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January, 2011

Curator? Really?

A discussion on the word 'curation' and its use in describing content collection and publishing.
I am a bit of a stickler for words. Not like some people, who are super serious about it, but I get very annoyed when people throw words around carelessly. Innovation is a good one and I get in arguments every other day about whether "intent" in relation to web economics and marketing means what people mean it to mean (most of the time it doesn't). The newest one is curation. I'm a bit less sure about this, but I have a feeling that all these people throwing it around are using it incorrectly. I'm not sure what the word should be, as most of the time they are describing the act of collecting and publishing content produced by others, though I really like this take from Tomorrow Museum (from March, 2010):
A social media curator is a essentially a selector. The practice is nothing more than human hand editing in the model of Mahalo. By this account, if you can pick out clothes for yourself in the morning, you can "curate." Meanwhile, what Poynter and Youtube are looking for might better be described as "context analyst," or what used to be known as a semiotician.

So why are these companies hiring curators in name only, rather than requesting real curatorial duties? If all you want is someone to list what is good and what is not good, you might as well call the job "office Nick Hornby." Not to mention, identifying trends, context, and environment is something a writer should always be doing.
I think editor is right, but then an editor often is a person responsible for compiling content produced by people within an organization (or hired by that organization). There's something a bit different going on here, and again, I don't know what to call it, but I'm pretty sure curation isn't it. But maybe it is?
January 18, 2011
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