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The Role of Community and How It Should Be in the Curator Economy
As a community, we’re here to teach one another what's worth focusing on in this oversaturated world.
Anyone can be a curator today, if they adapt to the new meaning of the word “curated”.
The word has been carelessly thrown around, losing its etymological meaning relating to care. It’s no longer about studious care, but rather about choice, most of the time.
As you may know, modern marketing falls flat without robust personalization. And because curation is supposed to cater to individual tastes, greedy marketers have seized the word and given it a weaker meaning. It sounds fancy. Authoritative. It adds value to whatever people are trying to sell, and it makes them sound knowledgeable while they raise prices.
The sole fact that curated became a buzzword proves the role of community in developing new ideas and sharing them with the world. All in all, that’s a great thing. That’s what a community is supposed to do: keep one another connected with the environment around them.
Yet, that doesn’t mean we should roll with everything that comes around. We can and should question the nature of new fads and jargon, which is exactly what we’re about to do now.
What makes the lazy adaptation of the word “curated” and its variations so unnecessary? And what should people be calling curated content, instead?
Curating Isn’t Simply “Choosing”
The New York Times interviewed Goldsmiths, University of London’s curating professor Andrew Renton, who affirms people made a mistake when they started using the word “curated” after “careful”. This alone shows not everyone quite knows what it’s supposed to mean.
Carefully curated closet. Carefully curated menu. Carefully curated anything.
According to Mr. Renton, the phrase carefully curated is “etymologically, a tautology.” Anything that’s curated should be done so with meticulous consideration, which unfortunately hasn’t been the case with the curation we’re seeing nowadays.
As an example, comparing a studied selection of articles or artworks to something such as a so-called “curated menu”, which is nothing but an empty, expensive renaming of a regular menu, is almost sinful. This makes people believe curation doesn’t hold the deep meaning it does.
“This contemporary resonance risks producing a kind of bubble where the word in itself loses meaning”, says Hans-Ulrich Obrist, an artistic director and curator at London’s Serpentine Galleries.
It’s not about the price they put on it. It’s about how the curation is done, and by whom. And that includes creators of the digital age.
Instagram curator Sam Trotman has said it all: “A good curator does the research, writes, and edits, and doesn’t just repost images.” The alleged curated posts you’ve been reading might not have been curated, but merely reposted.
If engagement with content curation is only possible with community-based interaction, what can the community do to keep good, well-curated information available to everyone?
Choose Who to Trust. Carefully.
The power of community over an individual is undoubted. Our choices are never fully personal -- we’re constantly looking around for clues about what’s right or wrong, what’s safe and what isn’t, how to be better human beings, and how to be more like our tribes.
There’s a reason why influencer marketing is growing like weeds. As social media users, we trust people we resonate with to tell us “This is safe to try. If I like it, you’ll probably like it, too.”
People gather around influencers who have the same vibe as them for a much-needed indicator that they’re not deviating from the right track. And, above all, that they’re not going to waste their money or their time on anything.
Since the elements of closeness and trust are so important, micro-influencers are being favored over sought-after celebrities. They’re more connected with their community, and therefore more relatable to them. It’s easier for their followers to make their choices based on someone who’s more humanized and accessible, and whose preferences are so similar to theirs.
Besides, hearing and reading recommendations from people you trust feels safer than believing an algorithm that’s working hard to make you add more stuff to your cart.
Yet, these aren’t just any people. These are professionals.
Just as professional influencers get paid to sponsor products, curation professionals get paid to stick their hands into a miscellany of online content and stir it for us. People like them take the burden off the quest for what to read next when the options are endless.
The value doesn’t lie in having content distilled and distributed, but done so through the judgment of an expert. It pays to know who stands behind the curated content you consume and whether their specific outlook adds value to what’s being consumed. Otherwise, you’ll risk wasting your time and money with poorly selected works when you were already doing it for free.
Will Everyone Have Access to Quality Information in the Near Future?
Would you pay to receive summarized roundups of the best articles, from someone who reads thousands of articles everyday? Lots of people would, especially if their taste is similar.
The articles are free -- the selection isn’t. Diligent curation is hard work, and monetizing it is only fair. Trouble is, people have been monetizing sloppy work and calling it curation.
People are learning about the profitable power of the word, and that there is a huge market for curators as much as there is for the content creators out there.
Granted, not everyone will exchange their curation skills for money. Some of them will still use it as a means of drawing people toward their content, as it’s done with blogs and free newsletters.
It’s up to a knowledge-obsessed community to rescue the meaning of true curation, hoping the curators’ efforts are to inform and select, rather than being driven by a lack of creativity and a hunger for money.
Curating is by no means easier than creating -- not when dutifully done. As a community, we’re here to teach one another what's worth focusing on in this oversaturated world. And hopefully, we’ll be leading ourselves in the right direction.
See you next time,