This week in my Social Media Theory & Practice class, we reviewed articles on the topic of web curation and linking. The first article we read was “The Curation Economy and the 3C’s of Information Commerce,” by Brian Solis. I thought this article was a good overview of how people participate online, especially as it pertains to social media. It actually reminded me a lot of Clay Shirky’s work about how passive consumers can eventually become creators of content. For the 3C’s, this article defines them as Consumers, Curators and Creators. As social media encourages us to share more personal information about ourselves and we are rewarded with likes, shares, comments, retweets and more connections, then we start forming groups based on shared personal interests. Curators here and in the other articles are almost like aggregators — sifting through the multitude of information online and bringing together relevant information on the shared interest.
Another article on curation, “Curation, and Journalists as Curators” by Mindy McAdams, outlined some specific tips in becoming a curator and positioning yourself as an expert in the field/topic you are covering — selection of the best representatives, culling, provide context, arrangement of individual objects, organization of the whole, expertise and updating. A third article that showed these tips in action was the “Interview with Andy Carvin on curating Twitter to watch Tunisia, Egypt.” In this article, Carvin is interviewed about how he started collecting tweets to tell the story of revolution unfolding in Tunisia during the Arab Spring. He made use of the curation platform Storify. What I found most interesting here is how he was personally invested in covering this story. It was not mandated by NPR that he do this 12-15 hours a day, communicating the story in real time, but in the end NPR did benefit from his work. He defines curation as a “mix of storytelling and journalism” and feels like this may be “more art than journalism, or social responsibility.”
However, as I noted in an earlier post about the power of social media and events like the Arab Spring, I don’t know that if in the end, it was for the best. As Carvin said, “social media is helping grease the wheels, amplify things inside and outside the country and capture bad acts by regimes on their camera phones.” But does that acceleration help or hurt a state moving from an authoritarian government to a democracy? In my opinion, it does not. These kind of shifts takes years if not decades, and some never end up being a productive, cohesive state (i.e. Afghanistan).
In the article “The link economy v. the content economy,” the notion here is that entities like the AP don’t want their stories pulled into aggregators or linked to through curation. They want to be compensated for the use of their content. I agree with the author of this article in that that kind of thinking is old school and “values control.” I know one of the problems with news content is the lack of compensation for when the work goes online (which is why some have instituted paywalls to get access). But on the other hand, the majority of people in my opinion think content should be free and accessible (and I kind of agree with that). Make revenue off the advertisements surrounding the content, but let the content be free. So I believe those that link to the content and help curate it are in effect doing promotion for the AP, so they shouldn’t want to charge. And if people start charging in the opposite direction (wanting to be compensated for linking to an article), then that just devalues their blog, etc. as a pay to play — not very effective in attracting an audience because your legitimacy is called into question.
On a personal level, one experience I have had with curation was with a fandom. At one time, I was a superfan of the WB show Smallville. It had a fan website I visited often (http://www.kryptonsite.com/). This site pulled in information about the show from other sources (including spoilers for the next episodes and even details on the actors if they had any other upcoming projects). Since Smallville ended as a series several years ago, this site has still remained active in keeping fans updated on the actors and any spinoffs that have come from the show (like the Green Arrow). The site also allowed for a fan discussion board to facilitate interaction among followers and members.
On a professional level, I have had unique experience in the act of curation. Once I graduated college, my student internship turned into a full-fledged job with me as an independent contractor for a local, Cookeville-based editorial consulting firm. The married couple I worked for ran 2 Middle Eastern news sites. One was Gulf News (now defunct), but it rounded up news from all over the Web about the Gulf states, categorized and prioritized it. It linked back to each individual news source to read the entire article, or in some instances, they got permission to reproduce an article in its entirety. This website, updated regularly, was also sent as an e-newsletter to thousands of key people in the U.S. military and Washington, DC. Funding for the project was provided by the National Council for U.S.-Arab Relations. The other site I worked on is still alive and well — the Saudi-U.S. Relations Information Service, and it functioned much the same way (http://susris.com/), but did have more opportunities for original content.
At the university where I work now, in our News Department, there is an informal process of curation that takes place. Usually about once per week, the News Director will round up links to stories that the university was featured in and send those out to a distribution list. We also still pay for the old-school clipping service that catches every press release we put out to see who is carrying our content.
The last two articles for this week didn’t necessarily fit the curation theme. One was on oversharing, which I agree happens too often on social media. Not that I am a prude, etc. as the author notes of his critic when he discussed his penis cancer. But today’s culture promotes putting it all out there (hence the popularity of reality TV — and I must admit to be a Bravo Housewives fan. I think putting it all out there virtually has led to a coarseness in dealing with each other in real life and encourages participation in schadenfreude. The other article was by Danah Boyd on the findings from Pew Internet and American Life Project report on race and privacy. It was interesting to see how teenagers use social media and the racial differences. The most notable info here to me was the way in which teenagers circumvent privacy issues by using “social stenganography,” which means posting messages that have a hidden meaning. As a marketer, I would like to have more time to read about this and get more info to help us reach the teenage market in our efforts to market to them for recruiting.