Stop Calling it Curation


But we should not delude ourselves for a moment into bestowing any special significance on this, because when we do this thing that so many of us like to call “curation” we’re not providing any sort of ontology or semantic continuity beyond that of our own whimsy or taste or desire. “Interesting things” or “smart things” are not rubrics that make the collection and dissemination of data that happens on the internet anything closer to a curatorial act; these categories are ultimately still reducible to “things I find appealing,” and regardless of how special one might feel about the highly cultivated state of his or her tastes there is no threshold of how many other people are eager to be on the receiving end of whatever it is we’re sharing that somehow magically transforms this act into curation—that is, at least, unless we’re also comfortable with arguing that “curation” is the act in which Buzzfeed is engaged. Or The Huffington Post. Or the top contributor on those weightlifting comment boards.

This is a fantastic piece on the whole “curation” debacle. What’s interesting is that I’m usually fairly generous with the term “curator” - a stance that sets me apart from quite a few in the museum community, who only want its use to mean a museum curator.

I think part of my openness with that terms comes from study in graduate school of cabinets of curiosity, so I lean favorably towards that type of curation that might not exist in a museum setting, but is that gathering together and presenting materials. I think tumblrs fit this definition, but I’m more hesitant to include sites like BuzzFeed.

Perhaps it’s my frustration that despite me submitting Arrested Westeros to BuzzFeed when I started, they only took notice of it 10 months later when a high-profile blog linked to it. This wasn’t to say that I didn’t have other high-profile coverage, or lots of traffic, but they clearly weren’t looking for good content (as a curator would do) but rather, “viral” links that would give pageviews.

At any rate, this entire piece is worth a read - and I hasten to add that my feelings on this matter only refer to people who are sharing links. You should always cite the original creator of content if you’re referring back to illustrations or things of that nature. Always.