and speaks candidly to the audience, drawing on both empathy and reason as she lists out facts that are supplemented with the montage of newspaper articles, images, and videos. The video does not discuss the art show, or talk about how art can be impactful. However, the video itself is a form of impactful art, combining multimedia forms such as print, photos, song, and video to create an example of how art can help restore a community and connect people to their community’s history. An example of this is how the video plays a song while a montage of protest photos flash on the screen, and the song transitions into a live rendition done by a choir group at a town hall meeting. The harsher images are balanced with softer elements that resonate hope and highlight the spirit of the community and its individuals through the usage of multiple forms of media.

The video tells a story, starting with the singular house in Fairfield and connecting this object to the existing community of Curtis Bay, and how the house symbolizes the possible future of Curtis Bay. The video then discusses how this future was momentarily actualized with the plans to build a large incinerator, and how Curtis Bay fought back. A series of images of protesters with yellow flowers in their hair and against fences softens the otherwise more serious subject matter, and again represents the hope alive in Curtis Bay. I believe a common issue with using images in videos is that they do not seem to adhere to the flow of video, but this video reflects how images can be powerful, as well as demonstrating the contrast between the disparity that exists within a marginalized community, and the hope and humanity alive in its citizens. This is seen again in the slideshow of images that transition from volunteer gatherings, to the creation of a community garden, to the trash-filled, abandoned houses that stand next to the garden. Watford emphasizes not looking at the trash-filled homes as a problem or as separate from the community garden, but rather working the environment as a whole and incorporating the houses within the dialogue of the community and the process of working against failed development and displacement.

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Bringing Back the City

•March 18, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Transit systems are the key to keeping a city running day-in and day-out. This is especially true for a city like New York where you can find people on the move all hours of the day. For the people of New York City and neighboring cities, their lives rely on the safety and reliability of the these public transits. In turn, these public transits stay operating and running all 365 days a year. Of course then, this raises the question, how do these these transit systems operate while maintaining the quality of transportation that has been running for decades with no rest. Those results are what my ecology has been focused on. Over the years, in order to keep these systems running on no sleep, wear and tear of the stations and systems has been the exchange of there efforts. With the increase of train delays and malfunctions, there is been a growing amount of frustration of commuters who have relied on the transit systems for years. Because the transit system has been literally rooted into the ground of New York City since it’s conception, it’s become a difficult project for administrators to quickly fix. A lot of these issues can be traced back on an institutional level. Many in the position to make changes seem to put these issues of the current transportation system on backlog, and turning their attention to more flashy projects that garner more positive public attention. They fail to see the damages that are being made not only for those who need to get to their jobs on time, but also fail to see the neglect placed on those who have dedicated their lives to working these transit systems. From train drivers, to conductors, to the officers and operators that work with the systems on a regular basis, rain or shine.

Brining Back the City, an exhibition in the New York Transit Museum gives the spotlight to these workers that have dedicated their time and efforts to maintain the safety and functionality of these transit systems. The exhibition showcases these workers in the moment of crisis, whether it be natural disasters, blackouts, and even the terrors of 9/11, and how they managed to keep everything under control while under crisis. The exhibit is broken into four sections, Response, Rescue, Readiness, and Resilience, each paired with an event that took place in dire times. Response is focused on the MTA during the September 11 attacks. Rescue is dedicated to the 2003 Northeast Black out in Ohio. Readiness and Resilience are both exhibits of the results of natural disasters, one being Hurricane Sandy.

Each of these sections in the exhibition utilize archived photos from when those events occurred to bring the audience back to that moment. Images are raw and at most devastating. In the case of 9/11 they showcased pictures of the crushed Cortland Street Station, and the beverly damaged NYC bus near Ground zero, showing the dangers that transit workers dealt with both below and above ground. Because the project takes on the “behind the scenes” narrative, the photographs selected juxtapose one another nicely showing the contrast between the confused masses and frightened commuters, to the brave few who dig through the debris, and the fearless in hard hats and neon orange vests.

The most gripping pieces of this exhibit were the individual interviews that were conducted with MTA workers who had been on the scene at the time of these disasters. Each interview has the worker giving a detailed account of what they witnessed during their time on the job. One train operator, Hector Ramirez who was at Cortland Street Station during 9/11 remembered the station smoking up, and the fear in the eyes of people, even with their faces covered to prevent smoke inhalation. Despite the panic and fear that the riders had experienced, operators like Ramirez had to make quick decisions and communicate efficiently with their commanders in order to help the people at the station to safety. To hear workers like Ramirez who were already at the scene from the start of the terrors really moves you and instills a number of emotions in you. It makes you stand still and listen carefully to what they’re saying, and almost take your time to swallow all the information. Each of these interviews also flip back and forth between the person being interviewed as well as more pictures of the scene to paint a better picture of what was happening.

Within each section, scenes from each event were recreated. “Artifacts” were on display as well. Recreations are a great way to engage the audience as they are visually stimulating and make the audience feel as if they were experience something. Although I have never visited the exhibit first hand, but through the tour video provided on their website, I found that the maybe the presentation of these recreations did not match the emotional and impactful pull that the photographs and interviews had. The scenes recreated as well as the music that was playing the background made the exhibition seem like a children’s museum exhibit. The music was upbeat and seemed unfitting for the topics covered within the exhibition. Audio and sound play a significant role in the design of a project that is trying to be informative. The photos and videos do the job of giving a very first hand and raw portrayal of what happened, but the music, a happy and cheery bit did not fit the narrative. I will note that exhibit was set up made it seemed like you were in an underground station. The ceilings are low, and the lights are dimmed, the walkway through the sections of the exhibit are also rather tight knit together, not giving a wide space. Intentional or unintentional, this infrastructural aspect of the exhibit can shape the attitudes and affects visitors receive and engage with in the exhibit.

Overall the exhibition shed light on a group of people that aren’t often recognized in times of crisis. Many of times we turn to our trained officers and fireman, we don’t think of the operators and conductors or even construction workers to be the faces behind a system that is relied on by millions of people. This exhibit captured the worse of the worse in a job that never sleeps. It reveals the responsibility and weight placed on these transit workers to keep the buses, the trains, the infrastructures running and operating smoothly day to day. Efforts that are unnoticed by those who rush on their rides and whisked away to their jobs.

Nova Alea & Other Gentrification Maps

•March 16, 2018 • Leave a Comment

          Chinatown, NY has gradually become a production of cultural exoticism sculpted for the consumption of community outsiders. It joins many former ethnic enclaves where tenants are priced out from real estate speculation and businesses that have not foreclosed, adapt to the changing tides of the times. One of the last remaining row of storefronts owned by Fuzhounese American immigrants serving its own community, East Broadway, becomes vulnerable to these rent spikes as the area becomes highly coveted for market rate housing. It was previously believed that Manhattan’s Chinatown would be protected from the dominating powers that overcome communities in other Chinatowns, like that of Boston, because a handful of the property is Chinese association owned. The reality is, some of these landlords and community leaders, despite their roots within the community, believe incoming “diversity” (meaning young professionals with diverse occupations in tech, finance, and banking) is a positive shift. With time, tenants would come to face aggressive housing courts, buyouts and refusal for repairs. In studying this site that cultural practices and family owned businesses rely, it always bewildered me how these individuals could cultivate this mindset, so intensely distancing themselves from their people, in order to feed themselves these shallow narratives of gentrification guised in new “diversity.”

          Nova Alea allows you to engage in how the other side lives. It is a city simulation game that places the player in the mindset of real estate speculator in modern cities like downtown New York. This game acts as a foil to city builders like SimCity that showcase centrally controlled, utopian, and modern smart city designs. Nova Alea gives opportunity to players to experience the rush and drive of buying and amassing capital and selling before markets burst. Elements of game mechanics, game play and rules within Nova Alea motivates players to treat living spaces as interchangeable, mere sleek blocks that appear and disappear- prioritizing the player’s own financial precarity over the all encompassing vulnerability that comes with mass displacement and eviction. These controls and mechanisms are in stark contrast to narrative that provides social commentary. The game becomes procedural rhetoric- as the player experiences the procedures in place by the game designer, they are able to interpret the implicit convincing language.

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         Design choices that the player interacts all converge to corrupt the user’s moral compass. The game takes place on a constant dull, dark blue background with futuristic white and grey rectangular shapes jutting out of the city grid map to imitate city skylines. On the left, there is a glowing pink bar that represents your liquid capital. On the right is a yellow bar that represents your progress within the game. When you have invested in a property, the building turns pink. These buildings are rendered in sleek, faceless, 3D on a platform that the player can revolve to examine every property. The high angle the player experiences the map instills a sense of superiority and elevation. Despite these tools that offer varying levels of details, no intimate characteristics of buildings or signs of life can be found. The game also offers dynamic rates of play. The game warps time through an hourglass function that allows the player to speed up time before making any buying or selling decisions. On my second round of playing, I was able to use this function more heavily as I became more accustomed to the patterns of housing bubbles. These two design decisions paired together create a passive landscape that encourages mindless repetitive clicking, but one that also rapidly plunges, creating a sense of urgency to buy better, buy more and sell sell sell!  

          Other design elements reinforce and shape this player behavior. For example, when a profitable investment has been made, pink streams of light float out of the structure and soar into your capital cube that reigns above the city. The cube absorbs this light and pulses with life. This along with digital twinkle sound effects and tallying points being added to your capital bar on the left, create an exhilarating experience that the user chases to recreate over and over again. With these reinforcements, it is easy to get lost in the capitalist game removed from the realities of city life.

          What makes the game special is the social critique that shatters the player’s real estate high throughout the gameplay. The narrative voice forces the player to finally become conscious of the effects of their choices: “reshaping habitats and habits, making Nova Alea unrecognizable to its own residents,” “impossible prices drove old residents away and drained the ones who couldn’t leave,” “neighborhoods that made Nova Alea unique were replaced with dull repositories of wealth.” Despite these striking chronicles, the voice is hollow, female, robotic and much like the city map- cold and lifeless.

          Another disruption to game play comes from game mechanics that arise mid way through playing. At this point, the controls begin to feel natural and my wealth amassed in grander increments and fast, I was really getting the hang of the game! Then, the narrator speaks: “the masters traded properties feverishly, so the people of Nova Alea forced them to slow down.” This represents legislation that prevents speculators from avoiding property depreciation by immediate turn over when there lacks potential for growth. In game, these are two yellow blocks floating on your buildings when you buy. You must wait two turns before selling a property. Within these two turns, the player can anticipate a market burst but is unable to withdraw their capital and must watch their skyscraper shatter and disappear. Eventually the player faces rent control, represented by a floating yellow square on top of your buildings that physically prevents your building from growing. Towards the end, buildings turn yellow to prevent you from interacting with them- ah! the rent stabilized housing units have come. These fixtures prohibit satisfaction responses and the player begins to vilify protective measures that help prevent gentrification and displacement. I embarrassingly caught myself grunting, “ugh… gross, rent control.”

          How to win the game in unclear. The game decides when you have learned your lesson- when you’ve interacted with its functions enough to fill up the yellow bar. You cannot win, but you can lose- your pink bar empties signifying going bankrupt. If you avoid going bankrupt for long enough, the game ends in mid conflict while the last words sober you and you’re whole and good once again. It leaves you with parting words: “and that’s how Nova Alea became what it is now: a city of the people growing within a city of capital. It’s dwellers never completely slip the chains of its masters but their enduring resistance prevented the city from becoming its enemy.” You are no longer possessed!

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          Overall, the abstract representation and aesthetic within the game, meant to create space for racial and class divides (that form most US cities) to be imagined, created unintended consequences. This particular decision made it much too easy to remove yourself from the suffering you have caused, despite narration and ominous background sounds. The narration comes so sparingly and the player, similar to gentrifiers and real estate speculators, can comfortably move past moments of tension to focus again on the precarities in their own lives- housing, class, labor. Its strength is not in highlighting the realities of gentrification but in the way it helps players see the economic vortexes that warp these spaces and experience and control these invisible powers.

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The game reminds me of data visualization graphic design like Herwig Scherabon’s The Atlas of Gentrification. It is beautiful and analyzes issues that contribute to gentrification but also is abstract and impersonal. It showcases intense research and dedication but alone, the haunting experiences of real people are hidden behind data and clean lines. In contrast to both Nova Alea and The Atlas of Gentrification, the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project supplements clean, research driven maps with interactive points that introduce stories. These stories are read in the voices of community members that describe their accounts of gentrification from the ground level- offering intimate details like names and memories that the viewer can relate to and empathize with despite not having experienced this form of displacement personally. While Nova Alea is incredibly engaging and immersive, it can also be distancing, lacking an element that drives players to utilize a critical approach towards their own movements in their environments and everyday lives. Should I be buying cake pops from this cute but clearly out of place coffee shop? Should I be visiting this art gallery that no surrounding local natives can access? Should I refocus my apartment hunt? Would my presence in this neighborhood make it a better place?

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