Prattle & Jaw

Two blogs about a whole lot of nothing

Curators and Gatekeepers

I've finally sat down to write a post I've been meaning to write for a very long time. I doubt it'll be that successful as by now I've wanted to add so many things to it, I don't think I can manage to put it across in any kind of coherent manner. But, I'll give it a go. It's basically food for thought.

If I hear the word 'curator' once more, I'll shoot my knee. It's as bad as 'social media expert'. Just because I write a blog does not make me a curator. A curator is "a keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection", and while this blog might be a collection, it's not the same thing, although I am sure many would disagree. 

I recently read (very quickly) Curation Nation. Not the best book I've read, but basically it claims that we're all curators. There is so much information out there on the interwebz that we've all become curators, whether it's through a blog, our Twitter profile, what we post on Facebook, what we 'like' on external sites, what we +1 - well, you get the message. 

This just confuses me. If we're all curating, what good does that do? We're just regurgitating someone else's 'curated' information, and if everything is curated, then surely it isn't. Curation to me, is a source of niché information. There are blogs that are curated, blogs and sites that specialise in everything from LEGO to microbes, but the vast, vast majority of blogs (not to mention Google pages, Facebook profiles and pages, Twitter profiles etc) are just random collections of what you find slightly amusing/interesting/etc. My Facebook wall is not a curated space. I'm not curating the internet for my friends. If anything I'm adding to all the other shit they have to sort through to find what they find interesting.

The mess of social media is nothing new of course. It was nicely covered in an article from Mashable which refers to the 'sharepocalypse' of social media overload. In it, it mentions 'social curation', which are things like Gimmerbar and Pinterest, but that leads me back to my point of adding to the mess; the more that adopt these tools means the more to sort through for others.

This seems like a good place to talk about Google's new privacy policy. My God. What happened there? Talk about a media storm. People were panicking as if Google were going to come knocking on our doors and slaughter our babies. They're not (or are they?) becoming the latest evil gatekeeper of information. They're trying to, as much as I hate the word, curate the web for us based on our preferences. They're trying to sort through all the shit, and boy, there's a lot of shit, for us. I'm not saying they're our internet saviours, just that the whole 'delete everything and resist' view is a little old. All our information is out there. Every time we've used a credit card our location and purchase (preferences) have been logged. Our sex, our age, our financial situations - it's all been out there for a very long time. This doesn't mean that it's OK - it's just that it's a little too late to get our knickers in a twist.

So can curation become gatekeeping? While the bloggers over at Huffington Post might be 'curating' for the masses, are they also gatekeeping? Have these curators become the 21st century gatekeepers, albeit unwittingly? No one wants to trawl the all the complete crap on the internet for their news, which is why sites such as Huffington Post have become so popular - they're a one stop site for just about everything, which is great, but it also means that many people have a singular view on things. Yes, they could easily just Google it, or check out another site, but I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of people don't bother - and who can blame them? Chances are the results will be either false, written by someone totally ignorant to the subject, some kind of fundamentalist, lots of people who are just plain wrong, and somewhere, buried in all that, will be the 'correct' version. After all, easier is better than better - "People choose not on the basis of what’s most important, but on what’s easiest to evaluate." 

I do wish there was some kind of shit filter for the internet. No, I don't mean, in any way shape or form, ACTA. I do believe in democracy online, but democracy has rules too. It's getting harder and harder to filter information personally, and while heralded 'curated' sites like Huffington Post might offer us some form of help, are they also acting as gatekeepers and slowly forming our views? 

I'll welcome any thoughts on this. As you can probably tell it's not the most throughout post, and by no means set in stone. It's just thoughts. 

My kind of gatekeeper.

Copyright © 2014, Lara Mulady. All rights reserved.