Curatorship is a new literacy practice

Media educators propose that children learn about Creative, Cultural and Critical dimensions of text and text production; I would like to propose a fourth C and that is Curatorship.  It was a useful metaphor for processes I uncovered in my PhD study around children’s video production and is the central argument of my book.  One set of characteristics of new media is the way in which artefacts, social arrangements and the practices which grow up around them are altered (see Anna Lievrouw and Sonia Livingstone in their Handbook of New Media). Certainly in regard to organisation and exhibition, children are growing up in a world in which the media that they collect and make can be organized, displayed and re-presented time and again in ways which were not possible before. Some of this will reflect their changing and multiple identities and affiliations as they grow but it is a qualitatively different experience to anything previously possible.  It’s a new form of cultural production which is pitched partway between making and sharing, creating temporary collections for specific purposes and then dismantling them again.

I am not simply talking about archiving, though this is a subset of the skills which go into the new curatorship. Neither is this simply about arranging and presenting the texts in a pleasing way. Fundamentally, it is about knowing how the reflexive project of the self with its anchored and transient identities gets made and unmade over time in the various spaces online and how we live with this and function in new media (See Guy Merchant’s work on identity in new media and Giddens on reflexivity).

Samuel Johnson wrote that the “two offices of memory are collection and distribution”.  Tweeting, Facebook and Blogging may be the current but ephemeral matches for these “offices” of centuries ago and that is how this blog got its name. But certainly we can now expand the first term to include “shared” and add  “exhibition” to complete an encapsulation of a genuinely new experience.   Let’s also imagine the use of the term “offices” has a vague match with “purpose or function” all of which might be caught by “aspects”, throw in media education and try this: “The three aspects of shared memory in new media are collection, distribution and exhibition.” And these are perhaps best in a new literacy practice of “curatorship”. We need a media education that recognises this is a new social and cultural practice.


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