Have you ever posted an article or a video on a social network? If so, congratulations! I’m about to explain how you’re shaping the world to come. You are a curator of the universe, and a herald of the future.
I am? What does that mean?
It means you collect and share items of your choosing. In a history museum, the curator is the one who decides which exhibits to show, and which artifacts to include, given the finite space of the building. Here, I’m talking about curators of information – people who decide what content to pass on to their networks, given the finite attention span of other people. It’s a curator’s job to sift, evaluate, and selectively present the vast quantities of content out there. In other words, when you choose one video from the millions available on YouTube and decide to share it with your Facebook friends, you’re curating.
Is this new?
Not entirely. During the 20th century, newspaper editors, TV stations, government officials and other authorities shared the information they deemed worthwhile. And of course, regular people have been swapping news and ideas with their neighbors for millennia. But a key part of the activity is new, and that’s its sheer scope. As I’ve mentioned before, the arrival of my good friend The Internet has sparked a massive information explosion: everyone can share what they’ve written, drawn, or filmed, and everyone else can see it. In an environment where the creation and consumption of content is effectively infinite, the role of curators becomes especially vital. They’re the amplifiers that boost the signal and filter the noise. They’re the lenses that refine and focus the endless digital universe. And thanks to today’s social networks, they can be absolutely anyone at all, including you.
What does curation do for me?
Plenty of things. Here are three:
- Curation adds value to your social networks. When you post that video of a cat boxing an iguana (ill-advised though it may have been), you can add your own thoughts at the same time. You might offer your friends context, value judgments, related content, or other things they wouldn’t get if they’d encountered the video on their own. Even if you don’t, the mere fact that you’re sharing it is a kind of endorsement.
- Curation helps define your online identity. The concept of personal branding is very popular these days. I think it’s largely overhyped, and possibly even harmful. But I can’t deny that anyone who uses the internet has an alternate, digital self that may may or may not resemble their real-world self. This identity is simply made up of their internet interactions. So in some sense, the articles you tweet to your followers come to define who you are, or more precisely, who you want to be seen as.
- Curation shapes the information universe. I’ll have more to say in a later post about the evolving configuration of our social spheres. For now, suffice to say that without curation, the information universe would be flat, deep and homogenous, an endless ocean of undifferentiated content. But look what happens when you filter all that stuff through a net made up of millions of curators, who are linked to one another along lines of trusted communication. Suddenly, structures begin to take shape. Some videos go viral, others languish. Some articles might generate furious discussion within a particular community, while being ignored elsewhere. Even Google, the internet’s most essential algorithm, depends on all of us as curators to decide what’s most relevant.
What’s the common thread here?
These are all examples of how curation injects the human element into the internet. It invites us to make serendipitous discoveries. It helps define and nurture relationships, as well as identities. And curators offer all of us a uniquely human guide to the vast and fascinating landscape that is the digital universe.
Wow. Thanks for doing all that!
Does curation impact your life? How do you think it will shape the future? Leave your thoughts in the comment box. And get a good start on your own curation career by using one of the sharing buttons below.