“The web needs curators and trusted guides.”—
PBS president Paula Kerger on digital innovation.
In 1945, Vannevar Bush made many of the same points in presaging the importance of “a new profession of trail blazers, those who find delight in the task of establishing useful trails through the enormous mass of the common record.”
“That’s the paradox of failure: while the human impulse is to evade it, the only way to improve is to learn from our experiences and the experiences of others. We share as a way to understand, but even more importantly, we share in order to move the conversation forward.”—Lindsay Howard, The Way We Share: Transparency in Curatorial Practice
“Content curation is the natural evolution of our globally-networked consciousness. This sounds like a bunch of hippie drivel, but we really are creating a global brain, of sorts, by encoding human knowledge and tracking human activity. Using the human nodes of this network to strengthen some of these connections while weakening others (by choosing either to pass along i.e. ‘curate’ information or not to pass it along) helps this global brain function better as a system, which in turn increases its power whenever any of us need to tap into it. As luck would have it, our cultural products themselves have been mirroring this technological evolution; movies are largely sequels or ‘inspired by’ previous works; music is increasingly reliant on sampling, DJing, and repackaging styles of the past; and the DVR allows us to produce our own sequence of entertainment, rather than relying on network programmers, to name a few examples of this. When we curate, for whatever reason and in whatever form, we are enhancing a connection in the global neural network we are inadvertently creating.”— Eliot van Buskirk, Curation: How the Global Brain Evolves via Evolver.fm
“Reading and writing are the same thing; it’s just one’s the more active and the other’s the more passive. They flow into each other. And in the same sense, making books has always felt very connected to my bookselling experience, that of wanting to draw people’s attention to things that I liked, to shape things that I liked into new shapes. I’m basically a curator.”—Jonathan Lethem
“So like there's nothing for you to curate without creation? This precious bit of dressing-up what people choose to share on the Internet is, sure, silly, but it's also a way for bloggers to distance themselves from the dirty blogging masses. You are no different from some teen in Indiana with a LiveJournal about cutting. Sorry folks! You're in this nasty fray with the rest of us. And your metaphor is all wrong. More likely you're a low-grade collector, not a curator.”—
Gonna curate some links in the meantime.
“Collection is additive. Curation is subtractive. Collecting is for yourself, curating is for others.”—Frank Chimero - Sorting a Mass
TUMBLR = MTV + PUBLIC ACCESS
TUMBLR IS THE LOVE CHILD OF PUBLIC ACCESS, MTV AND AL GORE.
ANYONE CAN GET A SHOW NOW.
AND IT’S CREATING ALTERNATIVE CULTURE FASTER THAN THE INTERNET CAN KEEP UP WITH.
FACEBOOK AND GOOGLE HAVE TRIED TO DRAW NEAT CIRCLES AROUND THE WEB.
BUT TUMBLR IS OFF SCRIBBLING IN THE CORNER WITH CRAYONS AND SNIFFING GLUE.
TUMBLR IS WHERE TODAY’S POP ARTISTS HANG OUT.
NO ONE UNDERSTANDS THEM YET, BUT THEY ARE BREEDING AND GROWING IN NUMBERS.
THEY ARE CREATING INCESTUAL SPAWNS OF EACH OTHER.
THEY ARE PHOTOCOPYING THEIR BACKSIDES.
AND THEY DON’T GIVE A DAMN WHAT YOU THINK.
THEY ARE INVENTING CULTURE AND CHANGING THE WORLD
BUT THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT THAT.
YOU CANNOT DRAW AN ORDERLY CIRCLE AROUND THEM.
MARKETERS CANNOT EVEN DIP THEIR TOES INTO THESE WATERS.
TUMBLR’S GUARDIAN PIRANAS WILL CHEW YOUR MEDDLING ADVERTISING HANDS DOWN TO THE BONE.
RESPECT THEM. GIVE THEM SPACE. AND JUST ENJOY WHAT THEY SPAWN.
Curated Thoughts on Curation
This isn’t a new conversation, but it’s a necessary one. If we fail to recognize those who author our intellectual and creative direction by pointing us to the rich and meaningful, then we have failed to build a true information society.
As Matt noted, the conversation has been happening for a while. And yet, pictured below is the entirety of Popova’s contribution to the discussion, which is a response to Choire Sicha (who Popova, amazingly, has apparently never heard of). (For extra lols, here’s Anil Dash reducing the whole thing to a “semantic debate”.)
To date Popova has published pretentious hand-waving about creative authorship on Nieman’s Journalism Lab, Wired, and wherever else will publish this stuff, and the occasional defensive blog comment or email, but no public conversation about the feedback she’s been getting outside of vague accusations of not getting it. Although her pet project, The Curator’s Code, which I refuse to link to, did get an update in response to a constant stream of criticism: a new (permanent?) popover/interstitial thing with even more art-speak that a) ruins the website, b) means absolutely nothing to unevolved philistines like me:
The internet is a whimsical rabbit hole of discovery. Acknowledging where information came from helps keep the rabbit hole open and makes the Web Wonderland better for all of us.
Like many things on the internet, this thing is largely about ego. I believe that Popova is genuine in her concern for proper attribution into the rabbit hole of web wonderland. I also believe that she runs a glorified link blog and would like some credit for that. But here’s a fun game! Spot the attribution in this screenshot:
That, gentlemen, is pure 11px text stuffed away at the bottom of a post [that doesn’t have enough meaningful sentences for most humans to even finish reading, thank god it has pictures]. It is also one of few instance of the Curator’s Code on Brainpickings because - twist! - Popova pretty much never uses it. (Nobody else I’ve seen uses it at all, even her studio mate Swiss Miss.) What happened to leading by example? What’s readily apparent is that this is about people attributing Brainpicker. She claims to spend 450+ hours a month doing this (which is about 16 hours a day), which one would assume precludes doing much other work. Curation and “intellectual labor” needs to be legitimate enough to earn a living from it, thus the painfully overwritten Curator’s Code attempting to recodify the ethics of attribution. People like Popova already know that stringent attribution is a losing game - only top-tier bloggers like John Gruber and Jason Kottke have the traffic to send an appreciable number of pageviews or fucks given to the creator of the discovery of a link. Once you go down just one single level in the chain, the hits drop off and nobody gives a damn where it came from. Via links can’t be adapted and molded into something that creates what Popova wants - a giant web of links pointing back to her - the attention isn’t there.
It’s clear to me (with a few years under my belt of posting to The Feature) that the simple act of passing along a link or nugget of information really isn’t particularly valuable. Someone that’s good at it can gain a reputation and a substantial following, as Popova has, but the discrete acts that contribute to that reputation aren’t that valuable on their own. Whenever I’ve seen something that literally adds value to its source material by transforming it in someway before passing it along (be it an essay, a mashup, a piece of art, or, sure, a gif) it seems to me that its creative forefathers are consistently well-credited. Is it maybe the case that just passing it on isn’t an act loaded with creative authorship at all?