Etherpad is a collaborative text editor software that is open source. The fact it is open source means that the code can be edited and adapted to particular environments freely. It is used by multiple organisations, among which we can briefly mention Wikimedia, Riseup, Framasoft, and it is often used within our own practices and those of our peer networks. To read more about the Etherpad as a pedagogical tool, please follow this link).
Magic Words are used by Etherpad to enact certain commands. They were first brought into the software ecology of Etherpad by Michael Murtaugh, a member of the Brussels-based arts organisation Constant. They are little spells that can be used anywhere on the pad to indicate how we want to interact with the text. We would like to think together with you what kind of social incantations magic words can evoke.
The Etherpad installation of Constant used __NOPUBLISH__ to keep pads from being indexed by a custom software they built called Etherdump. Etherdump is an indexation of all pads that exist on the host server, with the exception of the pads which opt-out through __NOPUBLISH__. Without Etherdump, pads can only be found if one knows the URL address of the pad.
Varia made their own version of this software which we called Etherpump. It started by reversing the function of __NOPUBLISH__ with that of __PUBLISH__. This meant that all pads are by default hidden and only added to this index if __PUBLISH__ was added.
However, even if the function of these words was originally of a technical nature, we soon started to wonder about them in a social context. What kind of relations between text & reader, reader & reader, place & text, place & text & reader could the magic words provoke? If we see magic words like small instructions that can be activated during a collective reading experience, how would that affect our being together?
For the MAPP residency, we created a Spellbook which was edited together with participants of a Read & Repair session, which were added, edited and used by participants. Here is an unedited pasted section from the event:
. – * Spellbook for Reading through Magic Words * – .
Please follow this link to see how the __MAGICWORDS__ were used in the context of MAPP.