I can’t say I’m feeling more comfortable about staying on top of it all after this week, although some of the tools, (particularly NetVibes) have been intriguing. The more accounts I create in my effort to explore, the more dashboards and readers I seem to need to keep track of them all. Google doesn’t like to play with Netvibes, which doesn’t like to play with Pinterest, and Pinterest likes to play with Facebook, which seems to be the only system that is happy to play with all of the above!
This makes data aggregation, which I am defining here as the process of pulling together disparate pieces of information, a really frustrating experience. I am hoping that with more tweaking and additional app functionality, dashboard applications which make aggregation a bit easier will continue to improve.
Curation… to me, this is the much more interesting question of this week. A great article on this, written way back in 2009, discusses the print world of curation and its shortcomings in a digital world. The author of this blog post, Mike Shatzkin, defines curation as “the careful selection and pruning of aggregates, such as for a museum or an art exhibition”. Another interesting perspective on this term comes from Hannah Nikkanen, who writes “Curate, a word most often heard in art galleries, museums and zoos, is benign, yet hierarchical. From the Latin curare, “to care”, it implies an existing collection of items being organized and cared for by a dedicated, responsible and almost omnipotent overseer. What curating is not: a two-way interaction; a relationship.”
As a librarian, I am in charge of a budget that I expend in the hopes of providing the most relevant, helpful information to the library’s patrons. In the field, we have a lot of sophisticated tools that help us do this such as approval plans, which we construct with publishers so that only resources that fit our unique subject-area profile is sent to us. We basically employ these filters so that only the most relevant information is aggregated. What I then spend my time on (when I’m not teaching and working directly with the students) is to take this filtered data and purchase those items that are the most relevant to my population. This is the mental model that I use to envision curation activities online.
I don’t consider online curation as simple as the act of sharing, as in a simple Twitter re-tweet, however. Curation, when done consciously, requires that some parameters or criteria be applied conscientiously to the process before the content itself is shared. For librarian selectors, the answer lies in the curiculum and research interests of the population we serve. If one serial set is going to better support the curriculum than another, that dictates my selection choice. The preeminence of the author, the level of quality of the publisher, price, and many other factors also influence this.
So… what criteria can we use to determine what information we curate on our social networks? Too often, I think, people are drawn to snippets of information that provides them with an instant, visceral reaction, rather than wading through a longer piece that is able to wallow a bit in the nuances of a topic. Sadly, I have found myself tempted to do this a lot this week. I find myself glancing at something hurriedly as I try to keep on top of these feeds during my lunch break, throwing a hashtag on it and sharing it, even if I haven’t really digested the content or thought through it.
I have found myself needing to take a step back and thinking about what parameters I should apply when attempting to curate content for others. This isn’t just important for the spread of information, but for my own digital ‘reputation’. I don’t want to push junk out to my networks. Yet, in this I cannot rely upon the conventions of librarianship, because there is not a specific population or curriculum for me to consider when making my decisions- what I put out there is available to the world. I can try to fall back on the old information literacy stand-bys: reliability, bias, point-of-view, timeliness, etc. This is a slightly more responsible way to share and curate, but it does not ensure relevance to others. Yet, Hannah Nikkanen’s thoughts on curation, (mentioned above) raises a good question. Can anyone truly curate online content in the library-and-museum-studies sense? Should we attempt to? Is one individual more qualified than another to determine what is worth showcasing?
It’s a hard nut to crack!