Recently I’ve been reading a book by Steven Rosenbaum called Curation Nation: Why the Future of Content is Context (McGraw Hill, 2011).
Rosenbaum’s premise is based on two ideas: “First, curation is about adding value from humans who add their qualitative judgment to whatever is being gathered and organized. And second, 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.”
Further, “curation is about selection, organization, presentation, and evolution. While computers can aggregate content, information, or any shape or size of data, aggregation without curation is just a big pile of stuff that seems related but lacks a qualitative organization….Curation is an exhilarating, fast-moving, evolving idea that addresses two parallel trends: the explosive growth in data, and our need to be able to find information in coherent, reasonably contextual groupings.”
Is it just me, or does this scream LIS career opportunity?
Information Professionals as Data Curators?
In an excellent overview by Rohit Bhargava in his “Manifesto/Job Description: Content Curator,” he writes:
In the near future, experts predict that content on the web will double every 72 hours. The detached analysis of an algorithm will no longer be enough to find what we are looking for. To satisfy the people’s hunger for great content on any topic imaginable, there will need to be a new category of individual working online. Someone whose job it is not to create more content, but to make sense of all the content that others are creating. To find the best and most relevant content and bring it forward. The people who choose to take on this role will be known as Content Curators.
The future of the social web will be driven by these Content Curators, who take it upon themselves to collect and share the best content online for others to consume and take on the role of citizen editors, publishing highly valuable compilations of content created by others. In time, these curators will bring more utility and order to the social web. In doing so, they will help to add a voice and point of view to organizations and companies that can connect them with customers – creating an entirely new dialogue based on valued content rather than just brand created marketing messages.
Redeploying Skills for New Career Opportunity
Essentially, all of the skills that LIS professionals have been deploying within libraries, organizations, special collections, etc., will be in increasing demand in a new online environment, not necessarily connected to a library infrastructure of any sort.
Some of this work is likely to be done for content organizations, some likely to be done for companies whose products/services are based on presenting only the best resources/information on a topic, some done on a freelance or independent basis where individuals with recognized subject expertise create monetizable value by aggregating the best information on an in-demand topic.
At this point, content curation sounds like an opportunity with more questions than answers. What’s the difference between data curation and content curation? Who’s doing this type of work and for whom? Are any LIS graduates going into this field? What exactly do job descriptions look like, and how would we sell our LIS skills to hiring managers? What, if any, additional skills would make us more competitive candidates when applying for these jobs?
It would be great to find more information out about this possible career opportunity – is anyone working in this area yet? In the meantime, I’m going to continue to track the field.
It’s not just you. I will have to read this book, but in my fantasy head, this is what I’d like to do. That is, it is a fantasy borne of having zero idea of what it actually means. I am hopeful you get useful feedback from this, because I’d be very interested to see how this concept is manifesting itself in the LIS field.
I’m working on this a little bit. Right now it’s a matter of how it’s done in the “library world” and everyone else. I’m working to help develop a taxonomy for my institution, and it’s a matter of setting up the infrastructure so that individuals can accurately catalog/classify/tag/organize information. There’s just so much now that it has to be broken up really well. I think it’s the LIS communities job now to provide the infrastructure and guidance rather than actually doing the organization like was traditionally done.
Really interesting comments, Leigh and Jacob. I’m realizing that several of the major content development projects I’ve done over the past several years also fall into this category – essentially, aggregating or creating “best in class” (on a good day!) information in a specific topic area. Jacob, I think your point is a good one, i.e., that LIS professionals may end up working more at the strategy and conceptual level than at the tactical or execution level.
Like you both, I’m very interested to see how this starts to play out in the profession as well as outside it; and to see where LIS pros create or respond to opportunity.
You know, I think there is more to this than we may think. The way I am seeing it, reading lots of tech blogs and emerging tech/digital humanities stuff, is that content curation is absolutely a skill that is married to the social and semantic web. Thinking about, and being involved in those areas is key to content curation. I also think there is a important distinction between content and data here: curating data often requires more CompSci skills whereas content seems to be more LIS or humanities based. Right now, I think it is fair and accurate to say that no one has any idea that people trained in librarianship are perfect candidates for the emerging curation field. As for you question of additional skills? I think coding is a must and a deep understanding of networks, Information Technology and databases (all part of my post grad personal goals). To be perfectly honest, in my mind the quintessential Information (data+content) Curator would have a humanities background, with graduate degrees in CompSci and LIS.
I’m incredibly interested in this topic too, and really excited to see how I fit into the growing field in the future. Thanks for this post Dr. Dority. I plan to pick up and read this book the day after classes end!
Micah, that’s the most useful distinction between data and content curation I’ve seen so far – and very logical. Also, it completely aligns with my own professional experience. I’m confident doing content curation with my undergard humanities/literature background, but would be hard-pressed to add value in the area of data curation without the CompSci component.
And it’s just Kim Dority – haven’t found time for the doctorate yet!