Blogging is hard work. Creating original content each week, as you’ve found by participating in the DH23Things programme, is a significant commitment. Most academic bloggers don’t update so frequently, perhaps once a month, although it depends on what kind of blog you’re writing and for what audience. However, there are other, less labour-intensive ways of publishing content online which will demonstrate your expertise and value to other scholars, students and the general public. Rather than create original content, you can collate and curate content that you find, which positions you as an expert who can maintain an overview of a field and comment on it usefully. Content curation can arise as a ‘side effect’ of your habitual searching and browsing for information.
Tools: Scoop.it, Storify
There are two tools to explore this week; you might explore either or both of them.
Scoop.it is a service which allows you to ‘scoop’ web content and display it in a ‘magazine-style’ format. You designate up to 5 topics, into which you can scoop relevant web pages you’ve found. Scoop.it also suggests content which matches your interests so that you can include it if you wish. You can then add your own comment on it, or link scoops to your other online platforms, such as Twitter, your blog, LinkedIn, or people can ‘follow’ your topics on Scoop.it (as you can follow theirs).
Storify fulfils a slightly different purpose – it allows you to create ‘stories’ from social media, collecting tweets, blog and Facebook posts, videos, podcasts, photos and other URLS (which might include video from the University Streaming Media Service, slides from Slideshare or PDF content from Scribd) into a coherent, meaningful narrative. You can reorder, comment, add and delete to edit your ‘story’, as well as notify the original authors that their content has been included. You can then embed these stories into your other platforms, for example, your blog. For examples of Storify in use, see CRASSH’s website, which makes extensive use of Storify to publicise and capture the events it runs. You could also see the storify of the twitter chat held between Oxford and Cambridge’s 23things programmes!
Set up an account on Scoop.it. You can do so with an existing Facebook account if you are comfortable with this, or create an account separately with an email address.
Start by creating a topic, remembering to think carefully about your keywords, as this metadata is the means by which others will find your topic but also the mechanism by which Scoop.it will identify content it thinks you might wish to rescoop. You can change the keywords, or the platforms that Scoop.it searches (blogs, Twitter, Youtube, Google) in ‘manage’ and ‘manage sources’ in each topic.
It might be helpful to install the ‘scoop.it bookmarklet’, a button which appears in your browser bookmarks so you can scoop content quickly rather than going to the scoop.it webpage.
See what content has been suggested for you, and scoop and comment on anything that looks relevant to your chosen topic. Alternatively, you can add webpages you’ve found independently using the bookmarklet or the ‘New Scoop’ button at the top of your Scoop.it homepage. Scoop.it will also send you content periodically by email update which might help you to spot relevant information you might have missed. If you use Paper.li in connection with Twitter to collate the webpages shared by your Twitter contacts, then this is another source of suggested content for you to curate.
Decide which of your other social media platforms you want to link Scoop.it to, so that your topics and updates will be promoted there, in the ‘settings’ in your profile. When your contacts click on one of your shared links through Twitter, they will be sent to your Scoop.it page, where they can see the rest of your topic magazine.
If you want to explore Storify, then you can create an account via Facebook or Twitter (if you’re comfortable doing so) or through an email address if not. You can then begin to create your first ‘story’ – this might be around a theme relating to your research which is currently prominent in the news, or it might be around an event, such as those run at CRASSH. Add a title and a description, and then search across various social media platforms and the internet using the icons in the right hand menu. You can also add in URLs for other content, or install the Storify ‘bookmarklet’ in your bookmark bar to make it easier to get content you’ve found. You can drag items into your ‘story’ and rearrange them as you wish. Remember to click ‘publish’ when you’re done, and you can then embed your story on your blog, or share it via Twitter and email.
Both Scoop.it and Storify are well integrated with Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to share your curated content with your social network. Are you comfortable signing in via these platforms, and does it fit with your overall strategy for managing your identity online? Or would you prefer to create an account using an email address? What would be the best way to disseminate your content curation to your intended audience? Might there be a way to gain audience feedback on your curation, or use it to enter into a more interactive discussion, using a mixture of social media platforms?
How sensitive are the platforms in finding relevant content, and to what extent is this due to careful use of search terms and other metadata?
What audiences might you curate information for, and what curation expertise might you offer that they would find valuable? Audiences might include your peers, colleagues in your discipline or institution, students or the general public. Consider also the types of information which these platforms lend themselves to – traditional forms of academic publishing (journal articles and books) are not so easy to curate in this way. What might curation of other types of digital source (social media, websites, etc) contribute to developing your role as an expert online? Some suggested uses:
- Give expert commentary on debates, issues and events currently discussed in social media and websites
- Offer a coherent overview for peers of online resources on a theme or research area
- Publicise events you are involved in, such as conferences or public engagement, which have an online presence
- Engage with the impact agenda, by curating social and online media as a commentary on your research area
- Collate resources for your students
A key quality of social media is that it is immediate and up-to-date. In the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, however, the age of information does not have quite the same value; it often does not go ‘out of date’ so fast. Will you set yourself any criteria in terms of the age of content you are curating?
The role of curator has traditionally been played by professionals in libraries, museums and galleries. Digital ‘artefacts’ are more freely available and manipulable, and can be curated by anyone. What are the principles of effective curation? One issue to consider is that of copyright, intellectual property and acknowledgement. If curation entails making use of resources created by others, and if digital artefacts can be easily removed from context, changed and shared, then it is important to make ethical and legal use of them.
Digital content curation is far less labour-intensive than creating your own digital content, but you are limited in terms of copyright and the types of information you can curate (largely publically available social media and websites). Would curating therefore act as an effective commentary on your professional activities as a researcher and help to position you as an expert, or are the available digital sources too far removed from what you do?
You might choose to collate resources on a particular occasion or for a particular purpose, in which case you will need to make time to do so especially; you might also integrate curation with issues which you yourself are interested in finding out more about, so it becomes a routine by-product. If you have installed the bookmarklets, then curating content as you find it in the course of your usual online searching will be easy. How will you maintain an overview of your curation over the longer term so that it remains coherent? How often will you need to update for your curation to remain relevant? How will you make sure that your intended audience is aware of what you offer, by integrating it with other aspects of your online presence?