Thanks to Tom Foremski and Oliver Starr for inviting me to share my thoughts on curation at last night’s salon, and to the group for a lively discussion. This article is an expansion on the bullet points in my remarks. There is a prior post- What is Curation?- that attempts to professionalize and put some limits around the use of the word, which may be needed- lest I seriously think that I’m curating my garage next time I clean it out.- CMM
Does all curation have a viewpoint? “The Curator Bias”
Yes, all curation has opinion and intention- this can be conscious or unconscious. When a professional curator sets about to create an event, an exhibit or a collection, they are also bringing about a state change or highlighting a new way of seeing something for the viewer. This intent may be subtly driven by what the curator’s experiences and exposure, and the worldview they have adopted or, ideally, be formed from a more aware and examined consideration of their purpose in framing this event or collection in the way they have chosen.
Two different curators can create vastly different views on a topic by how they frame it. Take, for example, conferences on sustainability: northern California’s Harmony Festival has dozens of speakers address sustainability in a very different way than Sustainable Brands does- similar topics, some overlap in content, but a very different underlying political and economic philosophy shapes each experience.
In any curation, what is omitted is as if not more important than what is included. I’ll use a personal, easily accessible example. On a recent trip to New Mexico, we took two sets of pictures. One showing the incredible beauty of the land and the richness of its history, and the other focusing on the shameful third world poverty (aside: NM is the 5th poorest state in the US- 156 of 234 US census places live on less than $15K per capita per year, 60 of those are under $10K per year. Outdoor plumbing, vast stretches of dilapidated homes, limited fresh food.) The lens a curator chooses to apply directs the viewers seeing, like any artist- creating pause, creating a new way of seeing.
How is curation different than a mere filter or editorial slant?
This is splitting hairs at some level. Editorial slant, like curation, is a branding of a sort, right? Fox and News Hour are both selecting the stories and the angle they want to show, and the material that supports that position.
Yet, the word curation has a higher bar: it implies a sense of care over the longterm, of preserving and assembling a special group of items or content or speakers. Merely by their selection and setting aside, by their juxtaposition to each other in a complementary set, the curator creates a group of reference objects. (Read a prior post on what is curation) A great digital curator would never list all the articles on the same topic- they would cherry pick the best to create ease for the reader, to cut through the jungle of information for the reader. (more…)