As several reviewers of Steve Rosenbaum’s Curation Nation have discussed, a major theme of the book is the importance of human input in curation. Rosenbaum repeatedly hammers home the idea that high-quality curation, which makes it possible to find things on the Web, has to be done by human beings rather than computers. There are many passages in the book on this theme. I’ll quote a few here from Rosenbaum’s introductory comments to give the flavor (boldface added):

(p 3-4) Curation is about adding value from humans … Curation is very much the core shift in commerce, editorial, and communities that require highly qualified humans. Humans aren’t extra, or special, or enhancements; humans are curators. They do what no computer can possibly achieve.

(p 12-13) No longer is the algorithm in charge. Human curators have become essential software. What emerges is new human and computer collaboration  … The important news of the emergence of a Curation Nation is that humans are very much back in charge.

Rosenbaum’s emphasis on the importance of humans especially strikes me because that’s also been a major theme of this blog, starting with the first article in the blog, on the importance of human input for organizing pictures. Other articles on the theme are listed in the category human input.

A subject that’s closely connected to human input and to curation, that Rosenbaum also stresses, and that I’ve written about (category: Pattern Recognition), is the quintessentially human capability of pattern recognition. He has several good snippets based on prominent blogger Robert Scoble:

(p 134) Humans are essential. So exactly what do they add? Is it magic, or something more quantifiable? Taste, judgement, serendipity? Scoble says what they add is uniquely human. “Algorithms are good at picking the big stuff, because computers are good at counting numbers or links or numbers of clicks or numbers of retweets. Humans aren’t going to compete with that. But as humans, our brains are pattern recognizers. I can look at the tree across the street, and in a millisecond I know it’s a tree. A computer has to look at an image of a tree for hours and spend a lot of processor time to figure out it’s a tree.” … (p 140) “I think curation is seeing a pattern in the world and telling someone else about that pattern.”

The exciting bottom line for librarians — As several library people have noted in discussing Curation Nation, this is right up our alley! The sorts of skills that Rosenbaum discusses are just what we’re good at — Careful, Caring Curation of the world’s information.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

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