Am I a Content Curator? A Content Surgeon? A Quontent Physicist?

June 22, 2010

Photo of old arcade machines in San Blas, Mexico

I thought I’d take the ‘content curator’ discussion to the extreme by adding yet more noise, in the shape of lowest-form-of-wit: sarcasm. Here are some new definitions for you to start using.

  • Content Physicist. Someone who understands how content moves through the environment of the web, and can extract rules/laws about how it does so (The Law of Conservation of Energy: the energy required to read bad content is the square of the energy used to write it). For very small items of content, like Twitter, you may use Quontent Physicist.
  • Content Surgeon. Someone who fixes errors in content (cf. Editor).
  • Content Accountant. Someone who accounts for content (cf. performing an audit).
  • Content Chemist. Someone who studies the material composition of content (cf. HTML coder, SEO consultant).
  • Content Pharmacist. Someone who provides you with content to resolve your problems (cf. Search engine)

P.S. This was prompted by a blog post by Kristina Halvorson, who I admire greatly. My original comment on her piece was (I ‘curated’ this from the original blog post):

Having worked closely with the museum and gallery sector for 10 years, I have to say that I find the term ‘curator’ both naive and insulting.

A curator does more than filtering, or even ‘filtering with a theme’, or editing, or whatever the new ‘curation’ is. As I said in a tweet yesterday, one of the main differentiating factors for me is that a ‘real’ curator *cares for* (not ‘cares about’) their collection. It’s not a ephemeral ‘choose it, post it, next one’ relationship, which so many of the modern ‘curators’ seem to do.

A museum/gallery curator has a long-term duty of care over their collection; it’s not about constantly looking for the next acquisition, looking to get the next set of ‘curated’ information out. Of course, curation is a whole lot more (including training, outreach, documentation, research), but to simplify the matter I like to use this ‘care for’ topic.

I’m all for language changing and evolving – I’m with Stephen Fry on that. Language isn’t sacred, we should be pleased to see new ways of using old words. But a curator is something specific. Like the ‘citizen journalism’ of old, it can be a degrading term to the professionals who have spent years training to be a real curator/journalist, and understands all the nuances of the job.

If we want to be playful with words, can we perhaps not choose a different word that doesn’t hold such specific meaning in the first place? I guess we don’t have a choice now – the internet meme gods have spoken – but just thought I’d register my discomfort with it! (Though, if it does ‘stick’, I reserve the right to start using it in blog posts for SEO purposes!) 🙂

Kristina replied saying that she likes the term because it, “puts the onus of the ongoing care and feeding of content on the person who’s publishing the posts”, to which I replied:

I (respectfully) disagree.

The modern use of the word ‘curator’ is applied to those who filter/select/edit/aggregate/choose/collect/whatever-but-not-curate content, not the content owners. That’s going to be a very difficult thing to change. Web apps are now beginning to use the labeling ‘Curated by’ and ‘Curator’ in their text, in the context of people who can easily select and re-publish *others’* content (see: Pinterest).

These people cannot be – and, anecdotally, have no intention of being – owners of or responsible for the original content. ‘Curators’ are the middle-men, the filters.

We can’t now change who ‘curator’ refers to. Few people think that the original content owner/creator is the ‘curator’. So by perpetuating this term, are we not confusing the situation? If the ‘curator’ is, in the traditional sense, the person who ‘cares for’ the lifecycle of the content, yet the term is referring to someone who has neither the technology nor the ownership nor the inclination to do so, we aren’t putting the onus on anyone. We are just muddying the waters with mixed terms and definitions.


PPS The photo above is totally random, just something from our current location in San Blas, Mexico.

Tags: , , , ,

2 Responses to “ Am I a Content Curator? A Content Surgeon? A Quontent Physicist? ”

  1. paolo on June 25, 2010 at 9:07 am

    how about :-

    content pimp
    content whore
    content jo

    that woulda made a more linkbaity article 😉

  2. celinamac on October 31, 2010 at 6:45 am

    The fact that content curation is being done by people and not by an automated software means ‘caring’ may or may not apply.

    Since it involves people, the quality of content curation will be diverse and dynamic. People will get better over time. Technologies will also develop that will help them do their job better.

    And like all types of works, there will be people who will approach it like a profession and others who will merely regard it as a job.

    And the passionate and innovative curators or the ones who want to excel in their work and improve this industry will stand out.

    Thanks for blogging about this interesting niche.

Leave a Reply