Monday, February 13, 2012

More on Curation and Information Literacy

The flowering of curation platforms like Pinterest would suggest that the fundamental appearance of the internet is evolving.  A recent article in Mashable makes this claim by pointing out that the "post-it" note concept of Pinterest fosters a "window-shopping" mode to accessing content.  However, it's not just the aesthetics of website design that is in flux; the way information is organized and circulated on the internet is radically changing, thanks to social media and social curation platforms.  According to Jeff Croft, founder of the e book lending community Lendle, Pinterest "flattens the information hierarchy."  It takes the process of information generation out of the hands of select individuals and companies and puts it into the hands of individual people.

What does this mean, and why does it matter?  A mini infographic that I found on The Next Web's Pinterest account documents this shift from top-down dissemination of knowledge to user-centric circulation of knowledge nicely.  Without including any dates, we can see a progression from browser based-content to content that comes to us via an algorithmic construction, which the average user only partially controls.

Traditional social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were important changes to this algorithmic model because they facilitated the spread of information as a social activity.  Many people desire to click on a news story, an editorial, or a blog post when they know that a friend writes or recommends content.

However, the problem for some people is that they are unwilling to wade through the "social" elements of social media as they seek information.  Facebook and Twitter are laden with too much complaining, personal information, gossip, and other baggage that people don't always want to navigate.  I know of several people who have left Facebook for this reason, even though they saw it as a viable way to get information.

What Quora, Flipboard, Pinterest, and some of the other platforms in the graphic's "No Name Yet" category offer is user-curated information with limited undesirable social information.  One of my friends who did leave Facebook joined Pinterest recently so she could recover some of the information-sharing practices that are valuable to her.  These curation services take the best aspects of social media, socially-driven information ecologies, and represents them in user-friendly ways that are much less obtrusive.

These curation platforms are particularly valuable tools to develop information literacy.  Students are already incorporating them into their daily information diets.  Instructors should begin to think about the possibilities of curation platforms to become a part of the classroom learning experience.

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