In various corners of the web, the idea of curation as creation has been gaining some currency. Some people see it as a new form of news gathering, and the most visible embodiment of this is probably the Huffington Post. Even the current-day use of curation in museums has not escaped scrutiny.
In a recent piece over at Business Insider, Steve Rosenbaum attempts to make the case that content is no longer king, and that curation is set to take its place (of course, as several commenters observed, the author has a pretty enormous financial interest in making this case, as he is the CEO of magnify.net, a site that supports video curation - but the effect of an overwhelming financial incentive on a person's "judgement" is a topic for another post). His arguments are pretty familiar - people like sharing, devices make it easier to post content, increased bandwidth will make it easier to share more; and he points to Foursquare as evidence of just how much people like to share content. Ironically, his piece feels like a curation of other people's ideas, which is okay, as writing has always included an element of curation. But more on that later.
Ease of publishing has changed. The process of distribution is vastly simplified. In short, just about anyone can take a video of their cat, and that video can be distributed with ease. And the same is true of text, images, and audio, in any combination.
But that doesn't make us all filmmakers. All content is not created equal. Some things are better than others, and the reality that - from a technical perspective - high quality content can be published and distributed with the the same ease as low quality content should not blind us to the reality that some content is just better than others. And when it comes to creating content, it has always been done within a context, or within multiple contexts - historical, intellectual, or cultural, to name a few. The rules around plagiarism, and the disdain for the plagiarist, are an indication of this - the internet, and the ready availability of content, doesn't change this. We have always incorporated the ideas of others in our creative work, to a lesser or greater extent.
Creation has always included an element of curation. Certain technologies (especially some search and aggregation tools) can automate the legwork of collecting what eventually becomes curated. Design choices (such as clearly presenting the original source of the work, presenting a summary of the original piece, and clearly linking back to the original publication) can highlight that the work is curated, as opposed to original. But these are only changes in process and presentation - a lot of what gets called curation is more akin to sharing notes. Of course, on the internet, creating an either/or argument will get you more pageviews. The sharpness of it inspires responses (like this one). Fortunately, reality is more inclusive; content still matters, and skilled curation of good, relevant content will act as another peer-driven means of distributing that content to new audiences.
A real question drives these curation versus creation debates: how will any of this return print, and/or journalism, into a moneymaking enterprise? The conversations about curation, in some places, have more to do about the search for a business model than the search for new, more effective ways of communicating.