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 *  –  .


__CANWEDISCUSS__ If a sentence or paragraph is raising questions or you would like to know what others think about it, we can use this incantation to take it with us into discussion.
__ALOUD__ This magic word is used to encourage those encountering it to read aloud the text fragment that it sits next to.
__REUSE__ This magic word invites the reuse of the text fragment that it sits next to in an unexpected context.
__VANDALIZE__This magic word invites the creative alteration and/or destruction of the text fragment it sits next to
__???__This magic word invites another reader to rephrase the sentence it marks.
__NOFILTER__This magic word indicates and/or encourages stream-of-consciousness writing
__(G)HOST__ This magic word invites the participants to reflect on their physical state in conjunction to the text at hand.
__REMINDSMEOF__ This magic word is meant to connect the paragraph to other pads or highlight mental connections
__TOOTABLE__ This magic word indicates parts of the text that fit social-media sharing, esp. Mastodon <3
__TRANSLATEME__ This magic word invites others in the room to translate the word/phrase into other languages
__BOILING__ this magic word can be used when something is in the process of ‘cooking’; when a word is heated to its boiling point inviting other for a heated discussion.
__CABALISTA__ invites furious and passionate feelings for political organising
__Q*__ this magic word invites for reformulating/multiplying/complexifying a question
__FILLIN__ This magic word emphasizes gaps in the text and invite readers to fill them in
__COUNTERFOIL__ the chance to consider we’ve gone too far
__TL;DR__ short summary of the text
__DAE__ invites other members to share their personal experiences relating to a particular text fragment
__putonyourdancingshoes__ an invite to get up do a small dance and return to your chair
__OST__ Invites the reader to suggest a soundtrack for that part of the text
__((̲̅ ̲̅(̲̅C̲̅r̲̅a̲̅y̲̅o̲̅l̲̲̅̅a̲̅( ̲̅((>__ a childs tool used for drawing/crossig out or highlighting. (maybe same as Vandalize)
__?CONTRADICTION?__ marks a contradiction, and invites for unpacking

Please follow this link to see how the __MAGICWORDS__ were used in the context of MAPP.