THING 21 – DIGITAL CURATION
What is digital curation? Traditionally, we think of a curator as someone who selects objects, interprets context and manages collections in a museum. But it also describes what any professional might do with their “collections”! If you’ve ever selected, evaluated and organized a collection of great web resources for a research project, then you’re a curator!
So why the explosion of interest in digital curation? With a mind-boggling amount of content on the Internet, content that varies enormously in quality, there’s huge value in relying on experts to select the best content for a topic. And with that need, many new tools have been developed to make it easy for anyone to select, collect and share their own collections of digital resources.
Ironically, this harkens back to the early days of the web, when we had easy-to-use directories of good resources that were curated for us. Anyone remember Yahoo’s Subject Directory? The difference is now anyone can easily be a curator, which of course leads to the challenge of evaluating which curated collections are the best, most authoritative, most complete, up to date, etc.
Effective and ethical curation
The role of curator has traditionally been played by professionals in libraries, museums and galleries. Digital ‘artefacts’ are more freely available and reusable, and can be curated by anyone. What are the principles of effective curation? One issue to consider is that of copyright, intellectual property and acknowledgment. If curation entails making use of resources created by others, and if digital artifacts can be easily removed from context, changed and shared, then it is important to make ethical and legal use of them.
You might choose to collate resources on a particular occasion or for a particular purpose, in which case you will need to make time to do so especially; you might also integrate curation with issues which you yourself are interested in finding out more about, so it becomes a routine by-product. If you have selected appropriate tools and learned to used them effectively, then curating content as you find it in the course of your usual online searching will be easy. How will you maintain an overview of your curation over the longer term so that it remains coherent? How often will you need to update for your curation to remain relevant? How will you make sure that your intended audience is aware of what you offer, by integrating it with other aspects of your online presence?