Slouching Toward the Curatorial

August 3rd, 2010

Based on my own experience and the comments I’ve seen on content-related discussions of curation, I’m guessing that most content strategists who don’t come from the museum or art worlds don’t realize that there’s a whole field right across the hall (or perhaps in the building next door) that offers processes, perspectives, and a mature body of literature, all of which relate to our work.

My first inkling of this came early in a project I’m working on with Happy Cog Studios and Ralph Appelbaum Associates. The RAA team brought their content development process to a meeting and I brought mine, and we discovered that they covered nearly identical areas—though RAA’s was designed for years-long (and very expensive) museum projects and mine usually takes about four months to get through. As I mentioned in my last post, this kicked off a months-long reading project for me, including not only the official research conducted for the project, but the kind of unofficial, independent research I always do to try to get under the skin of a major project. Read more ⇒

The Curate and the Curator

July 29th, 2010

In the middle ages, as English began to evolve into its modern form, the curator reappears as the spiritual caretaker of the Christian church in England. Because I am a nerd, here’s one of the two attestations from Piers Plowman that the OED uses to date the term’s entry into English:

For persones and parish prestes that shulde the peple shryue, Ben curatoures called to knowe and to hele, Alle that ben her parisshiens. (Our parish priests, whose duty it is to hear the people’s confessions, are called ‘curates’ because their business is to know their parishioners, and to cure them.)[ref]Schmidt, A. V. C. Piers Plowman: A New Translation of the B-text (Oxford World’s Classics) p. 251[/ref]

As David Levi Strauss puts it, “one could say that the split within curating—between the management and control of public works (law) and the cure of souls (faith)—was there from the beginning. Curators have always been a curious mixture of bureaucrat and priest.” It’s worth adding that while parish priests were caring for their parishioners’ souls, the inhabitants of medieval monasteries and convents were doing an impressive job of creating, collecting, and keeping safe the written records of civilization. Read more ⇒

Credo: Addendum

July 27th, 2010

As I publish a short series of posts on content curation this week, it’s occurred to me that there are a few core assumptions I’d like to clarify in something like an addendum to the credo on my about page.

  • Content strategy is as obviously important in web development projects as UI design or project management. Someone must deal with content, and anyone who believes otherwise is unlikely to produce good websites.
  • The modern practice of content strategy arises from a number of venerable professions and takes its core principles from editorial, analytical, curatorial, marketing, and managerial work. This doesn’t mean that it “is” any of those things.
  • In particular, content strategy is not a subset of marketing. Marketing is one application of content strategy.
  • Many marketing people are brilliant, ethical, and very good at their jobs. Some are not, and their influence can be very destructive. The former group should not be held responsible for the actions of the latter, but we should not be expected to pretend that the latter does not exist. (All these statements apply to many other professions, but marketing’s the one I’m focusing on in recent and upcoming posts.)


Curating the Deck Chairs on the Titanic

July 26th, 2010

One of the snarls in the content curation discussion is a problem of definition: leaving aside the ethical, aesthetic, and logical questions about the relation of museum or gallery curation to the online world, what do we—web people—mean when we say “content curation”? Read more ⇒

Content & Curation: An Epic Poem

July 22nd, 2010

If you follow the discussion about content strategy and new-school publishing, you’ve probably seen at least a piece of the “content curation” tussle that’s been heating up on the web. Here’s the 30-second version… Read more ⇒

Myth: People Read Less Online

June 23rd, 2010

Once again, the old story about people not reading on the web is getting attention. As Dean Allen wrote ten years ago, it goes like this: Users don’t read Users only scan Users haven’t got No attention span I hate to get vulgar when it’s not even Friday yet, but this is bullshit. Even in […]

This Is Content

May 27th, 2010

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been seeing a lot of smart people experiencing small paroxysms of insecurity about the use of the word “content” to describe the stuff that people publish online. “It’s impersonal,” goes the narrative. “It’s a buzzword.” “It takes all the humanity and warmth out of our stories and insights and […]

Paying For It

March 24th, 2010

Yesterday, I wrote that content is expensive, and that there are really only four ways to subsidize content online: ads, subscriptions, marketing writeoffs, and paid delivery channels. But we’re not really publishers over here in the web content world, so we don’t need to think about this stuff, right? Eh. If you work in web […]

Content is Expensive

March 24th, 2010

One of the ideas that kept pecking at my brain while I was prepping for our SXSW publishing panel was this: Content isn’t free. If it’s good, it’s very expensive to make. We can subsidize its production and maintenance in any number of ways, but we have to start being honest—with ourselves, our clients, and […]