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Our lives are digital curation tools

As our lives become increasingly digital curation tools can provide a good way to document our activities, capturing a snapshot of key events and moments.

Tom Foremski: In Silicon Valley
Tom Foremski is a former Financial Times journalist and the Founder and Publisher of Silicon Valley Watcher, which is an online news site reporting on... More

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For example, the South by South West Interactive conference that took place in Austin, Texas attracted a lot of people, sharing lots of ideas, conversations, product launches, and more.

Take at look at MobyNow’s real-time aggregation of all the social media at SXSW and you’ll see what I mean, the masses of tweets, photos, etc. And that’s what aggregation is good at — finding everything that’s relevant or related is easy.

But aggregation isn’t that great at documenting a unique experience of an event such as SXSW in digital form. That’s where curation steps in, it can make sense of a mass of information in a useable format.

Curation can help to create a specific snapshot. And like snapshots in our photo galleries, curation creates and conserves memories.

For example: In the future, kids might ask “What did grandpa do at SXSW in 2011?” They could search the Internet and come up with a mess of tweets, photos and posts. But without much context, and without editing, that would be a poor answer to that question.

However, if grandpa had curated his time at SXSW using some of the many digital curation tools available, the answer would be much richer and much more interesting.

The recently launched Memolane does a good job in creating a timeline of a person’s tweets. It’s a step towards documenting a person’s life — at least in tweets.

But this form of aggregation, like all aggregation, can only go so far. After all, the computer doesn’t know the context and the importance of one tweet over another, the machine is blind to culture. The guys over at JS-Kit, Khris Loux and Chris Saad, like to talk about the “synaptic web.” This might be an approach that will one day improve machine understanding of culture and context.

But in the meantime, a little human labour exerted in the form of curation can make a big difference in surfacing meaning out of the chaos of the internet.

Digital curation will find many expressions and people will find many new uses for these tools because curation helps make sense of a dynamic, ever changing Internet.

And as our lives become more digital, we will all become curators, in one way or another.