SXSW: Margot Bloomstein on Creation, Curation and the Ethics of Content Strategy

I’m starting this morning with a session from Margot Bloomstein on content strategy, curation and ethics. I’ve heard her speak before [on a different topic] and she was interesting, so we’ll see how this goes.

OK, right off the bat, this is a hard talk to blog. It’s a very good talk, but hard to synthesize quickly. Bloomstein has talked about creating new content through mashups, and about understanding the point of view of content creators and editors. She seems to argue it’s important for the audience to understand, but hasn’t yet made a judgment on whose job it is to find the info — is it the creator’s to share their perspective and history, or the audience’s to seek it out and then use it to inform their understanding?

Now we’re moving on to curation. Here, Bloomstein argues that point of view is also critical, which I’d agree. She’s talking about museum exhibit curation as a clear example of this.

Interesting point on the difference between curation of a museum exhibition and curating web content. In a museum exhibition, there are usually a very limited number of potential objects available. You make a list of everything you want, and you see what you can get. In web content, there’s often far more available than you could ever use. We often use automated filters with a few parameters and boom! There’s the current top news on X topic.

Pulls up a great example of Skittles pulling everything about Skittles from Twitter onto their site a couple of years ago. They had no human filter, and some of the tweets were NOT brand-appropriate. Human curation is critical to maintain your brand identity and speak appropriately to your audience.

Now talking about how to create, shape the user experience. Apparently there’s a debate in the UX community about how possible this is, since each user brings own baggage, and you can’t control that. Bloomstein says the museum perspective says, there are common human elements that a curator can play on and use to shape our experience.

Bloomstein says it’s important to get clients [your company, whoever you’re working with on content strategy] to focus on their objectives before you start content strategy work.

Current trend in museum curation has museums highlighting the curator and their perspective … very transparent. We don’t always do this in media, web content or other fields. Should we?

Quotes Mandy Brown [editor of A Book Apart, A List Apart] from yesterday: “We need more tools for human curation. We’re trying to replace humans with algorithms.”

My perspective [Pardon how obvious this is]: There are some things that humans do better and some things that algorithms do. We should let each do their best work. [Of course, this doesn’t always happen. I guess that’s Brown’s point.]

Bloomstein says that curation without perspective is aggregation. Where I would argue with this is that she seems to say it isn’t possible to present perspective through an algorithm. I think it absolutely is, if the human designs the algorithm appropriately.

Now talking about the Sarbanes-Oxley requirements on document management — relating to how public companies manage their digital assets, including all online communication. Serious consequences to a lack of a curation/archival strategy.

Really good questions on ethics now. Photo of a yeast bloom that was on the cover of Scientific American — original photo included the petri dish that held the yeast. They wanted to focus on the yeast, so they removed the petri dish from the photo. OK?

Quote from Martin Scorcese on the importance of directing, not just selecting, the right shots to make your movie. What are you setting out to say? Make that happen.

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