We are all, in some sense, curators of our cultural lives, and always have been. Commonplace books were a popular means of arranging nuggets of valuable material selected by the compiler. Marginalia is another time-honored form of highlighting and annotating texts, personalizing them and noting the most meaningful bits. In a digital era, this activity is social. You might have noticed dots under lines in Kindle texts. Those are traces of what other readers noted. (You can turn off this feature, but the default is to show them.) Oprah’s latest foray into social reading – Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 – encourages its members to read in whatever format they prefer, but if you decide to purchase the Oprah-authorized Kindle edition, you can see what passages club members - and Oprah herself - have highlighted.
Overwhelmed with choice, we have gotten in the habit of curating personally-meaningful digital things. Social bookmarking sites were an early way of letting others know what you are reading online. We shared our photos online via Flickr, which cultural institutions have used to crowdsource information about their collections. Citation management tools, once a way to store, sort, and format hand-picked bibliographic information, have gone social. This makes all kinds of sense. Works cited lists have always been a particularly fruitful way to share related sources; now we can peer into one another’s personal collections and can form groups to share useful citations and annotations on a topic of shared interest. These "trails of association" are rather like what Vannevar Bush envisioned when he described his hypothetical Memex machine in 1945.
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