Creation, Curation, and the Ethics of Content Strategy


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From Monet to MTV, what practices connect the salons of Paris with Danger Mouse,, and Facebook? More importantly, what's your place in that continuum? If you work with content, embrace your place in the ethical debate of creation and curation. It's nothing new—but it's time for user experience practitioners to acknowledge it.

Why? Both companies' and consumers' expectations of user experience have matured, promoting content strategy in interactive teams, efficient projects, and satisfying user experiences. Content strategists shape communication goals, hierarchy, and taxonomy. Innocent choices? Or politics, discrimination, and the dark side of design?

If you ignore these pitfalls of content strategy, what are the ethical implications? We'll discuss this through the lens of content correlation and "merchandising" on news sites, editing and mashing up to “create” anew, and curating in traditional settings like museums. From seemingly benign audits and style guidelines through published content packages, do curators create meaning? If so, how should content strategists confront similar choices?

Presented at SXSW, #sxsw2011, March 14, 2011.

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  • Or writer or website or newspaper
  • Or writer or website or newspaper
  • Rue Mouffetard, Paris 1952; Behind the Gare St. Lazare, Paris, 1932
  • China, the Great Leap Forward 1958, in Life; The Bankers Trust Company 1960 annual report– photojournalism two separate photojournalism assignments, organized opposite one another in the gallery
  • Degas and the nude: Degas’s treatment of the nude from 1850s through turn of the century; co-organized by MFA and Musee D’Orsay for about 180 pieces
  • ADD SLIDE of sampled “curation” that doesn’t huntWish list, THEN hunt—fundamentally different from online curation without a perspective that just HUNTS.
  • So some sections are more about a class of objects and don’t always go in chronological order.”The scholars of the subject, our primary audience, will appreciate this perspective.”A chapter on the 1850s may reference an object in that wasn’t made until 40 years later—because it’s relevant then.
  • “There’s a whole organizational principle that gets shaped by the person determining the sequence—and you can compare Chihuahua and Great Danes if you want, but it doesn’t serve either well…but scale is appreciated best when you think—we have a large Degas oil that will be in a room with smaller Degas pastels and monotypes, and many of these were entirely intended for private ownership. In some cases, because of their risqué subject matter, they were intended for private viewing, not for hanging on the wall. So what you’re doing is comparing a big canvas with its public purpose with small pieces
  • We begin exhibitions with the curator’s statement and photo. A chapter on the 1850s may reference an object in that wasn’t made until 40 years later—because it’s relevant then.
  • What does a working woman want? Real love.
  • Starving flood survivors appear to reach out to CNN’s juicy, fruit-filled eatocracy
  • Visually bad: arrows seem to indicate relevance through juxtaposition and halved page doesn’t put the focus on the non-ad content
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