What is curation, and why is it the newest buzz worthy digital media concept?
- A scholar sifts through piles of images, selecting the ones that most clearly exemplify a style, for purposes of creating a collection that is meaningful and will help teach others about a thing.
- A librarian assembles the must have reference collection, only seminal works, the essential points in a body of knowledge.
- An experience designer selects and cultivates only those things that will lend to the overall impact, or arc, of what they are seeking to express.
Through selection, cultivation and omission, curators save us time, make the frame and architect the experiences we have. They preserve what is worth preserving. They study and collect in the margins, so that when it is needed, an informed collection is available to those who need it. And while curators have played this role throughout history, the job is even more valuable today, as information is created and fades from view at alarming volumes and speed.
Several recent books, including Steve Rosenbaum’s Curation Nation, have addressed this topic. In San Francisco, Tom Foremski has organized the SF Curators Salon, to focus a pretty dynamic and web savvy group of people in on the issues and opportunities in this field.
From where we stand, this all boils down to a focused and disciplined cultivation of an expertise. This is how you become the trusted source for a pool of people who share your values and interests. They begin to know your voice, your perspective, your angle, and to value your filter. Then the job is to vigilantly maintain that expertise. By reading and watching everything in your category, you will soon have the keen eyes and ears of experience, and be able to identify the truly good and noteworthy. You will develop a reputation for only passing on what is worth the time to read directly. Others you will summarize, or deny, or just ignore.
In this way, you become a genuine influencer, a node on the network that is a broker of information. People go through you to get to information, at least in the affinity category you have developed.
So the question is, do you have the energy it takes to be a curator? To be a guide through the information maelstrom? Its a hard job!
What you get in return may be financial, or it may be marketing leads, or link bait for your commercial services or products – but it may also simply be the joy of being a trusted resource on a topic you love. You may even find that the process of curation turns you into a scholar and pundit in your own right- that by viewing all this material, you come up with a new insight that builds on or departs from this common wisdom.
The hand curated information collection is based on discernment, and not on chance. Tom put it this way: “curation is like a lovingly hand made sushi roll, and aggregation is like a frozen-over factory produced taquito.”