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Pinterest, Tumblr and the Trouble With ‘Curation’ -

Stashed in: Pinterest, Tumblr!, Emotion, Curation, Advertising, Awesome, Visualization, Gamification!, Mad Men!, commented, Content is king., Writing

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There’s a German word for it, of course: Sehnsucht, which translates as “addictive yearning.” This is, I think, what these sites evoke: the feeling of being addicted to longing for something; specifically being addicted to the feeling that something is missing or incomplete. The point is not the thing that is being longed for, but the feeling of longing for the thing. And that feeling is necessarily ambivalent, combining both positive and negative emotions.

A paper titled “What Is It We Are Longing For?” published in The Journal of Research in Personality, breaks down these “life longings” into essential characteristics. They target aspects of our lives that “are incomplete or imperfect”; involve “overly positive, idealized, utopian imaginations of these missing aspects”; focus on “incompleteness on the one hand and fantasies about ideal, alternative realities on the other hand”; result in a “temporarily complex experience” combining “memories of the past, reflections on the imperfect present and fantasies about an idealized future” (this is called “tritime focus”); and that “make individuals reflect on and evaluate their life, comparing the status quo with ideals or successful others.”

In other words, your average Pinterest board or inspiration Tumblr basically functions as a longing machine.


Carina Cochano's article is so well written:

I used to think this obsession was mine alone. But now nearly everyone I know — and by that I mean everyone who spends vast, barren tundras of time at her computer — goes to Web sites like these to escape, destress, perk up, calm down, feel something, not feel something, distract themselves and (they don’t call it “lifestyle pornography” for nothing) modulate pleasure and arousal. A friend of a friend calls his addiction to sites like these “avenues for procrastination,” but I think there’s something else involved. Like other forms of pastiche — the mix tape, the playlist, the mash-up — these sites force you to engage and derive meaning or at least significance or at the very least pleasure from a random grouping of pictures. Why not dive into an alternative world full of beauty and novelty and emotion and the hard-to-put-your-finger-on feeling that there’s something more, somewhere, where you’re not chained to your laptop, half dead from monotony, frustration and boredom?

It's NOT about procrastination. It's about FEELING SOMETHING GOOD.

The feeling is the point:

They have a lot more in common with advertising than they do with curation. After all, advertising trains us to keep our desire always at the ready, nurturing that feeling that something is missing, then redirecting it toward a tangible product. In the end, all that pent-up yearning needs a place to go, and now it has that place online. But products are no longer the point. The feeling is the point.

This could have been something Don Draper said.

Pinterest and Tumblr serve as "longing machines":,%202009.pdf

Longing machines tap into consumption AS creation:

Pinterest didn’t create this urge to use visual evocations for little pleasure jolts; in fact, its success lies precisely in being behind the curve. The site’s co-founder, Ben Silbermann, has said that in creating the site, he was just picking up on something people were already doing — i.e., collecting beautiful things and using them as a way to express who they are to the world — and making it easier for them to do it. What the company provides is a clean, well-lighted place to collect found images and share them with others. In fact, the company discourages people from posting images they have created themselves, preferring that they venture out into the wilds of the Internet looking for beautiful things to bring back to the cave.

Silbermann suggests that collecting online is a form of self-expression for people who don’t create. “If you walk around Brooklyn and ask people how they express themselves,” he said in a speech at New York University, “everyone’s a musician or an artist or a filmmaker. But most of us aren’t that interesting. Most of us are just consumers of that. And when we collect things and when we share those collections with people, that’s how we show who we are in the world.”

Great article. I think we need to differentiate types of curation -- this piece does a good job of showing they're not all the same. Some are feeling-focused like a photo album, some are newsy and ephemeral, others an evolving journey to learn about a subject. We don't need a full taxonomy but editing the glut of the world's constantly growing data can serve many purposes and achieve very different goals. The curation itself may not be the most notable part. In the coming years, that term might be assumed and go unspoken: what is it your effort results in?

Effort results in emotion.

I like the simplicity of that.

I'm not convinced what any of these people is doing is actual curation.

What they're doing -- what I keep coming back to -- is that they're feeling something.

I think a next step along this path of realization may be that these pastiche-based, iteratively-evolved, attention-consuming "longing machines" -- as well as their close cousins, online games -- could by now be having macro social/economic effects.

Computer/internet-mediated mood-gratification may have become so pervasive, and so cheap/easy, that other activities (for example the kind that show up in GDP and employment statistics) are suffering.

Are we in a Gamification Recession?

We very well might be, Gordon. first foray into curation? I collected Cigar Aficionado magazines in the early 90's (before 1995). At one point I decided to cut each and every picture out, attach a whole bunch of metadata about the cigars as culled from the attributes about size, ring, length, taste, etc. I wrote my very first Web app that let you interactively search for terms by pulling down drop downs and then returning a list of images and all the attributes.

What happened next? I got a series of nasty letters threatening to sue me. So unless something's changed, it's probably only a matter of time before all those posts and ripostes (int.). hit the legal circuit.


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