Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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Semantic Wormholes and Placeholders

For the last few months I’ve been calling the word “curation” a semantic wormhole: A word that immediately drives people into a rather asinine argument that doesn’t really add anything to the greater conversation they’re trying to have. As an example, “social media” seems like the ultimate semantic wormhole as everyone knows what you’re talking about and yet it’s easy to completely derail a conversation by saying something like “what media isn’t social?” (For the record, I’ve been known to do exactly this. I have a tendency towards these sorts of dumb arguments because I think words are very important. Which makes the argument less dumb … but …)

Anyway, I liked this turn of phrase from Maria Popova in discussing the word curation (which I wrote about a few months ago):

Like any appropriated buzzword, the term “curation” has become nearly vacant of meaning. But, until we come up with a better one, it remains the semantic placeholder that best captures the central paradigm of Twitter as a conduit of discovery and direction for what is meaningful, interesting and relevant in the world.

Semantic placeholder … That’s a nice one.

June 13, 2011