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Steven Rosenbaum

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Curation: Making Sense of Digital Information

So much information; so little time. This is a universal dilemmaof the 21st century. We are inundated with email, tweets, blog posts, Linkedin updates and comments, Facebook news feeds and messages, rss feeds, in addition to old-tech media like newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio.  It’s more than the human brain can comprehend. But the solution is at our fingertips. It’s called curation!

The title "curator" used to be reserved for someone who cares for the content of large cultural institutions such as galleries, museums, and libraries. These people protect and organize collections of objects for the purpose of making them physically and intellectually accessible to researchers and the public. They are professionals who have the expertise and credentials to do this kind of work.

Now the activity of curation has moved into the mainstream. Technology allows consumers of information to also be curators of information.  Steven Rosenbaum, author of Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers are Creators, writes:

…curation is about adding value from humans who add their qualitative judgment to whatever is being gathered and organized…there is both amateur and professional curation, and the emergence of amateur or pro-sumer curators isn’t in any way a threat to professionals.

We can use technology to select, organize, present, and evolve the information that we need. We can take charge of the flow by controlling quality, timing, and topics. Users can control amount as well as when and where the information is received.

I like the description of curation used by the International Arts Movement for their online publication, Curator. They write:

In keeping with IAM’s belief that artistic excellence, as a model of “what ought to be”, paves the way for lasting, enduring humanity, The Curator seeks to encourage, promote, and uncover those artifacts of culture – those things which humans create – that inspire and embody truth, goodness, and beauty. We do this through considering and grappling with the zeitgeist.

IAM has criteria for deciding which “artifacts of culture” they will collect and how they will make these materials available to the public. People who buy into their beliefs about culture and art, will appreciate the curation that this publication does for them.

It has been difficult enough to make sense of the large number of tangible art objects. Without MP900401942 curation, it is impossible for consumers of information to manage the amount of digital data and objects. As Rosenbaum puts it, “The world needs thoughtful filters.” He recommends that these filters do three things: 1) make choices about which data to include; 2) endorse a small set of information; and 3) provide clarity to the information provided.

Aggregators of online information, such as and, serve a useful purpose, but they don’t make choices and don’t provide clarity. Curation takes the management of information a step further, adding value to the set of data by selecting what best fits the criteria of consumers and helping consumers understand the meaning and usefulness of the information.

Learning to be Great™ is an example of curation of digital objects. Jim Stilwell and I created the site to make high quality orphan, organizational improvement tools available to organizational leaders seeking to influence change. The site narrows down the set of tools to a manageable number and brings clarity to the application of these tools. All of the material, which comes from our members, is organized into an easy-to-search, three by four matrix. The matrix has three forms of tools: 1) surveys; 2) models; and 3) solutions; and four foci: 1) individuals; 2) teams; 3) whole organizations; and 4) communities. For each tool there is an explanation of how the tool should be used and under what circumstances, as well as features and benefits. Finding organizational improvement tools can be an overwhelming task for a leader. Learning to be Great™ curates the information for leaders, hopefully contributing to their success.

Specialized sites are needed to help users find the best resources within the digital morass of cyberspace. Search is time consuming and provides no quality control. Curation is needed to make sense of it all. 

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