Curation. It’s Not Just For Museums Anymore!

I’m sitting right now on a flight to San Francisco, amazed at the modern ability to communicate instantly with my tens of followers (thanks GoGo Inflight, even though your download times are abysmal). Anyway, I had the opportunity to catch up on a little reading and chose a Brian Solis article called The Curation Economy and the 3C’s of Information Commerce. I normally avoid anything with 3C’s, because it may ask me to remember a new formula. But I was willing to make an exception because Mr. Solis is pretty smart. Brilliant? I dunno, DaVinci was probably brilliant. Einstein was–especially when he stuck out his tongue. But Solis is extremely smart. He’s a strong new voice on social media, and he actually seems to be able to envision how the chatter that exists on Facebook and Twitter can mean something within the greater scheme of communication. He gets where things are going, and I have to admit that I like that.

I was particularly interested in a term I’ve been feeling jump around in the ether quite a lot lately: curation. That’s a word long reserved for conservative older men who run museums. Yet, here it is popping up everywhere. I’ve even heard things like “We’re all becoming curators!” I thought, “What the deuce?!” (thanks Stewie). We’re not all becoming curators; I’m not even 100% sure what that means, and I’ll go on record as saying I never become something until I know the meaning of the occupation.

As it turns out, curating is simply the act of collecting and then re-interpreting or re-classifying. Basically, re-presenting an object or a piece of information to a new audience in a new way. Museum collectors do this when they score a mummy in a golden case and then display it. People within the social media sphere do it when we capture a piece of information (as I did with Solis’ article) and then offer its essence up to others for debate and comment.

According to Mr. Solis, curation is currently shaping the social media landscape, simply because it has the power to do so. He references a new book by Steven Rosenbaum, called Curation Nation (see, Brian Solis is curating too). Mr. Rosenbaum contends that users of social media fit into a pyramid, with the “content consumers” forming the bottom layer. These consumers don’t do much of anything with content that interests them; they just read it and move on. Above that are the curators, who take existing content and re-purpose, reinterpret or pass it on. Above them are actual creators of original content–likely news organizations, and finally the “social media elite.” The social media elite occupy a lofty perch atop the pyramid. They have giant followings and exert great influence on the entire social spectrum. They have sold various souls to attain their places.

Most of us don’t have the content generating resources of the news organizations or the will to build a giant following in order to join the elite–mostly because there are no actual prizes for getting your elite card. That leaves us as curators. We see something that interests us, we snag it, and we own that puppy! We put our own unique spin on it, then we send it back out into the social media jungle to do battle again. We’re especially proud if those little pieces of content turn out to be gamers, and that keeps us interested. There’s no shame in being a curator, as any balding archeological professor will tell you. In fact, it’s probably going to define how the social space advances. Say it loud, say it proud: “I am a curator!”

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