Crowdsourcing is old hat. The moment for letting the public and the masses make sense of content is coming to an end. Sort of. It’s not that sites like have thrown in the towel on folksonomy; but there is an emerging wave of consensus brewing that what has been missing on the web is “expertise” which I believe is one of the reasons that tools like Omeka are gaining support whereas traditional tools of the crowd-sourcing movement seem to be in decline, or at the very least less popular in the New Media Lab.

This is unsurprising as higher education is the place where all of the experts reside. We peer review each other’s papers to ensure that other experts’ opinions, findings, and theories have been vetted by other experts. Higher education trades in the currency of expertise. Is Web 3.0 going to be a golden era for the experts; can it be a time where those with education and knowledge are able to rise above the noise and be heard?

On Blogging as a Source of Noise and a Pun that will Reveal itself Later

“Blogging is largely dead.”

“There are a lot of stupid people out there … and stupid people shouldn’t write.”

“There needs to be a better system for tuning down the stupid people and tuning up the smart people.” (source: Jason Calacanis via Read Write Web)

Calacanis is just one of a growing number of people who believe that the web 3.0 revolution will be a reassertion of the experts’ role in our digital discourse. Curation was a buzzword for much of 2010 and it has emerged I think as the number on issue facing the creation of web content. Because, after all at the Graduate Center and especially the New Media Lab we are highly trained experts in our fields. How can we ensure that in putting parts of our dissertation out there that our hard work is appreciated and valued more than our next door neighbor who started ranting on a blog on the same topic?

Earlier in the first paragraph when I mentioned it was very intentional. In many senses it is the exact opposite of Pandora which is a highly curated¬†¬†archive of music where musical attributes were assigned to songs by experts. On Reverend Glasseye’s place in music was created by users who tagged it themselves; on Pandora that same band’s radio station finds artists who share similar characteristics as determined by experts in the field. While there might be significant overlap in artists that meet both the “cabaret” tag on and the “extensive vamping” characteristic on Pandora, there is a huge fundamental difference in how both taxonomies are created.

On “Is there a Space to be Inherited?”
Back to the ReadWriteWeb article for a moment, which I admit I chose because of its rather alarming quotes. “Experts will inherit the [blogging] space,” is the claim. I wonder for a second if there is a space and what it might look like.

The web has created the most democratic publishing platform in history. Much good has come of it as disenfranchised, censored, and unheard voices gained a medium where they could compete with the “expert” for time and a listening audience. Although I use the word “expert” in the pejorative, I do so intentionally to make note of the dual meaning of expert in the situation that is being alluded to. Curation can come to mean “those who have obtained a position of authority through traditional channels,” or it could mean “those who have the legitimacy earned by education and/or experience.”

I think that expertise is important to cultivate and an important part of intellectual discourse; however, if the ‘web 3.0’ is to truly be the age of the expert we must consider both the positive and negative aspects; and ensure that in curating, that the mistakes of past “curated expertise” are not recreated.


2 Comments so far

  1. Anthony Picciano on June 16, 2011 7:06 am


    I think you make a great point in your post. There surely is a lot of noise out on the Web and sifting through it for the important and informed stuff is a carefully cultivated skill.

    However, if we look at other mass media (TV, Cable News, print), there is a fair amount of informed expertise as well as a lot of mundane and sometimes inane programming. It is my sense that both will continue to exist on the web.


  2. On Connections : Aaron is alive and Blogging on June 28, 2011 12:02 pm

    […] On Curation and Expertise […]

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  • A little about me

    My name is Aaron Knoll (as per the title and URL) and I work in the New Media Lab as an advisor of sorts. I assist students working on digital media projects by being available to discuss technology, options, best practices and modern approaches to digital scholarship, as well as the applications and alternatives that are available. I use my 10+ years of experience, having worked in nearly ever IT role that has ever been dreamed up, to offer expertise, advice, and support for the directions they choose to take in their projects.

    I have fulfilled this role in the New Media Lab for over three years and look forward to continue supporting students as they ambitiously look towards the future with their digital work.

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    The views expressed here are my own and they do not represent an official stance of the New Media Lab or any of my colleagues affiliated with the New Media Lab.

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