Enlighten yourself and you will enlighten the viewer. – Jean-Christophe Ammann – Carin Kuoni, Words of Wisdom: A Curator’s Vade Mecum
As the Internet grows up we see an increasing polarisation of views and debate, the storms and tornadoes of a virtual landscape.
But, just because we see lots of noise, it doesn’t mean we have to react to every little thing that comes along.
If we do want to get better at responding, however, we have to get better at separating the signal from the noise, the stuff that matters from the stuff that doesn’t.
When you look at what is happening online these days you see lots of themes – cults of personality, new terms like humblebrag, and the strategic use of sympathy-generating stories to boost one’s social media profile.
Most of us probably feel like we’re being tossed about in a sea full of flotsam and are unsure what to hold on to – how to make sense of what is going on.
And one way to do that – one way to find a lifeboat – is to get better at curation.
Which is why I stopped when I came across James A. Cohen and Paul Mihailidis’s 2013 paper Exploring Curation as a core competency in digital and media literacy education.
Cohen and Mihailidis argue that learning how to curate content makes us more literate.
Literacy, you must remember, is not just the ability to read.
It also requires you to learn how to write.
And in a world where content comes at us in different forms, literacy means more than consuming it – it also means being able to critically consider, analyse and express ourselves online – perhaps through the content we select and present as the content we like and identify with – the content we curate.
And so, if you want to get better at curation ask yourself how much you use these six skills brought out in this paper.
First, we get content in two main ways these days – top down and bottom up.
We get a traditional or official view from the media, the kind of stuff you get from newspapers and the TV, where journalists go out and research the story and give it to us in a top down way.
The other way is through our peer to peer social networks – a bottom up method.
For example, I’ll often check BBC and then check Twitter and millions of people probably use a similar approach to get their news.
These two sources can often be in conflict – as has been shown over the last few years between the media and a certain prominent leader.
The next thing to consider is where you get the information – what’s the medium, message or platform?,
Do you still get newspapers or is your entire diet served online?
What do you miss by only having one of those media?
And how do you benefit by keeping an eye on more than one?
Then you have to think about sources, voices and credibility.
Do you believe a President, a group of scientists or a young activist when it comes to the scale and urgency of climate change?
Of course, you have to always keep in mind that people engage in framing, bias, agenda and perspective.
What’s their point of view, is it honest, do they have an angle, why should you trust them?
There are too many people in the world who are looking for a shortcut to becoming rich and famous.
And there are too many people working on important and useful work that are barely recognised.
You’re in the position of a miner working through lots of useless rock to get to a seam of gold.
And if you can’t tell the difference between a rock and a lump of gold, you might want to learn that first before investing in digging gear.
So, after all that are you making sure you’re being exposed to a diverse set of views?
Many people take a position and refuse to listen to others.
And that leaves no option but to engage in conflict, and no one usually wins, not in the long term anyway.
It’s important to be exposed to people who think differently, who see the world differently.
You might not like what they have to say, but if they’re right then eventually you’ll be found out as wrong.
The last point is that whatever you do should keep in mind civic values and civic voices.
We all live in communities, small ones where our children go to school, large ones that make up nations and a global one that is the only place we inhabit.
What’s going on in other parts of the world matters, especially when there is injustice and oppression.
And the only way to deal with that is to shine a light on it – or at least keep your eyes open and be a witness to what is going on.
The essential skill that we need to develop to deal with the world is the ability to think critically with what is happening around us.
In a world full of information that starts with what we curate for ourselves and each other.