We Are All Curators
23/03/2012 § 26 Comments
The word “curation” in common usage has lost some its meaning. We think of it more in terms of collector, aggregator or disseminator and not as “caretaker” as is its true definition. We future and current archivists and librarians, are all curators of information. We are shepherds and superintendents of data and particularly in the online space, we should be setting the example for proper care.
Anyone who tweets, facebooks, blogs, links, writes, or shares in the online space is similarly a curator of information. A webpage is just like a piece of paper in a library with all accompanying metadata. The shared hyperlink to that paper is both amazing tool and the source of conscientious curation questions.
The new information economy is not based on amassing huge amounts of data but curating and providing context to important, true, interesting, and/or relevant information. A link deserves to be attributed if shared. No brainer right? This is usually accomplished by linking to the original post or page. Equally important, however, is the source of the material – who or whatever lead to it – similarly deserves credit.
I have been ruminating on this idea of late after reading the Curator’s Code by Maria Popova. You can visit the original Curator’s Code site here and for more mind fodder you can watch, read, read and, for the contrary view, read - links via @brainpicker and Google. Basically, the Code advocates using “via” and “HT” (Hat Tip) with your links to attribute your source if other than the original creator, either a from direct link or a stream-of-finding respectively.
The idea is that just as you attribute an idea you espouse to a person, book or quote, you should also reference from whom – from what curator – you found your item of information (picture, link, article, post etc).
This mostly pertains to Twitter and Facebook but crosses into any social media platform. The system is not perfect and depends on a community that values curation – that esteems the caretakers of information. (ahem: like librarians)
Some automation to this end occurs with Twitter, Facebook and even Pinterest if you re-share a link (retweet, reshare and repin respectively) but there are ways to circumvent it for the less honorable. Instead of relying on the application to make the connection, the act of source attribution ought be a conscious one.
Think about it this way: If you found a really funny or profound image after many hours of research, shared it online and it went viral, wouldn’t you want credit for being the “source.” Sure the original was out there previously, but you were the one that brought it to light and added context by saying “this is important enough to share” and providing a statement (or more) about the original that give it more meaning – even if that is in the form of a hashtag or “LOL.”
Just as you wouldn’t state an idea as yours if you got it from someone else, so ought you not retweet or repost without giving credit to the curator who brought the item to your attention. We certainly care about original artistic content but we should be equally careful about how we use and share intellectual content.
I do see the opposing view: Do we cite the finding aide or even library from where we gather our information? Likely not formally. If we are conscientious person, however, we at least thank our supporters and influencers. I see the “via” and “HT” as the responsible and courteous thing to do. For me, I have found a wealth of other good sources (including @brianpicker Popova) because others have properly attributed their tweets or blog musings. I see it like a painting on loan to a museum, the loaning organization is identified — credited — along with the artist and title.
The LIS community should be a the forefront of these types of issues, shaping and setting standards. Besides linking or liking the writings of others, however, I haven’t seen a whole lot of original content generated. I am happy to see that both the APA and MLA set guidelines for Twitter attribution but much more is needed to clarify and codify good online citation behavior.
What do you think? Do you use HT and via? Are there more norms that should be established? Or is this a waste of effort?