Curating on the Web: Mission Impossible?


Pinterest. Tumblr. Reddit. In the past several years, the websites that have climbed the charts overnight are not those meant for original content. Rather, they are places where people can cull, from the billions and billions of pages on the vast interwebmachine, quality content that appeals to their interests. From recipes to “hipster pictures” to news stories to makeup tutorials, the success of these sites lies in their ability to allow users to efficiently practice a method called “content curation.”

IU Cinema Director Jon Vickers discusses this method in an audio interview (jump to 3:40). Amongst other things, he talks about how the task of delivering quality content to a viewer is about “filtering out the noise,” or discarding irrelevant, boring, or otherwise undesirable material and promoting what is compelling, effective, informative, and relevant.

According to marketing master Rohit Bhargava, this task needs to become a professional position:

“A Content Curator is someone who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online. The most important component of this job is the word “continually.” In the real time world of the Internet, this is critical… The future of the social web will be driven by these Content Curators, who take it upon themselves to collect and share the best content online for others to consume and take on the role of citizen editors.”

More and more in recent years, this responsibility has shifted from news outlets and bloggers, to internet users en masse. People are turning not to Google, but to user-based curation websites like Reddit, Twitter, and Pinterest for their timely and relevant material. But will we, the curators of the web, be any match for the ever-increasing influx of information on the internet in the future? One of my fellow classmates, Lee Cohen, has blogged about this problem, citing quantum computing as a potentially suitable replacement for human curation methods.

In my eyes, the ability of content consumers to collectively determine what is proliferated and prioritized in their respective areas of interest is one of the most pivotal tools recently implemented in web development. Even in my own search for apt articles for this class, I’ve relied not simply on Google alerts for particular search terms, but on Reddit’s Feminism subreddit and other similar sites. These allow me to see material that not only pops up because of its keywords via search engine, but things that other women with similar interests have found important and promoted. It adds an element of human intuition and connection that search engine algorithms lack.

NYU Journalism professor and media guru Jay Rosen tweeted this morsel of advice earlier this year: “The classic formula for success as a blogger: turn a passion into a niche, then dominate that niche. Add personality. Stir.” This, I think, is pivotal. As the power of computing and programming grows, algorithmic methods of organization will form the backbone of cyberspace infrastructure. Still, it will be increasingly vital that every user become a “Content Curator.” Even acts as simple as upvoting, reblogging, pinning, or sharing are tiny infusions of passion and personality that will craft the face of the internet, and culture as we know it.


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