May 172010

Slashdot comments on the original story:

Ars Technica has an opinion piece by Sarah Rotman Epps on the iPad and other potential tablets as a new paradigm that they are calling ‘curated computing,’ where third parties make a lot of choices to simplify things for the end user, reducing user choice but improving reliability and efficiency for a defined set of tasks. The idea is that this does not replace, but supplements, general-purpose computers. It’s possible — if the common denominator between iPads, Android and/or Chrome tablets, WebOS tablets, and the like is a more server-centric web experience — that they could be right, and that a more competitive computing market could be the result. But I wonder, too: would that then provide an incentive for manufacturers to try to lock down the personal computing desktop experience as well?”

Meanwhile, at Wired, Eliot Van Buskirk takes Epps’ curatophilia even further, citing four realms of digital culture he claims have already been colonized by the curatorial compulsion:

1) Facebook curated the web….

Personal websites remain the domain of geeks while Facebook (and its predecessors), LinkedIn, Tumblr, Flickr and other pre-fab web-presence providers flourish, despite valid privacy concerns. When faced with social freedom on the web, we chose social curation instead, and now we’re dealing with that choice….

2) Music curation vs. music criticism…

Today, you can discover in seconds how nearly any band in the world sounds, assuming it wants to be heard, on YouTube, MySpace, Spotify, The Pirate Bay and other services. At that point, the role of the music critic shrinks considerably and becomes more about curation than criticism. The fact that your favorite MP3 blog mentions something at all is more important than what they say about it, because you can then download or stream the song and decide for yourself….

3) News publications filter the news.

Before the internet and Google all we had was curated news, in that readers typically got all of their news from one or two paper publications, which are closed systems. When the news went online and the internet opened up news distribution, aggregation became important. A Google News search on a current event typically reveals thousands of articles on the same topic, and the sheer number of current events being reported has skyrocketed in the past decade, which has made curation important once again….

4) Consumption devices curate functionality.

Finally, we arrive at the sort of curation Epps is talking about. The Kindle, cellphone, MP3 player, GPS and other specific-purpose devices curate functionality in order to deliver a better experience than a general-purpose desktop computer could ever deliver. This holds especially true for devices designed around consumption, such as portable MP3 players or big-screen televisions….When a “curated computing” device offers general functionality and a large screen, geeks get nervous because they view it as a blow against computing freedom.

Are jargon-happy digerati like Epps and Buskirk only infatuated with “curating” because they’ve run out of other Web 2.0 buzzwords? Or has the proliferation of the once-artsy concept of curating into sectors like journalism and computing helped to reveal its true political merits and liabilities?