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Week 1: What Is Curation?

Above is a brief take on online curation - by a few curators - to jumpstart our conversation.

For this first task, please respond to one or more of the following questions (and to each other) in the discussion below:

  • What is curation and why does it matter to me as a learner?
  • What is the difference between curating and archiving?
  • Has anyone developed theoretical frameworks for curation?
  • What are your experiences with curation - online and off - both as a curator and as someone who relies on curated content?

Task Discussion

  • Erin Wilkey Oh   July 11, 2012, 3:45 p.m.

    Wow! Hi all. What a lively conversation you have started here. This is really giving me new ideas about my own curation practices and the kind of curating I would like to do. I just wanted to share some thoughts I am having as I read through these comments.

    I really love the idea that curation is an art form. When I was younger, my friends and I would exchange mixed-tapes. I always felt that they were their own kind of art form. I would attempt to create a unique emotional and intellectual experience for the recipient. Of course, my friends may have made different connections to my mixed tapes than I intended. But that is the nature of art, isn't it? I hadn't thought of other types of curation that way before, but I do see it now as a creative act.

    Karen, I believe, commented that there appear to be two types of curation--curation of "best" resources and curation for making connections. I find the second to be more valuable and inspiring, both as the creator and the audience. This is the type of curation I am interested in exploring through this course. 

  • karen   July 11, 2012, 3:15 p.m.

    Great video. Very thought provoking, as are the posts here.

    • What is curation and why does it matter to me as a learner?
    • What is the difference between curating and archiving?

    Claudia reminded me this week of the etymology of curation. I like this notion here of curation as spiritual guidance.

    While archiving seems to me just a process of putting things into storage, curation involves much more careful choice and the possible addition of context and commentary.

    • What are your experiences with curation - online and off - both as a curator and as someone who relies on curated content?

    As an online curator, I have tended to stick to a few narrow areas I am very comfortable with, such as open resources and mobile ed tech. I suppose I also do some curation on personal topics (natural food, homestead living, DIY construction) through my blog writing, but it is much less systematic and organized and more narrative, stream of conscious, and reflective. (I wouldn't have thought of that as curation until now.) My passion in this realm is strong, and my curation there (if that's what it is) is much more personal and possibly compelling as a result.

    As a consumer of curated content, I rely on the skills of curators many times a day when I do a web search or tap into the collective wisdom of my personal learning network. When I am brand new to an area, it is more hit or miss, but when I am looking at curation of folks I know, the "brand" currency of the curating group or individual is very useful to me. The more I know about a topic or community though, and the more I reily on that, the more danger there is of only hearing what is in the echo chamber.

  • Liz Renshaw   July 10, 2012, 1:51 a.m.

    Small mention, the video clip is actually not showing at the moment- just a blank space however Im thinking its the PSFK What is Curation?

    Firstly I think that all curation starts with a personal story. Just as each person is an individual with different interests, backgrounds and perspectives so each story will be unique- a personal narrative. To me the use of the white rabbit and reference to Alice in Wonderland seems to place curation within the context of storytelling. The opening comments talk about 'going on a journey' and starting from a point of trust and then venturing out...   This reminded me of all the good old fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel..

    Maria Popova talks about curation involving making connections between things that you might not necessarily perceived as being connected. She speaks of being interested in the intersection of 'things'... such a view challenges me to question 'why' someone sees overlap between ideas. Or what are the connective threads that link these ideas? It is an activity that challenges me to go deeper and search out a different level of meaning.  

    Rex Sorgatz talked about the idea that people are getting better at ignoring junk on the internet, and the filters are getting better too. I agree with this sentiment and think that more people are feeling confident to curate their own stories now. Some people are not feeling so swamped by the abundance of information but are in the process of shaping their own meanings for curation.  

     Piers Fawkes talked about curation as being about finding the valuable ideas and distilling them and the need not to be held back by bad ideas which can destroy us. Curation then must be about discernment or being able to sort the 'chaff from the grain'..

    So where does this leave me .... I find myself agreeing with the idea that curation is storytelling. Starting with personal narratives, which are shared across the net which then grow and change into bigger narratives or more complex stories.  

    Just as good stories encourage, inspire, engage and enthuse so good curation does the same. I liked the company label PERCOLATE which conjures up images of finding the right mix of things(ideas) and creating something new.... ( with a bit of magic thrown in)....

    I enjoyed responding to this question and its always good to depart with more questions than answers...... yes




  • Shaz   July 10, 2012, 4:02 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   July 10, 2012, 1:51 a.m.

    Thanks for your comments Liz. I have a question for you -

    Would you say that a curation is a personal narrative of [our] past, present or future?

  • Paul Oh   July 10, 2012, 7:14 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   July 10, 2012, 1:51 a.m.

    Sorry to hear, Liz, that the video is not loading. You found it, though!

  • karen   July 14, 2012, 3:08 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Shaz   July 10, 2012, 4:02 p.m.

    Interesting. For me, my non-ed tech (more personal and passion-driven) curation is very much a personal narrative and filled with storytelling.

    Most of my work-related curation has less of that. Perhaps there is a way to bring more storytelling into that work as well.

  • Liz Renshaw   July 15, 2012, 11:34 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Shaz   July 10, 2012, 4:02 p.m.

     Thanks for this prompt... Could curation be past/present and future? Im pondering this one.

  • Chad Sansing   July 9, 2012, 4:58 p.m.

    I enjoy and endorse the rabbit chase; I think part of the joy of collecting is the anticipation and suspense of going somwhere. Another part of that same joy comes from looking back at the path I've traveled and holding in my mind with wonder, humor, curiosity, and irreverence. Sharing or presenting what I've found or made is a way to process those feelings, to internalize and habituate them, and to offer them up for whatever they are worth in a kind of thanks to what I found.

    When I curate resources for students, I feel least joyful when I go into it with intent - when I know what I want to find, where to find it, and how to share it out. I am much happier discovering things in my own wanderings that make me say to myself - that! Bring that to class for this student or that one! She will love it - or it will help him.

    I struggle with the last few moments of the video when Popova et al. transform curating from being aware of the connections between things they discover into finding the right ideas and answers that will either save us all or proove (that we are the) best (arbiters of taste). 

    Here is how I discovered something and how you could possibly discover something important to you, too seems more interesting, exciting, and authentic to me than here is what I discovered and here is why it should matter to you. (School, school, school Sansing - come off it!)

    Is curation about indentifying and championing the text or other artifact, or it is about habituating the self and a community to connection-making? I'm sure it's about both depending on the situation - no one wants my journey of self-discovery on the way to figuring out how to type a letter so it has an umlaut (except maybe Bud). 

    While I don't think that any of the mission-driven curators in the video are necessarily in it for what they would identify as self-aggrandizement, I am wary of curating as gate-keeping. The purpose of curation, in my mind, is connection making. The purpose is to help others see that they, too, can gain awareness over their lives and make connections that let them make discoveries about themselves and the world.

    Discovery is a more powerful emotional and cognitive act than reception. As someone might follow a path I found, does the path help and encourage them to annotate it better? To go further? To go on a tangent?

    How can (or how does) curation inspire curation? How do we differentiate curation for folks who draw implicit insipriation from it, as well as for folks who don't see themselves as curators while touring someone else's answers?

    I kind of think of the Internet as the collection. I don't think it's too full. I think remembering the paths - the mental muscle memories of a search or journey - is more necessary to impvosiation, contextual, and human curation than remembering the answers is.

    What do you think?

  • Liz Renshaw   July 10, 2012, 1:59 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 9, 2012, 4:58 p.m.

    Chad  I enjoyed your post. I loved your comments about the power of discovering things and being happy in your own wanderings. The joy of finding something that will bring joy to others is a big part of the pleasure. I think that as educators we need to help students feel confident to 'disappear down rabbit holes' and to acknowledge that this discovery is a critical part of learning. Many times i hear that lesson was all a waste of time I didnt find anything I needed... after a guided internet search .. That going off on a tangent and following those inviting paths is so powerful as your mention.

    I also liked your comment that the internet is collection and just like any other collection there's rubbish, reference, gems of gold, stuff covered in dust, dead rats, and useful stuff- as you say you just gotta remember the pathways....



  • Shaz   July 10, 2012, 4 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 9, 2012, 4:58 p.m.

    Chad, like Liz, I greatly enjoyed your comments. 

    I agree with a lot, though I raise a question at this: 

    I think part of the joy of collecting is the anticipation and suspense of going somwhere.

    Do you know where? In most things I generally don't, though I know that I am building upon something and moving forward. This approach to me seems more about the process than the end result. Reminds me of the right-brained conversation we've had with Tellio's Curation poem.


    Awesome - though this is a big change from a lot of education today, unfortunately.

    Strikes me that curation is an art, then.  Which would beg the question - can you improve your curation, even if it is a wandering process?

    If we would "alter" it for different audiences, then I would say yes. To push our audience to shape connections, to me, brings the concept full circle back to the concept of storytelling, where we make meaningful connections between ideas and events into a narrative, one of the oldest and greatest cognitive tools we have. 

    A rabbit hole story where we don't know where it goes?

    [Forgive me for kind of thinking aloud - I don't know if that's the "done thing" on P2PU.] 

  • Paul Oh   July 10, 2012, 6:51 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Shaz   July 10, 2012, 4 p.m.

    I'm not the arbiter of the right or wrong of p2pU, but I'm pretty certain that thinking out loud is the best possible thing you could be doing here, Shaz!

  • Paul Oh   July 10, 2012, 7:13 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 9, 2012, 4:58 p.m.

    I think, Chad, that as usual you've articulated a whole bunch of incisive questions. And, like Liz and Shaz, I agree with your stance that the process of curation should be more about the process and power of discovery. I think essentially what you argue for is curation as a creative act, and one that inspires others to create similarly.

    Again, I agree that we should strive to instill in ourselves (and our students) this ethos because currently it seems like so much of what is pushed down our throats is meant to make us consume. Myy question (if you can wade through to the end), though, is: I see myself as both a creator and consumer online, but sometimes I want simply to consume and not necessarily be inspired to create. It's in fact why I have curators (you, for instance); I look to curators to help me make sense of an idea or set of ideas and, yes, inspire me to perhaps search further for my own edification. But I don't necessarily want or need always to curate everything that interests me. I actually appreciate the gatekeepers sometimes.

    What, then, is the balance between consuming and creating when it comes to curation?

    Also, to pick up on a comment to your post by Shaz, I find it interesting to think of curation as art. When I think of my original experiences with curation - at art museums, for instance - I don't know that I necessarily saw the curatorial process as art. I probably should have. Clearly there's an art to it - where to hang a painting, and with what other works of art, for maximum effect. But there's also a science to it, too, don't you think? Not science as in formulaic but science as in systemized and organized, with (metaphorical) tools and containers and processes. The art of curation, the storytelling, is critical in my view and really resonates with me as someone who is involved with literacy. I think we also though have to pay attention to what I guess I'm calling - probably wrongly - the science of curation. How, for instance, do the tools - analog or digital - affect the stories we can tell through what we've curated?  

  • Chad Sansing   July 10, 2012, 7:23 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Liz Renshaw   July 10, 2012, 1:59 a.m.

    Thank you for responding, Liz!

    The pathways -  or at least a set of algorithms/strategies that get you back to them and that might take you elsewhere. I don't want to get to recursive or tautological, but, as I see teaching or bringing making or technology into the classroom, I think curating is in the practice or in the approach to an audience of individuals; I think that intent and context play big roles in how an audience takes or leaves a curaterd collection. What is the role of audience in credentialing a curator or a collection?

    Lots of questions fighting against an impulse to just curate!

  • Chad Sansing   July 10, 2012, 7:27 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Shaz   July 10, 2012, 4 p.m.

    Great question, Shaz -

    "Somewhere" is probably too literal a label for what I mean - enaging curating, for me, feels anxious in a good way in suspenseful in pursuit of a suspiscion that what I'm after exists - that the connection I want to make can be made - that I can try to make a connection if none can be found. The "somewhere" is somewhere in the same way "getting nowhere" is "nowhere" (which can be frustrtating and useful at the same time, or not).

    Maybe curation can be viewed as an interdisciplinary practice - a receptive and generative scientific and artistic act.

    Does that make sense?

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

    I take your point, Paul - I don't watch episodes of Community thinking of how to annotate them (but did you see Abed deliver the baby?)  like my college roomate annotated the issues of The Invisibles that he read, which I read without annotating.

    I think there's an innate process of situating the media with consume inside our lives. For example, I quote lines. I buy DVDs of things I've seen before.  I make mix tapes (it pains me to say CDs or playlists!) that only play in my headphones or car. I tend to fixate on certain texts and consume them over and over again between periods of consuming media that is new to me. Am I self-curating? Curating for one?

    I don't think that as an educator or person I need to curate everything all the time for all my audiences; however, I do think I need to model curation episodically and curate things that are compelling to my students so that they follow my think-alouds and internalize connection-making, which I think offers us richer lives and more opportunities to see opportunity.

    You have me all bamboozled by credentialing me as a curator, Paul.

    I think nerd culture - and my experience is with male nerd culture - trains its participants to curate, which is cool, but it also accultures participants - especially male participants (in my experience) - to exclusionary and judgmental practices in communicating with and relating to others. I wonder how to help my nerds make-connections that lead them outside their areas of expertise through listening and making meaning, rather than judgments. How do we know when it's time to stop curating if curating carries assumptions or values that prevent connections from being made? What happens when we curate before we consume, and where in our lives and work are we and our students or other audiences vulnerable to such jumps?

    Check out this job description, friends - curation or not?

  • Kim   July 10, 2012, 8:54 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Paul Oh   July 10, 2012, 7:13 p.m.

    Hi Paul,

    I feel compelled to stop reading posts and respond here--even before I have introduced myself (oh well, working out of order is normal for me)--because the idea of art and science as somehow opposite or separate struck me in your response.  I think science and art are more similar than different.  Art and science can both be formulaic--but in their purest forms are more about curiosity and exploration, inspiration and experimentation.

    The balance of consuming and creating should be about choices.  I feel like you have to do some consuming in order to curate.  Consuming can inspire creating--and lead to more curating.  And I do think we can curate something someone has already curated--for new purposes and audiences.  I feel like I see it all the time.  (And I feel like I do it all the time--does that mean that I am not really curating?)

    Clearly this exploration is more about questions than answers!



  • Shaz   July 11, 2012, 3:54 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Kim   July 10, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

    Welcome Kim.


    Like Liz said previously somewhere - I do think that the more questions the better. Especially because we all seem to be creating, thinking, and wandering down a path trying to make connections...


    Sound familiar?

  • Shaz   July 11, 2012, 3:57 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 10, 2012, 7:27 p.m.

    Hi Chad,


    Yes, that does make sense. This reinforces the idea that intent is a major player in the question, for me. 

  • KevinHodgson   July 11, 2012, 5:31 a.m.
    In Reply To:   Kim   July 10, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

    Hi Kim

    It's good to point out the cyclical nature of things. That idea of re-positioning an already-curated item is interesting, too. I wonder if we could find an example of that, and then think about the various intents/stances of the curators, and how they differ. That would tie in nicely to what we need to be teaching our students about "intent."


  • karen   July 11, 2012, 3:07 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Chad Sansing   July 9, 2012, 4:58 p.m.

    Great post, Chad. I'm begining to see two (or more?) very different models of curation: one as a process of assembling "best"  resources and one as a process of connection-building and perhaps self-exploration or learning.

    In my own curation activities, I can see those two very distinct types. One is mostly for others. One is mostly for me.

    A lot like the writing I do.

    The second seems much more valuable (to me, anyway).

  • Chad Sansing   July 11, 2012, 4:05 p.m.
    In Reply To:   karen   July 11, 2012, 3:07 p.m.

    I like that distinction, Karen - 

    Today I am planning two learning activities for our local writing project. For one activity, I'm curating classroom blogging resources according to how useful-for-beginners they seem to me. For the other activity, I'm curating digital stories (like OK Go videos) that inspire me to make stuff.

    The purpose of the first set is to create a how-to map with branching paths that all lead to the same end - the creation of a class blog. The purpose of the second set is inspire people to want to find their own paths into digital story-telling (which seems to me bigger and more amorphous - which is good - than blogging because I have a biased view of blogging as print-based).

    I wonder which set will be most effective - the one I'm collecting and annotating for my audience, or the one I'm collecting for myself to share with my audience.

    I will report back!

  • karen   July 14, 2012, 3:01 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Shaz   July 10, 2012, 4 p.m.

    Anything goes on P2PU! It's really a giant lab/sandbox for experimentation so feel free to use it anyway you like.

    I'm enjoying your contributions here.

  • Paul Oh   July 14, 2012, 9:08 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Kim   July 10, 2012, 8:54 p.m.

    Responding late to this, Kim - my apologies. If I sounded as though I think art and science (or even consuming and creating) present either/or dichotomies, then I misspoke. In fact, I think I'm arguing that both sides - or all sides, as they're bound to be more than two - need to be considered. So I think we agree - the lines are not always sharp between, say, art and science and consuming and creating. They're often very much interconnected.

  • Shaz   July 9, 2012, 1:42 p.m.

    In response to this video, I would argue that Tina Roth Eisenberg, saving for her personal archive of what she finds beautiful, is more of a collector/archiver as opposed to a curator. It is personal, not for presenting. That's what I use facebook for, to hoard links I find interesting and beautiful and worthy of presenting to others, but I do nothing else then hit "share" e Basta. Bookmarks are explicitly personal. 

    In this light, I would echo what Kevin said:

    " 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?" 

    I would say no.

    So would Choire Sicha, who I have no idea who she is but actually quotes Ms. Eisenberg.


    What really struck me from the video was the quesiton "Why did I make this selection?", and this reflection on the part of the curator is a distinguishing factor for me. In this digital age, I find, people have a lot of time for absorbing and little for reflecting

    In curation, there is alost more of an element of relationship, asking the pregnant quesiton "What do you think?".  Curating provides the curator with the space where they are accountable and gently forced to take a step and reflect. That makes it important to me as a learner.

    It's also really helpful when other curators teach me.

  • Joe Dillon   July 8, 2012, 10:26 p.m.

    Curation as storytelling?

    Here's an interview Howard Rheingold conducted with Henry Lowood, the curator of  the history of science and technology and film and media at Stanford Library. It was interesting for me to listen to this recently. At about the 7:15- 8:30 mark, Lowood offers advice to people interested in starting curation of any sort. He advises that we think about the artifacts we collect as storytelling opportunities. This advice reminds me that every search online results in a list, so curation ought to be more than making lists pared down from voluminous search results. There might be a degree of storytelling involved for me when I think about the resources I have tried and found success with as a teacher. The collections I make of those resources and the recommendations I make with them are storytelling opportunities. 

  • Shaz   July 9, 2012, 1:34 p.m.
    In Reply To:   Joe Dillon   July 8, 2012, 10:26 p.m.

    Hi Joe,

    Thanks for sharing this. I haven't had a chance to listen the whole way through but yes to the time mark you higlighted. I would agree with the concept of storytelling opportunities, but  I would mention that this very much depends on the nature of your collection and how much of an expert you've become.