The role of curators in storytelling as tribal influencers and bankers

 

We are increasingly confronted by more and more content, and that is why many of us appreciate services that help us discover the gems. Google tackles the problem with advanced search algorithms, but we also rely on brands and publishers. Another solution, to the problem, is the role of the curator. Do you want to learn what curating is? Please watch the video above.

Many companies and organizations use influencers to help them reach out to people. Curators are an interesting breed of influencers. However their full potential can only be understood and appreciated through the lens of their tribes. Tribes are groups of people gathering around strong passions or emotions like hiking, gardening or ABBA. Curators do not work in isolation, but in relation to the people that share their passions.

curators-as-dumpster-divers

Curators as dumpster divers

I was in a discussion with Olga Kravets, a netnographer, and she proposed that curators serve their tribe like dumpster divers. They dive into containers to rummage through heaps of garbage to find useful stuff that can be re-purposed. When they are done they bring forth their scavenged gifts to their tribe.

Something really interesting happens in the curation process, because stories don’t have intrinsic value. An unshared story is basically like rubbish, lying around without any value. Stories gain their meaning and value by sharing, but it’s not as simple as that. The curator imparts her own value, status and trust, upon the story.

Curators represent a new type of tribal leadership that operates bottom-up and peer to peer. As a member of a tribe, curators will always be more native and relevant than any outsiders will ever be. Within a tribe they are not only appreciated for leveraging their insider skills, but for sustaining and developing their culture.

Curators can be utilized by organizations as tribal translators, guides and messengers. However their full potential as influencers must be understood in tribal contexts. Their value – and the value they share – are appraised by tribal standards. Each tribe has their own values, beliefs, purpose, ideals, and jargon. Understanding and leveraging this tribal DNA in packaging and delivery is a part of making content more relevant and valuable. (Read this blog post about the process of tribal collaboration)

Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers. However, we know that stories don’t have fixed values. Does that make curators more like money changers? And if they lend their ears to outsiders, does that make them money lenders? I propose that curators are money handlers, changers and lenders all wrapped into one. They are part of a new breed of leadership that develops tribal currency through their curation and sharing.

 
21 comments
lmvincent
lmvincent

What a great piece! I find that the word "curation" is over-used and abused. It is too frequently connected to the idea of just "liking" things or dropping found bits in a bin. But the real curators (like Maria Popova) provide context. They make us look and help us see connections we might not have seen on our own.

 

I'm not sure I agree with the idea that stories have no value if they are not shared. That argument doesn't explain the inner stories people enjoy. The rich narratives inside Vivian Maier's photographic archive weren't discovered until after her death. It was clear that she loved the stories she captured. In my own consumer research, we often find that the most powerful stories are the ones we foster inside--our personal narratives of where we were in the past and where we aspire to go. These aren't always shared, but they are certainly quite valuable. 

 

That said, stories can change dramatically when they circulate and become socialized. Watch a slapstick comedy by yourself and you might chuckle here and there. Watch it in a crowded theatre and you might find your belly aching from laughing too much. I agree with you that it is this difference in context that can make curation so valuable to our discovery process.

 

Great stuff. Thanks for sharing!

awalker007
awalker007

Great conversation going on here. I curate to build knowledge and develop deeper understanding of things i am interested in, sometimes I can use that information straight away and sometimes I go back to it later when i need it. It all goes into the melting pot that becomes your knowledge bank. Getting everyone else's perspectives helps to crystalize your own thoughts and perspectives.

I also like the quote from the video - 

"Our role as curators is to find the most interesting things in this massive onslaught of messy information." 

flbreezes
flbreezes

If I am "dumpster diver" then I dive for the "diamonds" that bring instant value to my friends and collegues--not the discarded piece of "gristle" that makes them gag and want to toss away again.

healthsupreme
healthsupreme

Thank you for an inspiring view into the world of curation. 

 

As a curator of natural health issues, among other things, I love the dumpster diving analogy. It really does feel like you're going through garbage all day long. You discard the vast, vast majority of what comes along, and you pick out that piece that no one else saw value in, offering it to your public (your tribe).

 

Curation is a constant two-way flow. Finding out what your tribe is into is the inflow, curating a piece and putting it out there for others to see is the outflow.

 

First of all, a curator has to have affinity (love) for her tribe and the people in it. Then, they have to have persistence in looking for the right pieces to highlight. After which, they see (or don't see) feedback, and adjust future activity accordingly. 

MatthieuHartig
MatthieuHartig

"...curators serve their tribe like dumpster divers. They dive into containers to rummage through heaps of garbage to find useful stuff that can be re-purposed."

"An unshared story is basically like rubbish, lying around without any value"

Can't wait for museum people to read this :)

 

All jokes aside, you give a very interesting definition of the role (or function) of curator.There's one thought I want to share with you... I'm not ethnologist so please be tolerant with my newbie approach on the subject :)One aspect I find particularly interesting is how do curators get their authority (or credibility, or worth, success etc.). Most curators are traditionally appointed (top-down) by some hierarchy (like museum "curators", the way museums understand the function), based on education or experience.But today, the curator is more and more self-appointed, and then approved by peers, based on relevance and quality. The curator is increasingly liberated from the need of being "appointed", as they reach out to their tribe more easily.I think it's exactly why museum curators are losing ground today. They stand for the traditional "appointed" role of expert officially accredited to dig in collections and come back with a good story, but are challenged by the (somehow unfair) competition of more free and spontaneous curators of stories outside of the museums, temple of knowledge. And that's why (i think) we see more and more museums or institutions using tricks as having an exhibition based on some tv-program or "approved" by some celebrity, or based on crowdsourcing...

srhas
srhas

Love this Elia!

tribaling
tribaling moderator

 @lmvincent Thanks for commenting! I agree that stories can have a personal value without sharing, but in the context of curation I think it's implied that the story has been documented somehow. Do you agree with that? I love your reference to Vivian Maier's photographic archive, and your comment makes me want to learn more about you and your work. Care to share more?

tribaling
tribaling moderator

 @awalker007 Thanks, I appreciate your contribution! I can really relate to that. Being able to exchange ideas and thoughts together with others, is the main reason I blog and interact online during my spare time. I am curious, do you think of your readers and co-creators as tribes and communities? ping @awalker007 

tribaling
tribaling moderator

 @flbreezes Thanks for taking the time to comment! I think the "dumpster diver" metaphor captures that stories don't have a value without a social context (basically rubbish), and that curator's do heavy lifting because they like it, and are community minded. Having said that I agree that "treasure hunter" also has it's benefits. I don't know, but I imagine that the feeling dumpster divers get when they make a "good find" is related and possibly the same as finding a good post? Either way I hope you were not offended. :-)

tribaling
tribaling moderator

 @healthsupreme I just love how you describe your role as a curator as a part of an eco-system where the flow and exchange goes both ways. How do you collect this feedback from  your tribal members? 

tribaling
tribaling moderator

 @MatthieuHartig Thanks for sharing, that is really interesting and I think you may be on to something here. I see lots of interesting initiatives from museums making their collections accessible on the web, but more in a "push" sense. I think the day museums start leveraging the potential of bottom-up, peer-to-peer, and tribal collaboration then real exciting things will happen. This will require both new ways of thinking, as well as new methods. Do you agree with that?

lmvincent
lmvincent

 @tribaling I agree. That is indeed what a curator does, in my opinion. They provide meaning to a collection through a narrative. Great conversations going here!

healthsupreme
healthsupreme

 @tribaling "How do you collect this feedback ..."

 

Any which way it comes. Watching comments on social networks (not only on my posts/comments but also on those of others that are inherent in my area of interest), emails, some RSS feeds, posts of others, news, listening to and participating in people's conversations, on-line and off.

 

There is a whole flow of information that needs to be watched just to get the feel of the area, and changes in it. Not enough to do it once and then go from there. Things may change frequently. Different things gain importance, others lose. 

 

Doing that is already half the work or more, on finding things that can be curated...

 

MatthieuHartig
MatthieuHartig

 @tribaling I agree with that totally. Museums are losing their relevance today because of the very way they are structured. Some say that it's inevitable, in their DNA, that in order to deliver the level of quality expected from them, they have to have this top-down, total-control-of-every-single-stage-of-the-process approach of curation. But thanks to digital technology and techniques, some museums are testing new ways that make me feel that there is hope :)

A very interesting approach is empowering the visitor by giving him/her the tools that effectively make him/her the curator of museum material that he/she will spread to the tribe. This goes through open access to digitized material and tools to manipulate or remix it. One good example is the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which won 3 awards this year at the Museum & the Web Conference with its project "Rijkstudio".

 

Still, the only way to work for a vast majority of museums is to produce a few exhibitions per year, i-e strictly curated events, 100% push, no pull. They haven't even started to question this. I've been wondering why, and i think i found some answers. This way of thinking is already present in the museum studies in universities. Very few programs (especially in Europe) incorporate subjects like how to communicate content to museum visitors. It's mostly about collection management. When "audiences" come into the picture, it's always with a pedagogical twist on it. The outsider (visitor) is either the recipient of a strictly edited/curated content, or the target of a business model. That's why this inside culture is so hard to change. And worst of all, the curator and the storyteller are often 2 different persons, or teams of persons.

healthsupreme
healthsupreme

 @tribaling I also belong to more than one tribe. Natural health is one of the interests, another is new energy technology and science, and yet another is alternatives in the field of economy.

healthsupreme
healthsupreme

 @tribaling I am lucky to be able to spend most of my working day on this, but it never does become a treadmill, because the things I find are what I am interested in. I always learn while doing the search. 

 

Actually I was doing the reading and searching before, I started a blog and found so many things that I couldn't blog about, getting into curation was a way of sharing what things of interest I anyway was finding...

 

tribaling
tribaling moderator

 @healthsupreme Thanks for sharing, that is really interesting. Especially how you see half the work being inflow and the other being outflow. I am curious how much time you spend per day on this? And if you ever feel it's like a treadmill? 

MatthieuHartig
MatthieuHartig

@tribaling

Here is an interesting video: a curator from Barcelona answers the question "what are the main challenges for a curator?". The answer is very clear: the tribe is the scientific community.

http://www.askacurator.com/answers/73-57.html

This answer is a bit better: http://www.askacurator.com/answers/10-12.html 

"Ask a curator" is an interesting initiative, intended to increase awareness about the role of curator. Jim Richardson, who started this, is also the guy behind the conference "Museum next".

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  2. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  3. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  4. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  5. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  6. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  7. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  8. [...] The role of curators in storytelling as tribal influencers and bankers | Tribaling [...]

  9. [...] We are increasingly confronted by more and more content, and that is why many of us appreciate services that help us discover the gems. Google tackles the problem with advanced search algorithms, but we also rely on brands and publishers. Another solution, to the problem, is the role of the curator. Do you want to learn what curating is? Please watch the video above. Many companies and organizations use influencers to help them reach out to people. Curators are an interesting breed of influencers. However their full potential can only be understood and appreciated through the lens of their tribes. Tribes are groups of people gathering around strong passions or emotions like hiking, gardening or ABBA. Curators do not work in isolation, but in relation to the people that share their passions. [...]  [...]

  10. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  11. [...] We are increasingly confronted by more and more content, and that is why many of us appreciate services that help us discover the gems. Google tackles the problem with advanced search algorithms, but we also rely on brands and publishers. Another solution, to the problem, is the role of the curator. Do you want to learn what curating is? Please watch the video. Many companies and organizations use influencers to help them reach out to people. Curators are an interesting breed of influencers. However their full potential can only be understood and appreciated through the lens of their tribes. Tribes are groups of people gathering around strong passions or emotions like hiking, gardening or ABBA. Curators do not work in isolation, but in relation to the people that share their passions. I was in a discussion with Olga Kravets, a netnographer, and she proposed that curators serve their tribe like dumpster divers. They dive into containers to rummage through heaps of garbage to find useful stuff that can be re-purposed. When they are done they bring forth their scavenged gifts to their tribe. Something really interesting happens in the curation process, because stories don’t have intrinsic value. An unshared story is basically like rubbish, lying around without any value. Stories gain their meaning and value by sharing, but it’s not as simple as that. The curator imparts her own value, status and trust, upon the story. Curators represent a new type of tribal leadership that operates bottom-up and peer to peer. As a member of a tribe, curators will always be more native and relevant than any outsiders will ever be. Within a tribe they are not only appreciated for leveraging their insider skills, but for sustaining and developing their culture. Click headline to read more and watch video–  [...]

  12. [...] A wonderful video about the role of curators from some of the top content curators on the internet.  [...]

  13. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  14. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  15. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  16. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  17. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  18. [...] The role of curators in storytelling as tribal influencers and bankers | Tribaling [...]

  19. [...] Something really interesting happens in the curation process, because stories don’t have intrinsic value. An unshared story is basically like rubbish, lying around without any value. Stories gain their meaning and value by sharing, but it’s not as simple as that. The curator imparts her own value, status and trust, upon the story.Curators represent a new type of tribal leadership that operates bottom-up and peer to peer. As a member of a tribe, curators will always be more native and relevant than any outsiders will ever be. Within a tribe they are not only appreciated for leveraging their insider skills, but for sustaining and developing their culture.  [...]

  20. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  21. [...] A wonderful video about the role of curators from some of the top content curators on the internet.  [...]

  22. [...] Curators Are The True Influencers http://t.co/VZrxAOujuC via #newzsocial  [...]

  23. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  24. [...] your idea or message resonates with a tribe, does not only depend upon how well you identify and collaborate with influencers, such as curators. It also depends upon how well your idea and message carries cultural compatibility and [...]

  25. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  26. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  27. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  28. [...] A wonderful video about the role of curators from some of the top content curators on the internet.  [...]

  29. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]

  30. [...] The other post that resonated with me recently was on the Tribaling blog by Elia Morling (@tribaling) about the role of curators in storytelling as tribal influencers and bankers [...]

  31. [...] The role of curators in storytelling as tribal influencers and bankers | Tribaling [...]

  32. [...] We are increasingly confronted by more and more content, and that is why many of us appreciate services that help us discover the gems. Google tackles the p  [...]

  33. [...] (Note: This question relates to my prior blog post about the role of curators as tribal influencers and bankers) [...]

  34. [...] Curating and sharing stories should be understood as part of a knowledge economy. If stories are tribal currency, then curators are money handlers.  [...]