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New heroes of the web
We alter, sculpt and often re-engineer what we are and what we share online. This makes each of us a curator
Wake up. Tweet a snarky one-liner . Scroll through Facebook newsfeed, comment intelligently on friend's status update on current affairs . Change cover photo . Login to Pinterest, pin a picture of a salad . Share an incisive analysis of the fiscal cliff or the latest from the world of neuropsychology . Share a hilarious meme. Upload the trailer of Michael Haneke's Amour. Tweet. Retweet. Blog. Comment. Share. Like. And there, by the end of the day, you have beamed out yourself to the world - funny, ironic, attractive, wellread, wise, up-to-date with the zeitgeist, opinionated, hip and arty.
"In the 16th century, the poet was artist-king. The 19th: the novelist. 20th: the film-maker. I wonder if in the 21st, it'll be the curator, " said Joe Hill, an American author and comic book writer, in a tweet last year. Today, we are all curators. On social networking, we tailor, we cut off the awkward edges, present polished opinions, appreciate a certain brand of humour and speak in measured tones - we present versions of ourselves that would be most agreeable to our online cliques. In a way, our social 'page' is like our Skype window to the world, through which the others can see the neat, organized, interesting part of our living room in the peripheral vision while dirty dishes and piles of clothes lurk just outside the edge.
These little social enclaves within the World Wide Web, which was created as an all-inclusive, open source of information, have turned us into creatures of cliques.
And because we alter, sculpt and often re-engineer what we are and what we share online, companies that chart and analyse what the world is surfing and consuming say that "social media graphs" often provide an incorrect picture. Jonathan Siddharth, co-founder of Flipora, a web discovery service, says that this is why anonymous data mining is much more accurate when it comes to ranking what everyone is truly following, whether it is sports updates, tabloid news or political opinions.
Curating information, whether to a personal end or not, will only become more critical. Pinterest, for instance, that could be called a visual publishing/curation site, is the fastest expanding webservice ever. Thousands of social "sharers", bloggers, collectors have become internet sensations for shining the light on the right stuff, repeatedly.
Though curation is not creation, it is nonetheless an art - it requires a keen eye for content at the right time and in the right context. Fast Company, a leading business media brand, called content curators the "new superheroes of the web".
Image curation, or what is traditionally known as public relations for brands, also involves handpicking the information wheat from the chaff for a select audience and not every social media user makes a great information tailor.
Information today is continually renewing, changing, churning and growing. Finding worthy stuff to read and watch (the jargon for which is content discovery) can be overwhelming, bewildering and often a lost cause in spite of several existing sites that assist in picking out news that you would like and web discovery. And here lies the value of social curating - when you find content for people who are more like you than not, the content is more likely to be appreciated and followed.
Priyadarshi Sharma, an advertising executive, says that after social networking she reads and consumes much more than before. Maria Popova, editor of BrainPickings. org, an extremely popular "library of cross-disciplinary interestingness and combinatorial creativity", has 16, 000+ followers on Twitter. But she follows only those who share interesting links in 90 per cent of their tweets.
Online, curators and creators are almost equal. A 2012 Pew Internet Research report says that while 46 per cent of adult internet users post original photos or videos online that they themselves have created, 41 per cent are curators.
The internet today is undeniably competitive - the culture of "likes", "shares", "friends", "followers" and "retweets" can be stressful and demanding. It is as easy to feel celebrated as it is to be isolated. And ironically, the medium that used to be an anonymous escape for the quintessential recluse/introvert/geek is now practically mimicking high school hallways with its strictly stratified groups of the popular and the misfits.
But it is also the essential democracy of the web - that at any moment an unknown curator or creator can become a sensation - that is what makes it so irresistible.
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