Tuesday 19 February 2013

essay | The rise of the curated web

By Jane Koh
Information, as a body of knowledge and ideas, is synonymous to the 'internet' landscape. It’s volume and accessibility provides a readymade resource for curators to mine. Appropriating sets of knowledge as a basis for exhibitions is commonplace, often adopted as a predefined strategy. The Internet and it’s 'raw materials', in its organization and contents, can also be readily assimilated into an exhibition. (6 Modules)

Topic: The rise of the curated web 

To deny the presence of the “internet” landscape is idiocracy, it’s presence may be felt and is obviously changing the way which we perceive our everyday. As one witnesses Iran’s ‘Twitter revolution’ to Facebook’s ‘activism’, we cannot help but pause to wonder or wander in it’s ambiguity. For those who wish to embrace it’s virtuality, one can be pleasantly surprise that learning to ride this tidal wave requires more than clever presentation but a passion for critical selection and keen sense of social authorship.

“The Critical Edge of Curating” [1] a conference organized by international independent curators touched on this following framework: Authorship and Agency, Site-Specificity, Curating as Activism: the Social Responsibility of the Museum and Transnational Currents. While curating the virtual web can critically be assess within such, I will be narrowing my essay down to the topic of authorship and agency, in view of it coinciding with my most recent research paper and my current curiosity of the definition of curator in contemporary light.

In my final year thesis, Diary.sg, my research work particularly investigated the social phenomena of social media culture among young female Netizens. In this project, I delved into the sociology and psychology of notable online bloggers engaging the subject on issues about their online versus their domestic identity. Collaborating with the Information Engineering and Media (IEM) school, I interviewed, conceptualized and juxtaposed their online and offline dwellings in to an augmented reality installation.

Figure 1: Portraits from the Diary.sg series

Figure 2: Augment reality software in gallery space

Figure 3: Augmented reality software in gallery space

Recently, Mike Michael’s Technoscience and Everyday Life opened me up to themes to critical theory of the multiplicity of ‘new’ technoscientific societies in circulation and perhaps the performativity of these virtual society.[2] It fuelled my understanding of the current shift of culture “re-configuration” on the world wide web and supported many observations made in my findings in Diary.sg, such as the pluralities of identities, mundanity and alienation of reality, mass consumption of visceral information and the blurring of the private and public sphere etc…

Perhaps to set the idea of authorship and agency into more historical overview, Brittan Morin from the Huffington Post[3] wrote a piece which enlightened me about observations made in web curating. Basically, it all started with the printing press, then, media- radio, newspaper, television and magazines. We witnessed technology playing a crucial role in information distribution and being meticulously curated by professionals or in other extend known as editors. With the turn of this century, and the uprising of the Internet, we saw how search engines became the ultimate distributor of information with regards to speed and volume. In recent years, social media platforms such as Google have somewhat taken onus to “curate” by filtering search engine to your influences. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter creates an outlet for the authorship and agency of the individual to weave their own narrative or re-post information at present.

With the influx in massive amount of information, what is the role of curating then and who has the right to be the thought leader? What is the differences of editing (re-posting) versus curating ( how do we create, share and learn new ideas together?).Rather, who are the new “intellectuals” or some might like to think “advant garde” of our times?. How will virtual curating place a threat to accuracy of the real as mentioned?
One thing is for certain that with the rise of online tools for self expression and consumption, we will witness a rise of “hipster” culture. A recent New YorkTimes article, featured Bourdieu, a French sociologist view of “taste”and how “superior” taste was not the resultant of charm of the elites but rather Bourdieu’s statistic showed how rigid and arbitrary the local conformities were. [4] This exposes that“social class” and “advant gardes” were merely out of the need of strategy and competition for social dominance.With social media tools enabling authorship and agency, let’s brace ourselves to witness one’s assertion of their personal brand image and exhibitionist behavior for the sake of being crown the king of the social media cafeteria. 

These are critical questions, we ought to explore and perhaps in time, with practice, have more assurance and clarity of knowing our own position. All in all, I can say the least from my experience from interviewing Singapore’s blog stars, that if one so desire to master the virtual web, it helps to be bold and have a wealth of experience to share, people appreciate connecting to such. To end, I will feature a recent artwork done for Campaign City about the Singapore techno-centric and consumerist culture to evoke questions about our tomorrow.. .

[1] The Critical Edge of curating. Retrieved from http://curatorsintl.org/journal/the_critical_edge_of_curating
[2] Michael, Mike (2003) Technoscience and the Everyday([13). Open University.
[3]The Curated Web. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brittany-morin/the-curated-web_b_1096186.html
[4] The New York Times Sunday Book Review, The Hipster in the Mirror, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/14/books/review/Greif-t.html?_r=0&adxnnl=1&pagewanted=all&adxnnlx=1361127746-S+bT2/84M8D8fBKMGIqImw

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