Editor's Choice

Curatorial compulsion

Nick Bilton writes in the NYT about the curatorial impulse that living online has unleashed.

I go to scour the Web looking for more news to sift through and ration out to my friends and followers — a natural course of action in my day. I spend a considerable amount of time each day looking for interesting angles about technology, news, journalism, design or just the latest comic video to pass along the daisy chain.

Most of us do this to some degree. We are no longer just consumers of content, we have become curators of it too.

If someone approached me even five years ago and explained that one day in the near future I would be filtering, collecting and sharing content for thousands of perfect strangers to read — and doing it for free — I would have responded with a pretty perplexed look. Yet today I can’t imagine living in a world where I don’t filter, collect and share.

This is a perfect example of how performing free immaterial labor is starting to rule our days, become a compulsion. No longer a hobby, it's an entire mode of being. Life is winnowing down to operations of this limited scope and scale -- pointing and thumbs-upping at texts and images.

If we don't curate online, it's as if we cease to exist. The efforts are existentially significant to us, but we only get back the sense of being alive; the companies and peers who we are producing for can harvest the value of this labor. But as Bilton points out, we recoup some of the value of the labor by capitalizing on the curatorial work of others: "Without this collective discovery online, I couldn’t imagine trying to cull the tens of thousands of new links and stories that appear in the looking glass on a daily basis." But should we even feel obliged to? Isn't that a grandiose and hubristic pursuit? To know the best of everything that is going on everywhere? When the urge strikes me to "keep up with music," I feel what Bilton is talking about most keenly, but instead of feeling caught up, I instead feel hopelessly behind, as I often do when I log in to my Google Reader.

Bilton cites Maria Popova, a curator he follows, who discusses what she does as "controlled serendipity" and "content discovery." These cold, oxymoronic phrases are apt in that they convey some of the mechanistic nature of the process, which Bilton labels a "reflex." But what happens is more like forced serendipity, a demand that the world give forth "content" to satisfy our curiosity, which atrophies, becomes lazier. Online, curiosity loses its active component as it becomes accelerated. I feel it when I fire through the 500 articles in my RSS feed, much of it densely written articles and essays that I cast aside with a glance. Maybe I file it in a shared folder with a satisfied sense of completion. Job well done, curator.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

Keep reading... Show less
5

Multi-tasking on your smart phone consumes too many resources, including memory, and can cause the system to "choke". Imagine what it does to your brain.

In the simplest of terms, Adam Gazzaley and Larry D. Rosen's The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World is a book about technology and the distractions that often accompany it. This may not sound like anything earth shattering. A lot of people have written about this subject. Still, this book feels a little different. It's a unique combination of research, data, and observation. Equally important, it doesn't just talk about the problem—it suggests solutions.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image