In this podcast, Seth discusses the practice of “curating” and how the role has evolved.
Payola may be an illegal practice in the music industry, but many people and businesses have used their curational authority or positional advantages to profit from another creator’s work. It is not a good public policy when creators must pretend other people contributed to their work just to get their work heard.
Curation matters because we do not have the time or resources to review all possible choices that are available to us for any subject area. Curation changes what is in front of us and what we believe. Curation also has always been driven by scarcity. Great curators put the truth in front of people who need to hear it in a way that changes the culture.
Curation has problems. The biggest problem is it silences outsider voices. The curator also tends to get conservative overtime because we become more risk-averse. We do not want to introduce something so wrong in our curation recommendations that could diminish our reputation. The curator fears they will lose their credibility, and they will not get to be a curator anymore.
Before the Internet became popular, cable TV plays a vital curation role. Each specialized cable TV channel has stood for something. Then the Internet came along and changed the curation role once again. We took a huge leap from just having a handful of people in any industry do the curation to thousand of times as many people.
When we have too many people doing the curation, and, with minimal boundaries, we, in effect, have entered a curation-free zone. What the founders of social media sites discovered are that algorithms can influence the audience by reshuffling attention every day.
Algorithms create seemingly a louder voice than the typical curators, so computers force many curators into becoming ever more dramatic in their work. At the same time, it seems the reputation of the curator is not as influential as the algorithm
When we are in a curation-free zone, the absence of leadership can make a difference in matters such as politics and public health. When curation does not work anymore and no reliable place to go, panic can take its place because there is no other place to look for guidance. So where do we go in the world turned upside down when panic reigns and loud voices are pushing us to do the wrong thing?
What we need is to go back to a model that emphasizes credibility, trust, and attention. Wikipedia has a team of volunteers who care about the reliability and confidence of the information source. The Wikipedia team is looking out for us, the encyclopedia users. The Wikipedia articles may not be as good as they ultimately could be, but it is fair to say that all of them are better than the alternative.
As a trusted curator, we need to be able to stand on the principle of who we can trust. Right now, it seems every day is April Fool because we are getting fooled every day by some social media garbage. We need to bring back curation and reestablish the trust, both ways. We need to create an environment where there is an incentive for all parties to remain trustworthy to one another.