Curator Culture

More and more, I've noticed a desire for curation online. It used to be that the apparent infinitude of the web was its main attraction. You could find anything you wanted, and some things you didn't know you wanted. And on top of that, or maybe because of that, the web attracted creativity. You could film yourself doing a dance to a funny Romanian song, and the internet provided a place for you to put that, and people to watch and appreciate it. The ease of creation and the built-in audience gave the internet a creator culture.

It still has a creator culture, but for a lot of people, it's worn thin. The internet is now filtered through Facebook, Twitter, Insta-this, and Snap-that. (I'm not trying to be clever. I really don't know the names of the newest social filtration services.) The point is that most of us approach the internet through a series of filters. There's simply too much for us to take in, so we have to find some way to limit it. Longform.org, a website that aggregates long articles from around the web, said that their "random article" feature is how most people find stuff to read. Choice is exhausting. Somebody just tell me what to look at.

Personally, I prefer making my own choices about what I read or watch online, but I still find it hard to decide when faced with a gazillion options. I have to find some way to curate, to separate wheat from chaff, so I've gravitated toward relying on the recommendations of people I know and/or whose opinion respect. The personal element is crucial. I have an innate distrust of recommendation algorithms (like what Pandora might use, for example). A playlist that a friend of mine put together on Spotify is much more appealing to me.

All that to say, I wonder if we will see or are seeing a decline in the web's creator culture and a rise in the web's curator culture. The creators are still necessary, of course, but now that we're adrift on a sea of "content" there may be a rising need for someone to navigate.

Addendum

When I tweeted about this earlier this year, a few friends responded. Fraser pointed out that the "creator culture" has already started to give way (if it ever existed) to a sort of "reshuffling culture," where everyone tries to profit off the existing content without creating new stuff. Or at least, the creation of content isn't the valuable part.

Sam mentioned that a form of curation is exactly what publishers, music labels, movie theaters, and TV networks do, which makes me wonder if the apparent freedom of the internet will eventually coalesce into some "content giants" (like Youtube, for example) with the power to suppress certain things and bring others to the top. Facebook already does this, apparently.