The Call of Curation

It’s sometimes a challenge to explain to people what I do for a living as an editor and writer in this day and age. At the Literary Safari offices where we specialize in interactive editorial services, a lot of our daily labor certainly falls under the banner of content development and creation. We help clients articulate and frame a broad product concept in specific narrative terms. We conceptualize product ideas with twin audiences of young people and the educational community. We sculpt innovative and interactive approaches to learning that are aligned with existing curriculum goals (aka standards). Alongside all of this, there’s a gamut of editing and writing that gets done – from creative writing and character development to lesson plans. And, of course, no project is complete without the right level of project management. These were all the different kinds of roles we recently played in the development of HD Lab, a new online game based on the popular PBS series History Detectives.

And, yet, in articulating all of this, I always feel like I’m not fully describing what seems to be becoming a bigger role for myself and my colleagues; more and more, we are being tasked to identify and draw upon multiple methodologies, disciplines, mediums (or media), and resources as inspiration and guides, then yoke them together to craft a new type of user experience. The world is changing and so is our role–and I feel like I’m on a constant search of the right words to describe what we do and can offer.

So, when I came across the video, “What is Curation?”  in a recent Brainpickings newsletter, it lent me some of the language that I’ve been in search of. Produced by the Brooklyn-based m ss ng p eces, it vividly explains the shifts we are seeing in the world of content creation.

curation (n.): a drive to find the interesting, meaningful, and relevant amidst the vast maze of overabundant information, creating a framework for what matters in the world and why

The shift in thinking in the video echoes  what the 18th century philosopher David Hume described in A Treatise on Human Nature as the essence of invention — the act of recombination, of compounding an idea or transposing it from one field to another [hat tip, Michiko Kukutani]:

Nor will this liberty of the fancy [imagination] appear strange, when we consider, that all our ideas are copy’d from our impressions, and that there are not any two impressions which are perfectly inseparable. Not to mention, that this is an evident consequence of the division of ideas into simple and complex. Where-ever the imagination perceives a difference among ideas, it can easily produce a separation [and a recombination].

More and more, in order to be effective content creators and developers, we must also play the role of curators.

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