You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
-Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride, 1987.
Attic Alumna Amy linked to an article highlighting the rising popularity of the micro-blogging service Tumblr, whose headline was "Curating Online: Hobbies for Hipsters."
Back in the day, when I was an undergraduate, and people would ask me what my professional ambitions were, I would respond with, "I want to be a curator." Confronted with blank looks, I would have to explain that a curator was the person who put on exhibitions in a museum, but would inevitably be dogged by the persistent misunderstanding that I wanted to become a conservator - because, apparently, that's the only museum job laypeople know about.
So I am grateful that "curation" has entered common parlance. However, this development leaves me with the fear that now, when I say "I want to work as a curator", people will think I want to get paid for a "hipster hobby" on "the interwebs". Tumblr itself isn't doing us museum professionals any favours: its "spotlight" feature is divided into categories of users, one of which is "curators". While some of the descriptions do seem legitimate uses of the title ("STATE is an online exhibition platform that features new projects and statements by artists who use the internet as a primary element in their work") others are not so much: sharing internet content, however narrowly specialized, is not curation. By that definition, links on your Facebook wall are acts of curation, and they just aren't.
I might be a pretentious intellectual, and a bit of a snobby crank, but I really do feel like it's time for a Susan-Pearce-like research project which would seek to investigate and define this. Whereas Pearce wrote about individual collecting, and sought to distinguish it from hoarding, I wonder what she would say about defining these acts of collecting as a form of self-curation. And then, when extended to an internet-based common-place book, does that collecting and sharing become curation simply by dint of its having an audience who are exposed to themed information and media? I'm not talking just about acts of digital preservation, or collecting web-based art; I am asking a more epistemological question. Are we on the Attic "curating" posts about museum news, conferences, and the PhD experience? Is the internet a kind of museum and are we a tiny exhibition space within it? And if so, how does that transform the definition of museum, the professionalisation of curatorship, and the audience experience?