Curating My Way Into Existence

Since writing the blog post on “Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do”, the idea of “writing myself into existence” each day continues to resonate. Yet, writing is just one aspect of what a blog post is all about. Another key aspect is the act of curation – the act of collecting and connecting digital assets (links) and providing context and meaning for the thoughts.

So am I “writing my way into existence” or “curating my way into existence?”

Such a deep question has to start with a little curation humor provided by Nicole Caruth in her article “Ten Tips for Aspiring Curators”:

“Since learning of Shaquille O’Neal’s curating gig with Flag Art Foundation, among other dubious projects announced last year, I have found myself returning to Eva Diaz’s piece Whither Curatorial Studies? from last February, in which she weighed the teachings of curatorial degree programs against the realities of the profession. Does this “pedagogical cottage industry” adequately prepare its students for the real world of curating? While I don’t see my own degree in curatorial studies as complete rubbish, the field was/is certainly romanticized and, these days, open to just about anybody (sans degree) who thinks he or she has ‘discerning’ taste.

“If you’re considering this educational path, here are ten things to keep in mind:

#10: It helps not to ask certain questions. To wit: bubbling with enthusiasm at the start of grad school, I asked a well-known curator what advice he gave aspiring young people in the field. He replied, “I’m not sure one can be trained to curate.”

#9: There are better paying industries in which you can use your “good eye” and still call yourself a curator. For example, you can organize concerts and parties; decorate homes, hotels and shops; create food and wine displays; or dribble balls.

#8: It’s good to know art history, but it’s even better to know the right people.

#7: Which one sounds better: “I curate independently for the personal reward” or “I curate independently for .10 cents an hour”? These are your options.

#6: Those who say that art writing is a short road to poverty don’t know about The Instant Art Critique Phrase Generator. With this, one could do extremely well (at Artforum).

#5: If you believe that James Franco’s stint as an artist-serial killer on General Hospital is “subversive performance art,” you don’t need a degree. You need a brain.

#4: You’re only as important as your last show OR the celebrity standing next to you.

#3US News says “curator” is one of the 50 best careers of 2010. The photo used to illustrate this article is apt: the writer appears to know as much about the job as what’s in the frame … very little.

#2CNN Money, on the other hand, did their homework.

#1: Curating T-Shirt

Curating T-Shirt

This question came to the forefront as I came across “The 21st Century Curator” in a Twitter feed. I followed the link to the article and proceeded to become completely ADHD and lost in hyperspace for two hours without being able to completely read even a single article completely.

As I encountered each richly linked and illustrated online article my hyperactive clicking finger kept involuntarily following yet another wondrous thread. Even when I tried to force myself to read a complete article, I couldn’t. The distracting links promising even deeper insight kept beckoning me forward.

Finally, I came to a screeching halt, when I clicked on a link to “Content Strategy and Curation” described as a “stack on Delicious.” What the heck is a stack on Delicious and what is this “Follow” button sitting at the top of the stack. With all of my recent research into social media and beginning to practice what is preached how had I missed this Delicious stack stuff?

So as is my want after discovering something “On the Way to Somewhere Else” I immediately emailed (yes, I know it is so old school) a set of colleagues to see if I was the only one behind the times.  My colleagues had missed this tool as well.

What a great concept – being able to follow curated concepts or ideas – in the same way that I follow people on Twitter.

Within minutes, I’d found several related stacks on curation and content (which I FOLLOWED) and now I was really lost in hyperspace.

I loved the Clay Shirky quote I tripped over several times on this journey of discovery:  “Curation comes up when search stops working…[and] when people realize that it isn’t just about information seeking, it’s also about synchronizing a community.”

Here are just a few of the curation articles that I journeyed to and still have not been able to finish:

However, the links alone are just the starting point, it is the wealth of images that entice as well.  Here are just a few of the diagrams from my content curation journey:

Content Curation

Content created on the web every 60 seconds

Personal Knowledge Management 2.0

The bothersome part of this “lost in hyperspace” as I try to study curation is that I’ve been proposing a new form of non-linear media. As my colleague David Socha observes both book authors and college course developers create a sequence for their material that does not work for anybody. So the challenge becomes one of how to allow each reader or student to create their own sequence from the content. As my friend and colleague John Hertel shared in his comment on the blog post:

“It’s not the tyranny of the linear book that’s the problem – it’s the tyranny of the one dimensional book. . . Which leads me to propose the paradigm of ‘layers’ – or a two-dimensional (or even multi-dimensional) book. You would still read in a linear fashion, but the book/app would be formulated to provide you with a foundation, and then let you build layers on top of that depending on where you wanted to go — almost like a skyscraper except that I could envision being able to continue entering the book at layers that were not necessarily always building on the previous layer.”

Based on my experience with exploring curation, I am reminded of an old monthly computing magazine column entitled “What hath Babbage Wrought?” Before I start building the non-linear book or layered book app, I need to do a bit more thinking about making sure that learning occurs rather than inducing a form of ADHD on myself and others.

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