Foreword (first draft)
The way I see it, the purpose of life and of our existence on this planet now, it is all about learning.
And by this I mean learning as much as possible about how life and how the world and the universe work, as to improve our understanding of it and consequently our ability to survive, to enjoy it to the fullest and to extract from this experience insight that can help us change and improve the world around us.
But the learning I am talking about is not the type of learning that normally occurs in schools, where memorizing facts and notions written in a textbook is held as proof of “knowing” something.
In my life I have learned that to really get to know something, memorizing the information sitting inside a textbook, is not the real deal. Memorizing info from textbooks may give you facts and data to spit out in school questionnaires or to use when wanting to show off your supposed knowledge, but it will not give you understanding of why and how something it is the way it is.
To really get to know, to make sense and fully understand something, it is necessary to take a dive into the matter, to move through it, while feeling and testing its reactions, checking where it fails and where its boundaries are, and to approach and swim through it from different angles.
To know, it is necessary to doubt, to question, to test alternative viewpoints and interpretations. Only then one can arrive at a personal understanding of how things are.
It is the same process you have used when you decided to learn how to swim, or to ride a bicycle or to play a sport or a musical instrument.
It is about experiencing, rather than memorizing descriptions and info / facts of the reality you want to master.
Whether you want to really know about Greek history, or how to light a fire, the best approach to learn and master that knowledge / ability is to dive into the matter, while asking questions and exploring it from multiple different angles with all of your senses.
Reading about something, and memorizing some information about it, is wrongly considered a form of knowledge by today’s society, as the false definition of learning and knowing has been hijacked and placed under the control of the school and academic establishment.
By implanting the idea that remembering facts, dates, names and other info, is equivalent to “knowing” something, man has provided himself with the most dangerous weapon: giving up the questioning, exploration and personal discovery needed to truly understand something beyond words.
In essence, whether by design or by accident, our present-day idea of learning, understanding and sense-making is a dangerous one, mostly because it makes people give up true exploration and questioning and sets as a reference benchmark the idea that learning and knowing are about memorizing and placing blind faith in facts and information that one has not truly verified, questioned or checked.
But if history is any teacher to us, we know that our understanding of the world we live in, of what is true and what is not, has been rebuilt many times over, always with the belief that the latest interpretation of reality was the final, ultimate truth.
Accepting the idea that to become knowledgeable in a specific matter one has to read and memorize what other experts have written, appears to me as a complete surrender of any individual most valuable asset: the ability to doubt, to put under scrutiny, to study in detail and to explore (with open ends) the true, real meaning of anything.
What has this to do with content curation?
“The Internet is a world of abundance, and there is a new power that matters: the ability to make sense of that abundance, to index it, to find needles in the proverbial haystack. And that power is held by Google.”
You build true knowledge and expertise only by exploring, verifying, confronting, comparing and questioning all of the information that you can recover on the topic at hand.
Trying to comprehend the world we live in, making sense of things, issues and topics we are interested in cannot be defined and should not be limited to the results one finds after a Google search.
Those results may be outstandingly effective when searching for a place, a person, an event or a product to buy, but they leave a lot to be desired when someone wants to dig deeper, wants to study, make sense and understand a certain topic or issue in depth.
Think instead of a Wikipedia page. It offers as much as it can, the best resources, viewpoints, references and info on a specific topic, curated and vetted by multiple curators who act as invisible guides in our exploration.
This is why, we should not to blindly trust a religion sacred writings or a search engine secret algorithms. Rather, it would be more appropriate to start again to learn how to learn by exploring and vetting information with a skeptical eye, and to evaluate the idea that content curation and curators can provide a uniquely valuable contribution to this effort.
Whether you are in journalism, science, marketing or education, helping others understand, discover and learn what they are interested in, is a key to achieving your goals.
Content curation is a multi-disciplinary art that involves many of the skills that we are giving up when we follow the popular scholastic approach to learning by memorizing information.
Curation is in fact all about researching and gathering information first, possibly from very different sources and then digging and diving into them to explore, verify, question, contrast and compare the information found.
Curation is about questioning the existing understanding of something and about offering a different exploration and learning path. Curation is about redefining how we see, interpret and understand the nature of something.
Curation makes an asset of its subjective, interpretative approach, refusing to assume that there is one objective final reality / truth to be observed.
Each curator can offer a unique, subjective viewpoint of whatever news, art or music he curates, becoming a discovery gateway for others. Those who follow a content curator do so not because the curator is an impartial data collector capable of calculating the best resources for me to pay attention to based on sophisticated algorithms. If I needed that, I’d take a machine or a software to do that for me.
People follow a curator because of its unique point of view and for his ability to filter and to highlight relevant, rare to find resources.
People marry the ideals and the motives of the curator as a human being who can help them discover and better understand a specific subject.
In the end, if I am interested in truly learning about a topic, the only reliable road in addition to personally exploring that topic, is to find one or more trusted guides (people with a lot of practical — not necessarily academic — experience in that area who openly disclose their background, prejudices and ethical values) who can lead me to find the best information resources available while providing appropriate context and guidance in my area of interest.
In this way, it is possible for anyone to dive, explore and make sense of just about any topic or issue that interests him just, as if he had a personal guide offering support and safe entry points for his exploration.
This is the basic reason why I believe that content curators hold both great promise and great responsibility for our future.
They are the guides to explore, make sense and understand the world we live in and the specific things that interest us.
In an age where information is everywhere, individuals who dedicate themselves to gather, vet and share relevant resources and information are as valuable as road signals in a busy city.
This why understanding the value of content curation is so important for anyone interested in shaping the future of how we access, explore, dive, get informed and learn about what interests us, and possibly the best way, so far, to maintain a free, questioning and researching attitude while helping others regain an understanding of what true learning really is.