Curation: The Cure For Information Overload?

Curation: The Cure For Information Overload?


The Institute for the Future at the University of Phoenix Research Institute published  Future Work Skills 2020, a study designed to look at how we think about work, what constitutes work, and the skills we will need to be productive over the coming decade. The report was published in 2011, but is as relevant today as it was 4 years ago. The skills they identified include:

  1. Sense-making: the ability to determine significance.
  2. Social intelligence: the ability to connect with others in a deep way.
  3. Adaptive thinking: the ability to come up with novel solutions.
  4. Cross-cultural competency: the ability to operate in new contexts.
  5. Computational thinking: the ability to think abstractly and make data-driven decisions.
  6. New media literacy: the ability to assess new media critically and use it appropriately.
  7. Transdisciplinarity: the ability to understand concepts across a wide range of disciplines.
  8. Design mindset: the ability to understand how the physical environment impacts thinking and make conscious choices in using it.
  9. Cognitive load management: the ability to turn information into knowledge.
  10. Virtual collaboration: the ability to be a productive part of a virtual team.

Several of these – sense-making, new media literacy, transdisciplinarity, and cognitive load management – are particularly critical for successful content curation.

Curation comes in many forms, from crowd-sourced lists and aggregated collections to authored stories that provide new and insightful perspectives on previously published material. Content curation can be used as a personal competency, to help us develop our understanding of this information rich, time poor world we live in. Relevant and decision-ready information is becoming a valuable commodity in its own right, and many organisations are beginning to appreciate the roles and skills of people who understand the specific information needs of their information consumers and can provide it in a timely and effective manner.

The role of the curator has been valued for centuries, but it has been traditionally associated with the professionals who practice their art in the confines of the world’s museums and galleries. To suggest that digital curators all bring the same depth and breadth of knowledge as a professional curator might be stretching a point. But there are more similarities than differences. Curation is all about creating value from collections – which can be physical things such as art exhibitions or museum artifacts; or digital content, such as music playlists, website reviews of best TV buys, or a collection of the best educational videos. Curators know that the sum of an experience can be greater than the individual parts. And you don’t always have to be an expert to tell a decent story.

If truth be told, most of us are digital curators, we just don’t know it. The difference is whether we’re doing it for the benefit of ourselves, or for others. The latter requires the skills listed above. This is ‘ the future of work‘ and the people who do this effectively are increasingly valued in today’s complex world.

Whether you are a Librarian, Information Professional or Knowledge Manager, titles which don’t really explain the role, make sure you tout the fact that your skills include content curation, and maybe use the above list to help others understand the nature and value of the work you do.  Who know, you may even get a raise!

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