Surfing the web, Charlie Fiorillo is unsettled by the vast sea of bias in today’s media stream. He browses blogs and networks to constantly find opinion shrouding fact. He says he fears for our future in the age of content “Curation.”
“Curation” is the developing trend of integrating and examining media content using a mixture of machine and human resources. The practice includes Aggregation (gathering content e.g. Google News) and “Curation” (the sorting, categorizing, art directing, and presenting of gathered material) so that material from multiple sources creates a unique editorial experience for readers and visitors.
Fiorillo says the downside to information “Curation” is its own inherent and liberating quality, choice, narrowing the view of the consumer to only information they are comfortable with receiving. “I think it leaves a lot of room for inserted subjectivity, and people can choose to subscribe to curators which only fit their ideologies,” said Fiorillo, a sophomore at Northwestern University from Salina Kansas.
“Curation services democratize the ability to publish relevant information through the interest graphs of interconnected “nicheworks” (groups of networks within the greater network that represent various subjects and themes)”, writes Brian Solis, author and principal at Altimeter Group based in San Mateo, California. Solis says these “Curation” services give power to the consumer, and that this shift has been occurring for a long time.
“Curation” gives the consumer similar powers of the creators of content, and the continual redistribution and circulation of information have lead to an exponential growth of what is published online and what clutters our newsfeeds. The number of blogs alone has risen to 156 million worldwide. Where Solis and Fiorillo differ is whether it is a good thing that these sites allow consumers to pick and choose what it is they want from the web, and if these sites allow consumers to expand their knowledge or just reaffirm it.
“Elements of this new wave [Content Curation] may be considered fad, but clearly people are using these applications. The long term worth of these sites is too hard to measure,” said Dan Gillmor, author of “We the Media” and Director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
Gaining speed through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, “Curation” was initially was used through status updates and Twitter posts/”retweets.” In conjunction with this reallocation, news sources themselves began curating information.
One of the earliest “curators” was Arianna Huffington and The Huffington Post. Merging the journalistic editorial work with handpicked bloggers and online content, Huffington created a hybrid of mass aggregation and human influence serving a more liberal audience. The start of what Fiorillo was afraid of, a politically invested information source.
“This movement to Curation has occurred continuously throughout all mediums of journalism. From Newspaper and Magazines to the Internet, there have been those who have clipped, copy, and pasted information into a format of their own,” said Owen Youngman, the Knight Professor of Digital Media Strategy at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Those who fear the negative effects of “Curation” see the formats Youngman talks about as bias, and the pleasing of a certain audience.
“Curation” has recently taken on a new form, fitting hungry and stylish eye of the 21st century media consumer. Sites like Storify, Curated.by, Scoop.it, Pearltrees, and Paper.li represent a collection of curators that not only enable the repackaging and dissemination of information, but also do so in captivating and engaging formats.
“I think that the volume of content being created shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. In fact, very much the opposite,” said Steven Rosenbaum, Author of “Curation Nation”, producer, filmmaker, and founder of the site magnify.net. Magnify is a site where people can integrate user-generated video, video that they produce, or video that they discover into a website with social networking features.
“There is an unprecedented opportunity for companies and individuals to gain authority and become thought leaders by being the ones who separate art from junk for people to understand it. “Curation” is just as important as creation,” said Steve Rubel Executive Vice President of Global Strategy and Insights for Edelman during his presentation at Mashable Connect 2011.
The “Curation” of news is nothing new. Blogs have been in existence as early as 1994, delivering diverse and unique information to the consumer. Even before this, news stations have been combining their own twist on news on certain platforms to satisfy a specific audience. It is up to us whether we look for completely unbiased information, or allow “Curation” to give certain perspectives a voice they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Photo Credit: NY Daily News