Introduction to Digital Curation MOOC – Week 1 Exercise: Toward a definition of ‘digital curation’

I recently signed up for the free MOOC ‘Introduction to Digital Curation’, run by the UCL via its eXtend platform. One of the first activities was to introduce yourself to the other partipants in the chat forum/message board. Fairly straight-forward, but there was also the option to get involved in a forum discussion around definitions of digital curation. Many of these responses were fairly technical and concerned with metadata, data handling, etc etc (things I don’t really know enough about to be able to adequatly describe them..). While those technical aspects are no doubt important, my interests lie elsewhere, and I was interested in exploring whether a definiton existed for ‘digital curation’ that was more accesible and primarily concerned with the needs/interests of public library audiences. This was my contribution (very much a off-the-top-of-my-head-and-needs-refining-argument):

“As I work in a public library (in a frontline, assistant, role), I am interested in any definiton of digital curation that could involve non-technical practices.

No doubt this was not the best place to start, but take a look at the definition of ‘digital curation’ given on Wikipedia: “the selection, preservation, maintenance, collection and archiving of digital assets.” This seems to me to be a wonderfully broad definition, one that can encompass a variety of different meanings and practices – some more technical than others – without necessarily favouring any one possible definition over any other.

The Wikipedia article goes on to talk about curation being “applied to interaction with social media including compiling digital images, web links and movie files.” This is the sort of angle I am interested in approaching the topic from, as this seems to me to be the sort of valuable work libraries (all libraries, but especially public libraries) can be undertaking for their users.

Even if this is something as simple as compiling categorised lists of the most important, useful, trustworthy, accessible, etc, etc websites/digital resources. When many public library users have relatively low digital skils, an action such as this is low-cost but high impact. Whether it fits into anyone’s definiton of ‘digital curation’ though…

I am also interested in – the linked – ways that the concept relates to things like ‘content curation’ and ‘personal digital archiving’. Again, not being from a technical background, I am interested in the ways that individuals are and can be ‘managing’ digital content on platforms such as YouTube – into ordered playlists (by theme, year, etc), for example. I have been working on a project of this nature for around the last 18-months, a season-by-season collection of football (soccer) matches available on YouTube: (v. much a work in progress).

The intention is the same as it has ever been for any kind of library – to bring order to a vast, chaotic, formless mass of unorganised information. And thereby to facilitate education and entertainment. Yet again, this seems to me territory that libraries (probably all libraries, but especially public libraries) can be engaging with – in their role as facilitators of access to information and as educators. It does not need to be highly technical, but the skills staff at those institutions already posses – in cataloguing, indexing, locating, connecting with the public – can be transferred easily to these digital realms.

Again, I don’t really know if this (any of this) counts as ‘digital curation’, but I’m interested in finding out whether a definiton that can include such non-technical practices is possible.”


One comment

  1. […] with the article by Leslie Johnston, I would like to add some extra points. Further to what I have written above, I would now set out four broad practices that could be said to constitute digital curation. These […]

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