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Week 1: Examples, non-examples and near-examples

As we explore the question, “What is curation?” our effort to arrive at a working definition will benefit from an opportunity to put our definitions to work. Here are few examples of digital collections. Take a look at these examples and share your opinion about them. Are they examples of curation? Are they non-examples? Near examples?

How do you decide?

Feel free to discuss below or offer other examples for participants to review and weigh in on.

Example 1: My Twitter list of folks I associate with open courses

Example 2: A blog post connecting some videos and an article

Example 3: A archived webinar session

Task Discussion

  • Erin Wilkey Oh   July 11, 2012, 3:57 p.m.

    One curation I like is the Very Short List. It is hit and miss, but I find the 3-item format can be fascinating. Each day is a different curator with five categories for the five days: tech, culture, style, design, and food. Some of the curators go way outside the box in what they choose, leaving readers to make unexpected connections.

  • Liz Renshaw   July 14, 2012, 1:18 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Erin Wilkey Oh   July 11, 2012, 3:57 p.m.

    Nice one Erin with Very Short List.... thanks for reco

  • Chad Sansing   July 10, 2012, 8 p.m.

    A few more examples to consider:


    This CDZA video (found on BoingBoing)

    "No One Takes Your Freedom" (here we could ask if a mash-up is the same as a remix is the same as a curated collection - is this the equivalent of a aural museum gallery of late 20th and early 21st century music, or only if we pile paintings on one another?)

    More later :)

  • Tellio   July 10, 2012, 10:21 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 10, 2012, 8 p.m.

    BoingBoing:  if you can say that the sense they make is governed by the phrase "shit we like" then I suppose it is curation.  And I do like quite a lot of it especially their podcast Gweek which has more curatorial direction than the main site.

    The CDZA video reminded me of ze frank's How to Dance Properly.  I still don't think of them as curated.  What do you do with these videos?  Teach humanities? Yes, and I think a curator needs to map out a direction for that particular adventure to go.  Or several directions. Maybe the curator is the juggler who decides what she wants to put into play for the audience for different theatrical effects?

    "No One Takes Your Freedom" is astonishing and it is a musical object with a theme and a  purpose.  It has a path in and through and out again as all song do,but I am not sure it is curated. Is its purpose to say something about the freedom of mashup culture or freedom in general?  Is it about how DJEarworm is a genius at bringing together songs with similar tempos and subject matter together?  What is the thrust that drives this mashup and more importantly does it have a direction?  Maybe, but it is the listener's responsibility to discern it.  Curators make that overt.

    BTW, just to share, listen to this one:  "How Six Songs Collide"

  • Chad Sansing   July 11, 2012, 4:17 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   July 10, 2012, 10:21 p.m.

    We like to share awesome things as part of class - sometimes formally, sometimes on the fly. We have our own, middle-school normed version of BoingBoing :)

    I think it's useful to agree about intent for this course and discussion. In making a mash-up, though, or a video of several stylistic takes on the same song, are their intentional pieces a acclimated viewer should recognize? For example, should I take the DJ Earworm mash-up (or a Klepotones album) as an argument about which songs bear stylistic and mechanical similarities to another?

    That video/mash-up is pretty sick.

  • karen   July 14, 2012, 2:07 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   July 10, 2012, 10:21 p.m.

    "Shit we like" often seems to be a type of (purportedly?) curated content.

    Much as we're finding in the eportfolio group, I'm beginning to see that there are many types and purposes for curated collections.

  • Tellio   July 15, 2012, 11:53 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 11, 2012, 4:17 p.m.

    BTW  Boingboing has a pretty fun podcast about apps for kids that I can recommend.  Of course, Gweek is required listening anytime.

  • Tellio   July 9, 2012, 10:33 p.m.

    Here is my response to three examples as I tussle with the concept of curation using Storify. I apologize for the length of the comment box.  If it causes the page to be too long you can go to this link instead.

    Yeah, the embed was too long, but it looked kinda cool.  Here is the external link instead.


  • Shaz   July 10, 2012, 4:09 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   July 9, 2012, 10:33 p.m.

    I'd really like to bring a question you posed back to this page for all:


    Or am I mistaking analysis and critique for curation? 

    Comment by Terry Elliott

    Now there's a good one. We've been talking about fostering and cultivating connections, storytelling and wandering paths. Where do we draw the line in the sand?

    My gut tells me it has something to do with the intent and presentation.

  • Paul Oh   July 10, 2012, 7:41 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   July 9, 2012, 10:33 p.m.

    I loved your Storify, Terry. I, like Shaz, would want to highlight the question you pose at the end. But I'd also like to highlight your initial sentence, that curation needs to create meaning. Which may be similar to Kevin's thought below that curation represents "gathering information around a theme, putting that theme and its parts into a reflective stance." However, you go on to ask, "Does curation have to extend to an audience or can it just serve oneself, curating for an audience of one?"

    For me, digital curation spans a range - perhaps a hierarchical range - from:

    collecting-> collecting with annotation -> collecting with analysis/creativity.

    I include "collecting" because I think it is true that when one collects, one is creating meaning, if only for oneself. But I also include collecting because, when powered by dissemination, it can be a powerful tool that engenders a meaning-making opportunity for the viewer/reader. I think of experiences I've had in museums where what was most influential to me - particularly in art museums - was the experience of being with the artifacts collected, and not the accompanying text of the curator.

  • Tellio   July 10, 2012, 8:12 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Paul Oh   July 10, 2012, 7:41 p.m.

    I am also thinking,Paul, that curation might be on a continuum.  I tend to think that collectors aren't curators.  But once they open their mouths to talk about their comics or their (God help you) Barbie collectables or whatever then something magical happens--meaning, chunks and bubbles and torrents of meaning that spring from some artesian passion. And annotators sometimes come off as trolls until you find the joyous comment that in one grand Lebowski moment, 'ties the room together, dude." And then you get something unclassifiable like that you know is damned near three degrees up the standard deviation for curation, but your not sure how to quantify it.  It counts yet cannot be counted. I suspect it is a continuum but unlike the usual suspects because it isn't a line and is riddled with quantum dohickeys.  I can live with that.


    Addendum:  One of the things that I think I would like to see in high end curation is a set of instructions, an operator's manual, a catalog.  Instead of just putting down the media where the goats can get to it, I suggest some work is so important and so valuable as to justify more work, perhaps from someone different than the original author.  Let me give you an example, Robin Good's all-encompassing mindmap on curation.  It is a staggering achievement, but I think it begs to be curated with a map, a way in that makes sense.  Perhaps even multiple ways in and through like a choose your own adventure story.  I think that what we lack in our definition is what we almost always need when dealing with complexity--we need a narrative to tie the room together.  Might that be what ideal curation is all about? 

  • Paul Oh   July 10, 2012, 8:13 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Paul Oh   July 10, 2012, 7:41 p.m.

    By the way, I continually feel one step behind the conversations and resources posted here. I just read the "Curation Defined" and "Nancy White Collecting v. Curating" pieces. Thanks to whoever posted those.

    I disagree with Nancy White when she writes:

    The first thing I realized is that in order to have value-added benefits to curating information, the collector needs to move beyond just classifying the objects under a certain theme to deeper thinking through synthesis and evaluation of the collected items.   How are they connected? What does the act of collecting add to understanding of the question at hand?

    I agree that this level of analysis probably makes for a rich, meaningful curated collection. But I don't agree that it defines curation. (See my comment four inches above.)

    I do like the definition from the Wired piece: 

    When we curate, for whatever reason and in whatever form, we are enhancing a connection in the global neural network we are inadvertently creating.

    What do you all think?

  • Tellio   July 10, 2012, 8:35 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Paul Oh   July 10, 2012, 8:13 p.m.

    See addendum above.  Curation is a big-train word.  It carries a lot of freight.  My question is whether it does it well. Metaphors when they become too encumbered become cliches and add to the noise rather than the signal.  Clarifying a definition can do a world of good.  I like the Wired definition because it is democratic and leans on the grand trope of our time--networks.  It makes sense, but I prefer the work of Harold Jarche.  At the end of my Storify page, I include Beth Kanter's take on Jarche and I recommend it happily.  I like it because it is simple.  Curation has three parts:  seeking, sense making, and sharing.  If it is  missing one of these elements I think it is safe to say, "You ain't curatin'."

  • Shaz   July 11, 2012, 3:48 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   July 10, 2012, 8:35 p.m.

    Then what about the comment above  - can you curate for yourself alone?

  • KevinHodgson   July 11, 2012, 5:25 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Paul Oh   July 10, 2012, 8:13 p.m.

    Somehow, the concept includes those three parts: Synthesis, analysis, and connections. It sure gets (wonderfully) messy trying to define a single word, doesn't it? Maybe we should just agree that we all have our own conceptual ideas around what curation is ... but I think what we can agree on here is that curation as an idea/concept is rising in status when it comes to digital work because of the need to deal with the flow of information and media. (Or I think we can agree on that).


  • Paul Oh   July 14, 2012, 10:22 p.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   July 11, 2012, 5:25 a.m.

    You may be right, Kevin, that perhaps we should just agree that we all have our own conceptual ideas regarding what curation entails.

    My one small worry is that curation sometimes feels like a lofty word, and that the act of curation entails a set of skills - the ability to synthesize, for instance, which is very much a higher-order thinking skill  - that may make people who hear the definition but forward by Nancy White feel like they don't or can't easily curate. When in reality, I believe curation is not so lofty (despite what Choire Sicha says), and that in this digital age, we're all curators. We act as curators when we annotate a set of online resources, but we're also curators when we like things on Facebook. In this view, curation is simply about selecting and then sharing (or not), much as the Wired piece states. And taking the most open position as to what curation means allows more of our students (for those of us who are teachers) to see their online experiences as including acts of curation.

    I'm not saying we should massage our definition of curation to fit an untruth. But I would say that I think it's best to have the most liberal definition so that more of us can see ourselves as curators.

  • Tellio   July 15, 2012, 11:30 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Paul Oh   July 14, 2012, 10:22 p.m.
    I am beginning to solve the problem of definition by simply declaring (like the OED does) that there is a continuum of meanings historically, linguistically, and culturally. All can play. Our task as teachers is to know enough to help others use the multiple versions of curation in the right place at the right time for the apt purpose. I recognize low-level curation in my own 'seemingly' random collect of links in my Diigo library. A step over are the lists I make under particular topics. Next to that are my sites and my blog where I filter even further (or am beginning to do so). I see it also in broadly curated sites like trendalicious and popurls as well as in news sites like Huffington Post next to BoingBoing. As long as I and my learners-in-crime know the differences and each one's limitations then we are good to go.
  • Tellio   July 15, 2012, 11:57 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Shaz   July 11, 2012, 3:48 a.m.

    Sorry I missed this Shaz.  I keep a totally personal journal.  It is for me alone. oftentimes leaks out in many forms to folks.  I think that personal curation is possible, but with available digital tools for sharing why would one want to do so unless, of course , you are worried about  the signal to noise ratio tipping too much toward the noise of too much curation.  Practically speaking,  I doubt many people just curate for themselves.

  • Paul Oh   July 15, 2012, 1:56 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   July 15, 2012, 11:30 a.m.

    I like this idea of a "continuum of meanings, historically, linguistically and culturally" a lot, Terry. Also, the idea that we tasked with helping ourselves, colleagues/friends/mentees and the youth we work with understand the differences and the affordances of various levels/types and associated purposes and tools. (This feels similar to me to the idea of helping youth understand - and apply in approrpiate circumstances, as well as uncover the power dynamics underlying - academic English.)

    This is a profound takeaway for me, Terry. So thank you. And thanks to everyone who's contributed so far to these discussions. These conversations have helped me crystallize my own definition and thinking.

  • Chad Sansing   July 9, 2012, 5:22 p.m.

    I wonder about intent and framing and connection make here - in kind of the same way I do with Digital Is and the curation pieces I haven't yet found a way into (week 2 task, right, Paul?).

    How does a collection or an explanation or a collection of explanation turn into curation? Is all of Rap Genius a curated collection, or are the pieces annotated by a particular contributor (there's a list of notable ones here) more of a curated collection? Can you crowsource curation without agreeing on a frame or developing one with others as you go? Can you cuarte a multiple-perspectives collection without ever announcing it as such? These questions echo for me the ones I asked about the video - how do we help one another know when there is an opportunity for curation or when we are, indeed, looking at something implicitly curated? Is Rap Genius a curated collection because it explicitly tries to crowd-source the explanation and improvement of genre pieces through particular lenses: Wikipedia and the Urban Dictionary (see the diagram in that last link)? Would I know Rap Genius was curated without looking at that page? Could I figure it out? If I have to figure out the curation, is it curated? Ack!

    I was thinking about YouTube channels, as well, and the difference bewteen an annotated collection of, say, DML 2012 Ignite videos and a list of all of DMLs videos. The former seems curated to me, but not the latter.

    I'll offer up Neatline as a curation tool I really want to share in class next year.

    In my own practice, I think my professional blog comes closest to being a curated collection with supporting entries from the collaborative blog in which I participate and from Digital Is. I think the blog counts as curated because its pieces explicitly connect to one in a thematic effort to make classroom teaching and learning more authentic. Categories and tags help make the connections clearer.

    One any one day or over any given period of weeks or months, my Twitter feed is too idiosyncratic to be any more curated than "a collection of resources this educator guy finds and also some thoughts." However, in looking at the entirety of the account - especially as compared to other educators' accounts during the same time - it could be useful as part of a curated collection on the tropes and patterns in the mental lives of teachers or teacher advocates - I think of Christina Cantrill's research on NWP teachers' online presences here.

    Anyhow - onward.

  • Tellio   July 15, 2012, 11:34 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 9, 2012, 5:22 p.m.

    In your blog do you make the connection overt that you are classroom teaching authentic?  Have you ever thought about having a 'guest curator'  write about your blog to see what kinds of 'exhibit' might unfold?

    Here is an uber-example of what I mean that I found recently at Venkat Rao's weblog, Ribbonfarm.  To curate a bit here, what Rao does is to do a broad overview of the last five years of his blog (treating his blog like a museum's warehouse) which he synthesizes into three separate posts along with the culminating one above.  I really think this is curation on profound personal scale.  I am considering writing to him and asking about this process and how he went about it.

  • KevinHodgson   July 15, 2012, 3:26 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   July 15, 2012, 11:34 a.m.

    That's quite an undertaking. Every now and then, I think: I should see just what the hell I have been writing about anyway. I guess I find that daunting, and then see only the day-to-day writing. His post and reflective stance is a great model. If he answers you, I hope you share it.


  • Tellio   July 15, 2012, 4:34 p.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   July 15, 2012, 3:26 p.m.

    I asked him and wait his response.

  • Tellio   July 16, 2012, 12:37 p.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   July 15, 2012, 3:26 p.m.


    He was kind enough to reply about how he curates his own work:


    Venkat July 16, 2012 at 11:55 am

    Nothing profound. Just gruntwork. I put all the links from my annual roundup list into a spreadsheet, filtered for quality, did a rough clustering by theme, then sequenced and wrote a post about each cluster.

    Then I went through the list and pulled out words to put in the glossary. More gruntwork.

    All useful curation is tedious gruntwork that cannot be automated. There isn’t as much deep thought required as people think, assuming you know the material and have confidence in your judgment, which is easy when it comes to your own stuff.


    I love his emphasis on curation as gruntwork not to be easily gotten around!

  • Tellio   July 9, 2012, 12:38 p.m.

    Here is an example of curation in the form of a poem by Miller Williams.  I have 'framed' it in a Vialogue page but the embed doesn't seem to work properly.  Here is the link that you can go to comment on the poem's unique view of curation-extreme curation if you will.

  • Shaz   July 9, 2012, 1:27 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   July 9, 2012, 12:38 p.m.

    Hi Tellio,

    Thank you for sharing. I know little poetry, but this struck me as particularly beautiful. 

    For me, here the narrator cultivates an appreciation of the paintings, and pushes others to "see". Extreme because of circumstance, but professional in manner, I think. 


  • Tellio   July 9, 2012, 2:24 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Shaz   July 9, 2012, 1:27 p.m.

    I invite you to do a little crowdcurating at the vialogues site.  The poem reflects the broad landscape of curation.  It notes that curation changes with time and, in fact, depends upon "confluences".  Digital curation seems a bit rigid compared to this poetic curation.  Poets are curators in that they define and frame the world for the reader to 'see'. 

  • Joe Dillon   July 9, 2012, 2:30 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   July 9, 2012, 12:38 p.m.


    I think that you have done some curation already on your page, both in your oral reading and the question you pose. If you were to "curate" the poem further, I think there are good arguments to be made on both sides about whether you are adding value.  We could argue that leaving the art untouched for others to experience is what you "should" do. On the other hand, we could argue that your annotation/curation would provide background and connections that add value, or even illustrate an authoritative reader's process. 

    I'll take neither position and instead ask what the participants think of this example, Rap Genius, where people annotate rap songs with the meaning of their lyrics. I think this social media site could inform the question you asked about whether you should curate the poem for readers. 

  • Shaz   July 9, 2012, 2:30 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   July 9, 2012, 2:24 p.m.

    This is exciting, entering into the poetic, what I had not considered when joining this course.

    Also, gotta love the term "crowdcurating".

    Where to next?!

  • Shaz   July 9, 2012, 2:40 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Joe Dillon   July 9, 2012, 2:30 p.m.



    My first reaction to Rap Genius was that it was not curation, but a collaborative explanation. Kind of a RapSongWiki, which in my mind will always be a kind of encyclopeida.

    But then I ask myself, Rap is art, especially when well done it's very much like poetry.

    So how does Rap Genius differ from the Google Art Project, besides the prestige and that one is associated with the traditional concept of a curator?

    In comparison to Tellio's vialogue, I think the poetry crowdcuration is a bit more open-ended and allows for more comment as opposed to just "what do these lyrics mean". Therein, I think, lies the open door and potential (storytelling?).

  • Paul Oh   July 14, 2012, 9:34 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Tellio   July 9, 2012, 2:24 p.m.

    A wonderful poem, Terry. Thank you for posting it via Vialogues and for pushing our thinking regarding what it means to curate.

  • KevinHodgson   July 8, 2012, 5:35 p.m.

    HI Joe

    Interesting question ...and I am not sure if I see all of these through the lens of my definition of curation, but that may be because I am still trying to figure out my definition of digital curation. (and, that's why I am excited about this group.)

    Your Twitter list, for example, is a great resource built around a common theme, but is it content? (In my mind, content is part of curation; That may differ for others.) I enjoyed the blog post, and I do think that blogs are part of how we curate our knowledge to the world, and how we bring things in, consider (reconsider) them, and then put them back out again. Blogs that just share links and resources with little reflection on the potential, the questions and the possibilities don't quite meet my criteria for curation. I'd have to spend some time with the webinar to have a better view on it.

    So, what is my idea around curation? I think it has to do with gathering information around a theme, putting that theme and its parts into a reflective stance, and then sharing that package together with someone else (or in the case of digital spaces, potentially many people.) And for me, identity is part of all that. How do we represent ourselves based on the materials that we curate for an audience that considers who we are?

    I do wonder, though: Is it curation if we just gather it for ourselves and not for sharing? How does that change our perceptions of the tasks we are doing?



  • Shaz   July 9, 2012, 1:47 p.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   July 8, 2012, 5:35 p.m.

    Hi Kevin,

    I would heartily echo a lot of what you say, especially about content and than an agglomeration of links does not make you a curator. 

    What would you say about the blog example?

    I would ask you more about the question you bring up about identity. Perhaps as we know your full name and what you look like (assuming you're honest), that is one question, but on the other, you have no idea of the same details of myself, for instance? What does that say about my digital identify, presuming I were to "curate" a blog in the same manner?


  • KevinHodgson   July 11, 2012, 5:28 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Shaz   July 9, 2012, 1:47 p.m.

    Great question, Shaz.

    What it says is that I may always question your intent around curation, and what you are bringing into the picture (which is not a bad stance to always have anyway). I think I may be more apt to follow your curating efforts if I know a bit about you. Unless you have intrigued me with your presentation. Then, I might stay around.

    The concept of identity and curation come together in the ways that we represent ourselves, and our interests, in the things we chose to share with others. I'm interested in those choices that we make, and the things we leave out, and what that says about us.

    I think some blogs could be examples of curation. Some, not. It all depends on the intent of the blogger.


  • Shaz   July 11, 2012, 7 a.m.
    In Reply To:   KevinHodgson   July 11, 2012, 5:28 a.m.

    Thanks for that Kevin. Food for thought.