title: Beyond The Essay - Magic Words
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# Magic words
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. * Magic Words
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*Magic Words* were brought into the software ecology of Etherpad by Michael Murtaugh, a member of the Brussels-based arts organisation Constant.
*Magic Words* are used by this collaborative text editor to enact certain commands; using `__PUBLISH__` on this pad indexes it on this page: <https://etherpump.vvvvvvaria.org/>
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. 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?
We will be adding, using and reusing new magic words during the reading time that will follow.
`. - * Spellbook for Reading through Magic Words . - * .. `
Here are a few examples of what the magic words could look like. Think of them as launching a specific kind of interaction with the text fragment that it sits next to. This will be our collective spellbook that everyone can add, edit or use at will.
**`__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 in front of.
**`__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
**`__VERSIONSENTENCE__`** This magic word proposes a versioning of the sentence before it.
**`__VERSIONPARAGRAPH__`** This magic word proposes a versioning of the paragraph before it.
**`__TRANSLATE__`** Translate the word on the left into another language that you speak
**`__VISUALIZE__`** This magic word invites those encountering it to use other than verbal means to visualize the fragment that it sits next to.
**`__EXTRAPOLATE__`** Extrapolate the sentence/statement on the left, by transforming it into a scope beyond the current one of the text
**`__DIFFUSE__`** The sentence or paragraph to the left of this magic word will be shared on social media.
**`__RESOURCE__`** This magic word invites to add resources from beyond the text that are useful doe **`__CANWEDISCUSS__`**.
**`__ADEXAPMLE__`** This magic word askes voor a clarification by an example to make the fragment less abstract
**`__ASSOCIATE__`** Add associations evoked by the text fragment, it could be in a different langauge.
**`__ENDMAGICWORD__`** The magic word has ended
**`__ANECDOTE__`** Insert an anecdote here. This adds a personal dimension to the text and it makes it easier to relate to the text.
**`__SURPRISE__`** Surprised by the previous sentence.
**`__SITUATE__`** Embed into local context.
**`__CHECK__`** Go back to the statement in time, see what happened, possibly combine with **`__VERSIONPARAGRAPH__`**
__ACTUALIZE__ has the same role?
**`__PARADOX__`** Signalling a paradox in the text.
**`__COMPLEXIFY__`** Complexify this statement with other perspectives.
**`__WOW__`** just WOW!
Take 5 minutes to think about other possible `__MAGICWORDS__` you could add to the spellbook. You can continue doing this at any point of this session. While reading, you can use these magic words to insert into the texts that we will introduce shortly. Feel free to use any of them.
In this instance we work on a finished text and use magic words as a way to rethink it so that it possibly can lead to new versions. Writing a new text using magic words would require a new process. We are going over the text with the eyes (and other senses) of editors/readers/co-writers/authors?... We are picking this question up again after the 15 minutes of working with the magic words.
The text is published in the context of an exhibition. It is published as a reflection essay in relation to one specific exhibition. In the end of the year the series has been published as a way to document the exhibition.
# Contested Relations
City space is contested terrain. Definitely in Amsterdam, where the average house price in 2019 was nearly half a million euros. In the center of Amsterdam that was just enough to buy a two-bedroom apartment of 60m2.**`__ACTUALIZE__`** But with its extraordinarily high prices, Amsterdam does not even make the top ten of the world’s most expensive cities to buy property. That only demonstrates the extent to which house prices have risen over the last decade. Yet Amsterdam is one of the cities where real estate prices have increased the fastest since the 2008 housing crisis, making it one of the most desirable places to invest and one of the most difficult to afford to live in.[^1] Despite its commercial success the city struggles to create enough space for its inhabitants. The demand for affordable housing is so high that the waiting time for a social apartment is currently over fifteen years with forty-four percent of applications marked with an urgency status.[^2] As managers of such highly desirable assets, it is not surprising that cities today choose what kind of clientele they want to serve. Rotterdam, for instance, introduced a policy known as the Rotterdamwet that does not allow newcomers with a low income to register in specific sub-municipalities **`__ANECDOTE__`** (). The problem is, those parts of the city are the ones where affordable housing is available. It is clear that cities, in the Netherlands and beyond, are no longer places for everyone. They are places of wealth accumulation for those who already are well-off enough to invest there.
As bricks have turned out to be a better investment than gold or stock exchange, cities have become financial machines and property ownership became an important way to generate revenue. **`__ALOUD__ -->`** This dynamic of capital extraction has become a defining element of today’s urban areas and goes hand in hand with the increase of private and corporate ownership **`__RESOURCE OR EXTRAPOLATE (EG PIKETTY?)__`** and the decrease of public ownership across the globe. In 2019 one in five homes in Amsterdam was sold to foreign investors who in turn would rent them to expats or transform them into Airbnbs. In her book Expulsions, sociologist Saskia Sassen argues that the rise of foreign investment in cities continues to have a strong influence on the disintegration of relationships within urban areas. When more and more places are owned by people who don’t live there, there is no need to develop bonds and to care about the spaces that form neighbourhoods **`__RESOURCE__`** (This reminds me of *We Are All Very Anxious* <
>, a zine describing 3 phases of industrial capitalism and how each phase introduced its own public secret: living conditions, boredom, and anxiety. Does the disconnection from your neighbourhood strengthen this anxiety?). **`
__CANWEDISCUSS__`** Many cities are grappling with finding a balance between providing a space for living and for earning. Left with many properties that operate more like hotels than homes or simply remain empty, they face a dilemma to stand up either for their inhabitants or for capital.[^3]
Until 2012 we rarely heard of the word gentrification.**`__ADMEANING (check AP)__`** The term, coined by a British sociologist Ruth Glass in the 1960s to describe changes she then observed in inner London, had not been widely used until a bit longer than a decade ago. **`__SURPRISE__`** Gentrification is a process that changes the character of a neighbourhood by a controlled influx of more affluent residents and businesses. The nature of this change is of course rooted in the economic value of the spaces. It increases so much that whole areas become inaccessible to the original, usually working-class demographic, and results in the displacement of those communities. Just over the past few years, the real estate prices in Amsterdam soared by forty-five percent making it increasingly difficult for people with mid and low incomes to afford to live in the city and pushing them into the group of less-desirable residents. That is despite the fact that many in that group belong to the so-called ‘crucial sectors’ including healthcare and social workers **`__PARADOX__`**.
As market value takes over, other social and spatial values are deemed to be obsolete. Unprofitability is unacceptable and spaces that are dormant or that simply cherish values other than the monetary one are considered useless. The market does not seem to be the best of urban planners, yet it is not clear who or what else should be able to ‘conduct space’ **`__RESOURCE__`** (words 'conduct space' are related to the title of the series, taken out of context this quite is unclear) and determine how these relationships and values are formed. Can disciplines such as art and architecture play a role in stirring the debate on the tension between use and exchange value of space? **`__PARADOX__`** Both art and architecture are deeply entangled with finance, yet they have both historically been advocating for the recognition of social rather than the economical ones. The question is, can they form alternatives strong enough to counter the contemporary distorted definition of value where a house is no longer a shelter but a business model, and where an empty city is an excellent money-making machine? **`__COMPLEXIFY__`** Thinking about how art and design are also instrumentalised in efforts to increase economic value for a space or an area. Even if it is mentioned in relation to finance, there is also a specific connection to the housing market. **`__ENDMAGICWORD__`**
Augustas Serapinas’ 20 Apartments
https://www.pakt.nu/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/©CMarkus_Pakt_-Serapinas_13-1280x853.jpg) opens up new relationships between the work’s embeddedness into the site and its neighbours. **`__SITUATE__`** In this case, the neighbour is a construction site next door from P/////AKT. This newly built development has been discussed as one of the possible triggers for changing relationships in the Zeeburgerpad, a street in Amsterdam Oost, which thus far resisted gentrification. Serapinas’ mirroring or extending the building site into the gallery space lets us ponder the current relations between the space of the gallery and the space of construction. At the same time, the work lets us imagine ways in which the relationships in the area could develop. Will the current inhabitants of the street be able to maintain the social values of their neighbourhood or will they need to make space for a more profitable vision of the area? **`__ACTUALIZE__
`**What if the expansion could be understood in reverse? Perhaps it is the extension of the gallery into the city or a merging of the two spaces? We don’t really know which of those scenarios could potentially be true.
Serapinas, in his work, creates a relationship that might only last for a moment. Yet, it creates a temporality that exposes us to seemingly simple things we have not noticed before. It makes us discover that these things actually matter to us and helps us to turn our attention towards the places and people around us. It pushes us to imagine what occurs or could occur between them.**`__ADEXAPMLE__`**
The fact that 20 Apartments was built during the outbreak of the biggest pandemic we have seen in a century tells us something else about the changing nature of the currently contested relationships. In the period when this installation was made many of us were confined in our domestic spaces. At the same time, others were working. Cleaning, caretaking, healing, teaching, transporting, informing were recognized as so-called ‘crucial sectors’.[^4] Even though construction workers were not on that list, it has been recognized that the construction industry plays a supporting role to those sectors and was also granted access to childcare during the lockdown.[^5] This re-definition of what matters and what doesn’t in a situation of the crisis has revealed how strongly the relationship between the social relevance of work and its monetary value has been distorted.
So, if social relations can help us rethink what’s valuable, could it also be true for spatial relations? If the monetary value is already so detached from what it serves, why can we not remold it into a different form? After all, value is an imaginary construct that we can shape in whatever way we want.**`__CANWEDISCUSS__`**
In his Poetics of Relation Eduard Glissant advocated for developing a sensitivity to relations in a way that would render us unable to participate in non-relational imaginaries.[^6] He wrote about a vision of the world that questions Western relations of domination and instead sketches a possibility of a world in which one agrees to be, with and among others.[^7] For Glissant the primary exchange value was the ability to transfer knowledge from one space to another. Perhaps to find new forms of being together and other forms of valuation we need to become more attentive to what and who is around us. Develop a form of relational mindfulness and higher sensitivity to our surroundings simply by strolling around bricks and mortar.
[^3]: In Amsterdam as of July 2020 buy-to-let has been curbed for newly built homes in order to regulate the uneven competition on the housing market. https://www.rodi.nl/regio/amsterdam-noord/180121/verplicht-zelf-wonen-in-nieuwbouw
[^6]: Edouard Glissant in Friends and Enemies: The Scribal Politics of Post/Colonial Literature (Postcolonialism Across the Disciplines LUP), 2008: 336-337.
[^7]: Edouard Glissant, Poetics of Relation, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010.
Different intentions of magic words: incentivising (COMPLEXITY, SITUATE, ADEXAMPLE, DIFFUSE), invitations (CANWEDISCUSS), expressions (WOW, SURPRISE), sharing (RESOURCE)
Possibilities to automate magic words. Make aloud text to speach or to make it 'loud' in the layout. Diffuse could be automated to disseminate the fragment online.
At the same time, language is also executable in itself.
The pad line numbers as orientation device.