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Curation is a book

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 27 Feb 2014, 07:43

Themes trend, this week it is 'curation' which is why I drove 168 miles to a get–together of e–learning like minds in Bath.

Some contrast to the webinar I sat through the same morning and somewhat counter culture in the era of doing everything remotely. Social media far from killing off socialising, it encourages face–to–face social interaction.

It is one thing to read about curation, even to hear disjointed voices behind a presentation online or share thoughts in messages and quite another to follow a presentation face–to–face, to hear and see the discussion, to relate to the speaker and how they come over. Before, in breaks and afterwards the variety of thoughts, ideas and views is like tipping stuff into the compost bin of my brain – dribs and drabs work for me, even in a small group of people in preference sometimes to the sell–out and packed events hosted by other groups around the country.

A test for anyone who is about to speak is when the technology fails.

If they believe in their subject and know their stuff they are better off without a screen of text, diagrams or examples to play with on the Internet – they do that online. Without any hesitation both speakers presented 'raw' – reflecting on how well this works I wonder if a genre of presentations where speakers go without these visual props and prompts should be encouraged. What you are left with, and all you need, is someone who has some ideas, some experiences and suggestions and a passion for what they do.

Writers, thinkers and bloggers are constantly taking common terms, the meanings of which we feel we understand, and giving them fresh, broader or nuanced meanings.

My understanding of curation is embedded in museums - I overheard the curator of the current superhuman exhibition at the Wellcome Foundation Museum being interviewed by Aleks Krotovski on Tuesday. When I took a picture using my iPad I was approached and politely told that the ‘curator’ asked that people did not take pictures – curator as stage manager and executive producer of a collection of themed objects. The term 'object' itself embracing stills, artefacts, video clips and activities. You curate stuff in a space and set parameters so that an audience of visitors can get their head around what, in effect, has come the curator's mind.

In the bizarre ways that these things happen I recall, age six at most, creating a fossil museum with ammonites found in the low rocky cliffs of Beadnell, Northumberland.

I was a curator, I brought together a themed collection of rocks, set them out in a room and invited people in – no doubt in the back of my mind imagining the glass cabinets and displays in the Hancock Museum, Newcastle.

Neil McGregor of the British Museum with his 100 objects is a curator.

And we now have, from the Quite Interesting team the radio show 'The Museum of the curious' and its host Jimmy Carr.

So 'curation' for me already means many things. I search that externalised part of my own mind, an extensive blog 13 years in the writing, for what I've said or StumbleUpon before regarding 'curation' and find three entries, one prompted by my intention to attend this session and feeding off a visit to the De le Warr and the other two excerpts from Martin Weller's book 'The Digital Scholar'.

In a moment I can scan through my notes, chapter by chapter.

The Digital Scholar Chapter 2

University Functions:

1. Teaching
2. Research
3. Dissemination
4. Outreach
5. Curation
· Change can be quick
· No assumptions are unassailable
· Form and function are different
· Boundaries are blurred.
· We can't wrap libraries and such like in cotton wool if their time is over.
· Global networks, unpredictable environments, rapid response.

Chapter 12 Publishing

· Research
· Authoring
· Submission
· Rejection/modification
· Publication
· Dissemination


· Accepted practice
· Academic respectability
· Reward and tenure
· Dissemination
· Curation

If Boyer's four main scholarly functions were research, application, integration and teaching, then I would propose that those of the digital scholar are engagement, experimentation, reflection and sharing'. Weller (2011).

Skimming and skipping about instead of deep reading. Easily distracted, or persuasively detracted. But the overall tenure will be rearing to you hear the narrative.

· British Library Google Generation study (Rowlands et al. 2008)
· Has the need to learn by rote diminished?
· Outsourcing mundane memory to Google.
· Skittish bouncing behaviour Wijekumar et al. (2006)
· Web 2.0 and the 'mass democratisation of expression'.

NB 'low quality individual items because of their obvious ease of production, can be seen as an invitation to participate'. Weller

'If the intention is to encourage engagement then low-quality routes may be more fruitful than seeking to produce professional broadcast material'. Weller (2011)

An online diary or journal over a decade ago, to some a web log and now a blog can embrace curation – 195 posts on blogging and my favourite definition is 'digital paper' – a blog is anything you can do with it. Curation is perhaps therefore, a digital museum, library or gallery? By definition less self–publishing, and more aggregation of the works of others. My teenagers curate images on Tumblr, a tumbling riot of choice images grabbed and reclogged into a visual expression of who they aspire to be, or who they are or the people they want to attract. The museum of the person, for the person rather than a museum by a person for the people. Perhaps this is the answer – blurring the boundaries between blog, gallery, library and museum we each become the curators of the external expression of the contents of our minds forming in total a waterfall of information and ideas. As a reader, visitor or learner you are the fish swimming in this river, dipping in and out and through it. The space is an interplay between what others contribute and what you elect to tangle with.

Curation is more than aggregating stuff, there is a sense of purpose, a theme, even if it is a current in this river, this torrent, this deluge of information – the content is gathered, and presented in a certain way. Someone has made choices on the visitor's behalf. The collection is assembled for a purpose, to change minds, to open heads, to instigate a journey, to act as a catalyst for learning and the creation of understanding.

Whilst blogging implies creating content or self-publishing, curation is aggregating content by one person for others – going out with a broom to sweep autumn leaves into a pile then picking out the russet red ones. It isn't publishing either, these leaves are literally individual pages, not entire books, and they are, in the parlance 'bite–sized' pieces of information.

At what point does it cease to be curation? The London Underground Lost Property Office is not a curated space – this stuff has been pushed into the space, not pulled. Push or pull are key words when it comes to curation, especially where the curation is prompted by the desire to respond to a problem - such as engaging people to take responsibility for their own learning by providing them with a space with blurred boundaries that will contain, more often than not, objects that satisfy and pique their cursory in order that they then go on to construct their own understanding.

As the Radio show indicates we can curate some mighty odd things

Online, comments left by people become objects in this curated space – these are 'items'. They have a permanence, not only that, whether or not attributed, they can be shared, duplicated and reversioned. Whilst you curate them in spaces you control, what happens once the item has been shared on? It may no longer be in such an attractive space at all?

The curator has a multitude of tools.

Google Reader to aggregate content
RSS feeds
Delicious to tag and then into WordPress

The curator doesn't originating content then?

Tell that to ... a History of the World in 100 objects.


Neil McGregor

  • Presenter
  • Curator
  • Trustee
  • Visitor
  • Scholar

Funnelling streams of content into one place, is that curation? Curation is the choices. Curation implies responsibility and power, that choices are being made.

You select Apps and have them on your iPad or iPhone, you may share these choices with others but that is not curation.

What's the difference with a blog then? The diffused nature of the web means that this content - images, video and activities, is itself a form of curation. The curation then is not just the choices, but how they are aggregated and the journey through this environment that you offered.

Curation as keeping a scrapbook. Why should anyone take an interest in stuff that hasn't even come out of your head? Is it not just a step on from clicking a Like button or rating to click at RSS feed and feel as if you are a channel controller.

What takes your interest and why would it be shared? Your choices, if a 'thought leader'.

Compare this to the journalism of Andrew Sullivan.

Sam– online learning for a mega finance co.

Key reason:

  • More connected in and out of the company
  • Understand the technology better
  • Self-development

Opportunities beyond looking for the course list, so looking for relative content to solve their problems.

Sam's list of names:

Beth Kanter
Seek, Sense, Share – take the pain out of finding content.

Robin Good – master curator

Robin Good on curation
Published on11 Jun 2011byHoward Rheingold

In interview Robin Good, that master of new media (http://masternewmedia.org) about curation -- what it is, what it requires, why it's important, how to do it.

  • Google as MacDonald’s, a bespoke restaurant about curation.
  • Sense making, not just links
  • Learning better and faster from people you know or respect
  • Curiosity as curation, with passion and antennae’s,
  • Knowing the audience, not simply an artist
  • Transparent, citation/links,
  • Mixed tape or DJ
  • Customise

Robin Good on curation

Published on11 Jun 2011byHoward Rheingold2,333 views
22 likes, 0 dislikes
In interview Robin Good, that master of new media (http://masternewmedia.org) about curation -- what it is, what it requires, why it's important, how to do it.

Howard Rheingold
see video for what he thinks curation is a DJ  ... when did I coin the phrase BJ.

Breaking Views from Hugo Dixon, got ahead of Reuters, after 8 years they'd had enough and bought him out.

Andrew Sullivan, Journalist,  The Daily Beast 1 million views a month.

Thought Leaders?

Digital Scholar, Martin Weller – 3,000 followers, Book of the name Creative Commons so people can do as they please.

  • Learn for myself, so started with blogs.
  • First Delicious, the Diego +tag, organise with key words and RSS feeds.
  • And various RSS aggregators.
  • 250 curation tools. How do you know which are the best.
  • Scoop It
  • Pinterest
  • PearlTree
  • ReddIt
  • DigIt

vs. a lot of noise.

e.g. 150 blog feeds, RSS feeds aggregated. Getting smarter.

Ran free accounts, and now as Pro Accounts on a landing page.

Still battling with 'why isn't there a course list?'

APP - Paint


Learn Patch: http://learnpatch.com/2012/10/video-how-can-curation-be-used-in-learning/#comment-36

One the one hand informed people talking without notes or AV is refreshing and challenges you to think beyond what is being said - on the other hand this video answers many of the questions I've been formulating as a blog entry this morning and wraps up a week that has had me immersed in the 'curation' theme, from a discussion with Julian Stodd on Tuesday, coincidently at the RA where there is a stunning exhibition of bronze sculptures to multiple visits to museums and galleries to seek out this connection between an online experience of curation and the real thing. Curation is a form of stage management, even direction, a conscious decision to put some things in and leave others out, to appeal to a visitor or personas with certain needs and expectations. If this journey works, if the story draws them in, then by default they will be changed and therefore have learnt something.

Julian Stodd


'Tell me a story' says the child and if you don't have a book to hand you make one up based on what you know about them, what you can draw upon and what perhaps you'd like them to take from this experience.  The child invites you in, they pull at your knowledge set and want what you can bring to it - they don't always want the book or a familiar story, they want your take on things. Somehow tapping into these reciprocal needs is key to learning that is wanted, is engaging, timely and mutually beneficial. This coming after a week in which 'curation' has been a constant theme.

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