Curation – The Answer to Stuffocation
Behind Studio Doors
If you’re like me, you often find yourself spending more time figuring out what to watch on Netflix than actually watching something. And what about those hours spent going through restaurant reviews trying to choose the one that has the best Sunday roast and end up going to your local instead?
The problem of modern times isn’t having too little but having too much. We are stuffocated and overwhelmed with choice, we are constantly being bombarded with new information. Each connected person alive now has 320 times as much data available to them than in the whole Library of Alexandria. Seneca would be very concerned.
Just what is curation?
Excess is everywhere. The only way to make sense of it is by curating everything. And we are all curators in our own right. The choices we make about the type of content we consume, that new product purchase, that gig we got tickets for – all of that communicates our unique identity to the world. The ability to pick something specific that is right and relevant for you individually has become a crucial skill to be able to navigate through the world. The nature of value has shifted. The real luxury today is time, that’s no novelty. It’s no longer about having more and adding more but about reducing and refining. Curation is built around expert selection with defined goals. It’s all about providing the right context. Art curators help gallery visitors understand a piece of art by putting it in context of the exhibition, be it a painter’s life or a period in which it was created or even a historical theme that it addressed. A song in the context of an album has a deeper meaning than if it was listened to on its own. As online curator Maria Popova puts it:
”The art of curation isn’t about the individual pieces of content, but about how these pieces fit together, what story they tell by being placed next to each other, and what statement the context they create makes about culture and the world at large’’.
What about brands’ roles in all this?
The same rules apply to brands. Understanding businesses’ roles and positioning in the context of the industry, culture and world as a whole is absolutely essential. After all, being in the game comes with a huge level of responsibility that not many brands take into account. Thinking about the value first and product later, asking why and what problems we are trying to solve by creating more should be the rule. The banking system before the financial crash in 2008 is an excellent example of an overloaded complex system that went on to have a huge, global impact.
There is also a tendency across many businesses and an understandable pressure to produce more. Not just goods, but content in general. There is always a temptation to produce more in order to have higher chances of financial growth. However, that is not always the case. Push content and goods production too far and it becomes toxic. Suddenly from being desirable, brands become ‘too trendy’ and their products lose value. Carefully curated content, on the other hand, instantly feels more exclusive.
This is the reason why brands like Bugatti and Ferrari have very limited production lines. Growth can come from adding value and not mindlessly adding more. Luxury is less and less about goods and increasingly about experiences, so having cultural relevance is vital. Authenticity is very hard to fake. Building reputation takes time and takes consistency in making the right choices. That is why The Financial Times and Penguin remain so influential, and profitable as a result. They have their own vision.
Vox media and Nowness are another two good examples of companies that build credibility through having their own vision and sticking to it. Nowness attracts over a million viewers every month by putting emphasis on storytelling and curation to create culture around the brand by connecting to their audience on an emotional level instead of simply selling a product.
Curation is undeniably valuable, especially today, when our lives are filled and dictated by information overload. It enriches us, it breaks through the noise, helps us find that book, that film, that painting, that experience that changes us. Curation is about selecting and arranging to add value. With value comes trust and with trust comes authority and legacy. That’s the gate to future sustainability.
By Maria Barsukova – Video Editor at Studio Black Tomato