Content, as they say, is king, but content curation, is God. Let me explain why. Last Friday evening, I was about to leave work when the thought suddenly occurred to me that I didn't have my phone. I spent the next 5 minutes rummaging through my bag, coat, trouser pockets and desk drawers, but it wasn't there. I tried remembering the last time and place I had used it: the kitchen. Still nothing. Panic began to set in. I went back to my office and tried calling it from my landline. Still nothing. I sat in my chair and began to reconcile myself with the fact that I might never see my iPhone again.
First world problems…right? Right. But a problem nonetheless and for many an everyday occurrence.
So I got my things together and decided to head home. As I passed reception, I heard someone call my name: “Will, is this your phone?” It was my phone! A big sigh of relief and home I went. But my relief wasn't so much at having recovered the physical device itself, but more about the fact that I had been able to retrieve my data. And not only the raw data, but more importantly its classification: the file structures, music playlists, to-do notes, contact lists, photo archive – in short, content curation.
Why am I sharing this anecdote with you? Because it highlights the point of the increasing value we place on content curation. Usability, design aesthetic, build quality etc. these are all very important factors in our experience of consumer technologies, but it's what we can do with our data, or what the device will allow us to do that has a lasting impact on our buy-in to a service or product. Data access, retrieval and curation are the three key ingredients – the holy trinity – of our digital times.
The triumph of Apple's ‘iGeneration‘ range of devices is without question its successful fusion of usability and design. The key to its success has been building interfaces with a frictionless border between physical form and virtual function. So a device such as an iPhone becomes an extension and an enhancement of the body, capable of achieving tasks we cannot do alone: archiving and organizing data.
Data classification in an age of distributed networks and information proliferation has become as valuable as (and if not more) the data itself. The more data we generate, the more value we place on systems that allow us to ‘control' or keep up with the complexity of its distribution. The reason we value content curation is simple: it saves time.
Time is the one constant that regulates our lives above and beyond our digital world. While their are attempts to change this by creating virtual copies of ourselves or opening the way for AI as an evolutionary step beyond the anthropocene, for the moment we are still bound by time's limitations.
Over the coming weeks, I will be highlighting some of my favourite data organisation tools, both open and closed source in an attempt to contextualise this void and go some way to filling it. So I'd really love to hear what sort of applications and devices work best for your own data classification, whether it's creating a shopping list, creating a mixtape, processing your accounts or collecting references for a publication – let me know what works for you.