To Curate Or Create?

Down in Half Moon Bay, Robert Scoble started a discussion on Sunday about the value of “creation” versus “curation” — a discussion centered around Wednesday’s media event at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino. Should he attend the Steve Jobs press event and “create” original copy, an eye-witness report? Or should he sit in Half Moon Bay and “curate” news and commentary for his readers? Which path would add the most value?

Curation is a buzz word in journalism and social media circles. I don’t think that curating digital content — news and information — is the same as curating an exhibit of Degas. On the web, we don’t want to see the entirety of each artifact: each article, Tweet, video and op-ed that, in this case, Robert might use to provide us with his unique point of view on Apple’s newest gadget. Instead, we want Robert to pull the best bits (no pun intended) and synthesize them into a coherent narrative.

In this task, Robert would be working more like someone writing a literature review for a thesis than someone picking objects for a new art exhibit. For the artworks analogy to work, the curator would need to snip bits of each painting and paste them together to form something new.

It’s an interesting essay with lots of fascinating comments. In the interest of recycling my words — and making it easier for me to find them should I want to revisit them, here’s my comment:

Hi, Robert, it’s been fun reading the comments and chuckling at your pro/con list. :-)

As Cathleen notes, the either-or question is not create or curate. And it’s really not Live or Memorex — because you’ll be able to consume real-time information (ideally a live video stream). The either-or is experience (one thing, in the flesh) or observe (many things, virtually). Until we can teleport in a flash, only you can decide which path provides the best cost-benefit ratio, which provides the best value for you (however you define that).

But ask yourself: what is the experiential value of being first in line to buy an iPhone versus being at the keynote when Jobs made the iPhone announcement? Because, in effect, that’s the choice you will have made if you stay home on Wednesday (which it sounds like you are going to do). If this product is anything like the hype that precedes it, then your only opportunity for an experience-related memory will be hanging out in line. Again. :-)

As far as “creation versus curation” — there is no either-or. Curation is an act of creation. Curation, in this case, means identifying and organizing facts/data/opinion in order to further knowledge. Good curation, as I see it, benefits greatly from context, and context is usually not found in reports (news stories) from live events. Good curation requires time, subject matter expertise and, I believe, passion. Thus, you were correct in your observation that being present at the live event would limit your ability to curate well.

In an era where the currency of scarcity is time and attention, good curation will be valued over “I was there” reporting. Yes, someone needs to be “there” but so long as we have, in effect, “pool coverage” then the important work, the “value add” work, can be done remotely. One warning I have for this observe-from-a-distance model is the very real loss of any real-time serendipity coming into play. (On the other hand, there could very well be virtual serendipity in the curation model.)

There you have it. I wish I were in SFO and had one of those Stargate SG1 devices or Harry Potter potions that let you assume someone else’s appearance. Because I love Apple (own stock) and haven’t been to a keynote, I’d impersonate you!

How do you define “curation”?

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

2 replies on “To Curate Or Create?”

Somebody needs to put this in stone…

“I do not believe that significant numbers of consumers will subscribe to newspapers to be read on their ebook reader when the same content is available on the web. Moreover, I don’t think newspaper organizations really want this to happen — it’s short-sighted, because ebook readers do not currently facilitate easy “real time” public sharing (Facebook, Twitter).”

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