Creativity

Has Curating Replaced Creating?

Today’s post is from branding expert Krysta Masciale, co-founder of Big Deal Branding here in Los Angeles. We were talking recently and she brought up a great point – has the work of “creators” been usurped by “curators” who are organizing other people’s creative work?   While the role of a curator is important, is the growing popularity of curation changing how we look at creativity and its importance? Read her post and let me know what you think:

We live in a time in the digital age when curating content has become a mark of expertise. If your Pinterest page is beautifully organized with pins of consistent inspiration, you’re rewarded by major brands to incorporate their products into your boards. If your Instagram page is full of imagery mimicked or even completely reposted from other accounts, you could be rewarded thousands of dollars in sponsored posts.

While I think there are numerous accounts that are full of original content on every social media platform, the ones that seem to get the most attention these days are ones fueled by individuals serving as curators of other people’s original content. And that’s something I can’t wrap my brain around.

Why is it that our culture has enabled, tolerated and championed this idea that curating is just as important, if not more important than doing the gritty work of creating original content? Is it because we don’t know what originality looks like anymore? Is it because we all want to believe we’re artists, even if that means we’re just copying what has already been done?

In my observation, this is why some of the best minds of our time aren’t as active on media platforms as the wannabes. They’re too busy doing the actual work and solving real problems to make it look pretty and inspirational.

The general perception is that all you need to have is a good eye. In my not-so-humble opinion, I don’t think pinning the best icons on the Internet makes you a graphic designer. I don’t think owning a DSLR makes you a photographer or filmmaker. I don’t think retweeting information makes you an author.

I’m looking froward to a time when the true creative minds of our generation can effectively use media and break through the clutter of inspiration in order to rise up a culture of doers. If history is any indication of the future, the days of the replica are numbered. Posers will eventually run their course when they are no longer able to deliver what we really want: raw, honest originality.

It can’t come soon enough.

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35 Comments

  1. I agree.

    My timelines are filled with others’ original work mainly to create discussion, and because honestly, I’m playing it [too] safe. I have to get past the fear of failure and ridicule to meet Krysta’s challenge.

    1. Hi Ryan! I completely understand the dilemma. It’s so hard to put work out there when what we regularly see is the pristine, finished version that makes Pinterest and Instagram so dreamy. The great thing about social media (in my opinion), is that it starts conversations. People who aren’t interested will scroll on by and you’ll be left with a tribe of people who love what you’re up to. My challenge for you: Post something within the coming week that is YOURS. We’d all be honored to see it! 🙂

    1. You make a great point. Curation can be more passive than proactive, certainly when it comes to social media platforms. I think there are exceptions (museum and gallery curators). I’m sure they would argue that curation takes a great deal of thought and expertise! Thanks for the input!

  2. insightful. Curate = important skill,esp biz’s of the future, data cultr. Creativity = God given mandate in every sphere of life.

  3. My guess? As with most things, what sells is “pretty and quick” not “raw and honest.” Politics, movies, advertising…all the same. We want what we can digest quickly, so that’s what we get. Even if it’s meaningless.

    1. Great point! I’m wondering if there’s a way to produce original content that also serves the quick and pretty desire of our culture.

  4. Good post (as always), Phil. You bring up a very good point. In my (attempting to be) humble opinion, there is a necessary role for both creators and curators in every phase of life. For example, there was only one Van Gogh but his work would not be enjoyed by mere mortals who could never afford to purchase one of his masterpieces were it not for curators who collect these works of art and exhibit them for the enrichment of the public. This is true in social media as well as fine art — there are true masterpieces out there that the public will never see if someone they trust does not collect it and post it.

    Sometimes creators cross over to the role of curator. For example, you (Phil) create wonderful, original, though-provoking and compelling content, but at times you also act as a curator. Like today, your opening line is: “Today’s post is from branding expert Krysta Masciale…” and then, you move from curator to creator at the end of the post to fit your audience and launch a discussion. Expertly played. You are no less a creator because you repurpose or redirect material from the Wall Street Journal or from any other source, as long as you add value to the original content.

    If, however, all someone does is see something they like online and repost it then they are not a curator, they’re more of a second-hand shop keeper. The public might stumble in and find something they like or need, but you have to dig through a bunch of trash to locate it.

    1. I like your idea that if “all someone does is see something they like online and repost it, then they aren not a curator.” I think there’s room to explore an even deeper context for the conversation that adds another element of the “second-hand shop keeper.” Interesting. Thanks for your thoughts!

  5. It is a bit like the investment culture we have developed. The product is often less important to them than the company stock. At some point someone has to create something.

  6. Great post and discussion here. In some instances, curating could be considered “safer” than creating… it puts some space between the reposted content and poster. Because everything communicates, creating original content can be risky in a day and age where many are hyper-sensitive, and perceive offences. It’s easier to repost/recreate content than go out on a limb and expose oneself to potential ridicule, or fear of rejection. We lose something when we consistently choose to play the curator, we lose our self and our God-given freedom to create.

  7. This is great stuff, Krysta! Really appreciate you taking the time out to share your thoughts.

    What drives me to the brink of insanity is that we live in a culture of un-originals. Everything we do that claims to be championed as innovation remains nothing more than a bunch of hype-fueled propaganda masquerading as success.

    This is especially prevalent in the startup culture, where things are just as faddish as yo-yo’s and hi-top fades were in the early 90’s. Everything from raising money to buzzwords like ‘ecosystem,’ ‘crushing it,’ ‘growth hacking,’ etc. are all recycled terms that individuals use to appear more qualified in whatever role they’re portraying rather than just focusing on building something real (with their own money/sweat/tears, etc).

    So, when it comes to copying- oops, I mean ‘curating’ (another buzzword that obscures the real purpose behind what it actually is – stealing), it doesn’t surprise me that the practice is so rampant. These are the same perpetrators contaminating every sector of business, innovation, and creativity in America. A bunch of nobodies who want to seem like winners by using someone else’s money (OPM) to build something that they’re halfway passionate about to get rich, seem relevant, and increase their ‘social proof’ (another buzzword).

    1. I resonate with your entire perspective. I know this isn’t a one-size-fits all situation, but wrote the post out of a shared frustration.

  8. I am smack dab in the middle of the debate. As both a creator and curator, I hear ya. I have shown in solo shows as a Fine artist, sold almost 200 original painitngs and had 300 show up to my last solo show opening reception, years ago. I am currently paid to create original articles on a music website (what I’m supposed to be doing right now, as a matter of fact) and without question a megga-original thinker and creator. That said, I also have a Pinterest page, where I ran head-on into the problem that you (Phil) is talking about. I had a page devoted to my own paintings but then started adding some other work I found online. I saw that I actually liked some other art in my same genre and style, even more than my own. What to do? I created another page “art iLike” and started adding that content there. My Pinterest pages are fun, creative and amazing but I’m just a curator.
    I create nothing…or do I? I collect. But the final product is something new that I’m excited about:
    the idea that we are greater as a whole, than as individuals. Movies are collaborative processes. The whole is greater than the part, curators deal with the whole, the big picture. Yeah, i’s an easy job but I think curators deserve respect. And it’s not as easy as just “having an eye.” I’ve not met many people who have an eye. The reason I have an eye is because I was dragged to the Louvre as a five year old. I was led to Museums growing up. Later, I lived in Brentwood, under the shadow of the Getty and took every opportunity-even walked at times, to visit. I’ve attended hundreds and hundreds of Fine art opening shows and exhibitions. How many can say that? How many are willing to take the time to study art history, to read ten or thirty biographies of artists, to watch movies about them? How many? The few who do can be curators. Not all curators are
    created alike, though. Like anything else, some are probably good and some are bad.
    Then there’s the strange idea that maybe if we are in the “last days” maybe–just maybe most of modern art history has been done and now we’re in more of a cataloguing/curating phase? I often wonder what HASNT been done in fine art?

    So, I wouldnt worry, Phil. It’s al good. These are exciting times. Creativity is not going away any time soon, just because of a few Pinterest pages!

    1. We all share different perspectives based on where we sit. You obviously come from a fine art background. Most people on the Internet do not. This article was intended as a general culturally observation, not to say anyone with a Pinterest page is a fraud. I’m sure you understand the difference!

  9. In the vast space of information where anything is available, curating is invaluable. Without it, many creators’ work will never be seen or heard. Not everyone’s original thoughts are equal.

    It’s the unique perspective that changes things–but if those words are never heard, nothing changes. If we fail to reward those who curate (who in my opinion are the way important information is passed since I don’t watch TV, listen to the news, or listen to the radio much), people will stop doing it. If people stop curating, how do new originals become noticed?

    If people are duly citing/recognizing an original work so others can be exposed to new original writers, ideas, stories, etc. then are those curators ‘designers’, ‘authors’, or ‘photographers’? No. But sometimes people are famous for nothing more than ‘being famous’–and if they use that to expose others to raw, honest originality, I don’t see anything that defines a person as a ‘poser’.

    I believe it is the attitude of these curators that makes all the difference. Why are they doing it? Because it’s something they love and want to share? Great. If they’re just doing it for the attention or fame, I wouldn’t follow or support them.

    I think, overall, the problem is the failure to recognize and celebrate the originator more than the ‘curator’–or, in reality, advertiser.

    1. “I think, overall, the problem is the failure to recognize and celebrate the originator more than the ‘curator”. Nailed it.

  10. Great post, Krysta! I think this push towards curating vs actually creating also helps sell the belief that good art doesn’t cost anything — or shouldn’t cost anything. Why should someone pay for an album or a film when surely someone will have posted in on YouTube under “GREATEST ARTISTS EVER!!!” within just a few minutes? But artists — musicians, writers, painters, etc — have to create in order to eat, and good art does cost someone something because of that.

    1. This is such an articulate way of communicating the concept of the post. I love what you’re saying about the difference between an actual curator (support) and a poser (greed). Genius.

  11. I completely understand the frustration. We need more creatives doing original work.

    However, as an editor of numerous curation (and creation) sites I would argue that there is a way to curate content that is an act of creation in itself. Working with an author to build a contagious story campaign around their content takes a rich depth of creative discernment, wisdom and hard work. Is that work less valuable because the content didn’t originate with me? I think there are irresponsible and cheap curation strategies out there, for sure, but there are curators doing in-depth work that’s making a difference.

    We’ve helped raise thousands of dollars for non-profits and launched multiple viral videos–in partnership with filmmakers, producers and creatives–to raise awareness for critical issues in our culture like adoption, foster care, advocacy for the homeless, etc. It’s often rewarding creative work. In one way–curation is a form of creative marketing.

    I totally understand the heart of this post–and I agree to an extent. If we’re building our platform on the creative work of others it can cheapen the creative value, but if our heart is to use creativity to propel important voices and stories to the world–there’s nothing cheap about that. I just feel like curation done right is a form of creating and a valuable one if done with integrity, responsibility and passion.

    I appreciate the article and the convo though. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Really good perspective Brian. I think you’re both right – at lower levels, curation isn’t much of an art form. But for sites like BrainPickings.com, as well as the sites you’re running, curation becomes a critical part of the process.

    2. I just read this comment and realized that you and I are on the same page, Brian. I posted a somewhat similar reply too. Take care.

  12. Hi Krysta,

    Great points. I’d like to add a couple thoughts.

    First of all, I am all for original content. I love to create it and read it. But I also see benefits of curation and have one site that uses it as a primary tool (with original content as a secondary tool).

    If you think about it in terms of media, TV channels have traditionally been both content creators AND content curators. They have created their own content and also gathered content created by others.

    I think that the people who create the most powerful online or mobile channels will do the same.

    In this world that is cluttered with content, the wise people will be the ones who can harness curation AND partner it with the creation of their own content. That makes it a “both/and” choice for me, not an “either/or” one.

    As an example, I think that Phil has done a great job finding this balance with this “channel” that he has created. He creates original content, but he also points to other content, uses excerpts from other people and channels and even harness the minds and content of others (like yourself).

    So I would just add the content creators should find a way to harness the power (and the need) for curation that exists these days. I’d suggest two things;

    1. We need to figure out how to ethically use it (in a way that doesn’t “steal” content from others), so that we can help our audience to discover the best information that’s out there.

    2. Figure out how to use it to our benefit by creating content that others will want to curate and share with their audience, so we gain greater exposure.

    Anyway, I really enjoyed your post. Thanks for taking the time to write it. Take care.

    1. I think your final action items are spot on. What we tend to find on the Internet are users who aren’t as mindful about what it means to ‘share’ or ‘curate’ content that leads back to the original artist. On the same token, we’re still getting the hang of how to leverage our own platforms without taking away from the original artist. It’s a conversation that has so many layers. This is simply scratching the surface!

      1. Thanks. I am glad the action items resonated with you. I think you are right that most “everyday users” who are curating aren’t mindful about giving the original artist any credit. And that is a big problem and cheapens the content.

        My points were made more for those of us who are content creators who have our own “channels”.

        Two possible ways we can begin curating on our own platforms without taking away from the original content is:

        1. Use other people’s content as a source for quotes that support our points with an excerpt and a link back.

        2. Search for great content that our prospects or customers need (but they can’t find because of a lack of time or lack of knowledge of where to find it) and share the titles of the articles with a short excerpt. This can be done in a “Best of (Niche we’re in) of the Week/Month” blog posts or ezine issues.

        These two things would bring more exposure and traffic to the original content while helping our audience.

        Take care, Krysta!

  13. Nice post! Some people are good at making bricks. Others are good at making buildings out of bricks. Both are needed. Both need to be compensated appropriately. But in the Internet market everything runs to the bottom, as Seth Godin puts it, and ends up at zero. Tiziana Terranova also writes a nice journal article on such “free labor.” At Agape Justice, we are designing a trustworthy global governance architecture (patent pending) operated by rightful people-space, where one of the advantages is that labor hereafter gets its just due. Thanks for curating this!

  14. If you have a small staff, you have to curate. If you don’t have a
    global staff and you cover global news, you have to curate. If you are
    looking for opinions outside your four walls, you have to curate. But
    there should be original content mixed in.

  15. While I understand where the writer is coming from, I respectfully disagree. As some have already stated, good and thoughtful curation is a form of creation. It’s like creating a collage out of photos or clippings: while some may do it poorly, there are those who will create a beautiful piece of work. And just because that piece of work is a collection of other works, doesn’t mean it’s less creative or involves little or no work. Not every good “cook” has to grow their own “ingredients.” Know what I mean?

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