Here comes another chant for publishers to reassure themselves with. ‘Curation is king’ is becoming a cliche so quickly I probably don’t have to explain it. The idea runs thus: we are so overwhelmed by information now that the role of publishers is not to gather the information so much as to filter it, manage it and present it.
Isn’t that convenient.
…Because they were doing that already.
Like ‘Content is king’, ‘Curation is king’ is a comfort blanket for the afflicted, a sticking plaster for injured pride. It says nothing about the new environment in which we’re operating; it suggests we do nothing other than more of the same; and it suggests our old position as arbiters of The Truth is unaltered.
And it’s a pile of crap.
Yes, curation is an important part of how information is disseminated online, but in a networked environment curation doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to the behaviour of a million internet users measured by an algorithm, and to the six degrees of separation in our social networks. We’re in there somewhere, like an Indian traffic policeman, but let’s once again not conflate the act with the platform.
The problem with ‘curation’ is that it’s a misnomer. As one actual curator said:
“We go to museums to define ourselves, the world and the civilisation around us. If the curator is devalued cheapened through this woolly thinking then museums could lose all respect as cultural bastions. When I asked what the most important function of curators was, we saw how complex and varied the job was and not a single person said “selecting“.”
So if curation is king in online journalism I guess I missed the coronation. Curation is a usurper, here to distract us from the bloody mess we’re in with the message ‘Business as usual’.
If curation is king I say it’s time for some regicide.