let me ask you something. on any given day, how many web browser tabs do you have open, saving articles and pieces you will eventually read because it sounds interesting/important/informative? and i am not going to even ask if you use multiple web browsers.
is there a better way to keep track of all the things you may (or may not) read?
this relates to public scholarship, i promise.
are we human or are we content curators?
content curation is THE buzzzzzz word of the 2020’s, maybe even the 2010’s. people and brands are curating content that draws their audience in and keeps them coming back for more. after all, they are thought leaders in their subject matter, no matter the topic. and guess what? you are a content creator too (i can hear your collective gasps).
no, but seriously. think about it. the research process includes a compilation of research for your lit review, maybe some mainstream news articles connecting to your research. that is content. and you have curated it specific for the topic/research. so why not keep an open repository of the content you have curated? it’s themed. it’s specific. it’s relevant. it’s interesting.
back to basics.
consider your research work flow. how do you keep track of every relevant and informative piece of research you come across? folders and files on your laptop? onenote? dropbox? evernote? and what about all those stray web browser articles? bookmarks bar? twitter? safari reading list? chrome reading list? some other obscure outlet where you may or may not remember.
academics as content curators.
here is where the two worlds can combine. research and content curation…you have all this brilliant content on a very important and relevant topic area, and its saved somewhere only you know. have you considered keeping an open and public repository of your collected research? say, a curated reading list? i am not suggesting you give away your prize horse here. and whilst respecting copyright limitations. but there is something here.
intentional content curation can help you long-term. it can be the bones of a blog. it provides a low-stakes way to engage with the public audience (outside of social media). it can help you stay organized. it can track, in real time, your thoughts on a specific topic. it can help you collaborate with colleagues, students, and the public more seamlessly then, say, email.
academics are content curators.
you are a thought leader. you are creating knowledge. the research process can be long and arduous. instead of saving all your brilliant thoughts until the end of the process, consider letting others behind the curtains. why would that exclude what you are reading? what you are interested in? what informs your thought process? what topics you enjoy reading? you have it all, saved somewhere over the rainbow. as a thought leader and a public scholar, what you read and consume can be as influential as the knowledge you create.
this is where a publicly curated reading and resource list could be an outlet serving many purposes. saving all those articles you will one day read in a space that is not your web browser open tabs or a forgotten bookmark folder. it is a living, shareable reading list. collecting resources and ideas for a potential or upcoming research project. curating a reading list for a course. a public user friendly version of your CV. saving pieces that may help you become a better writer. building a user friendly and accessible reading and resource list with colleagues, students, or the public.
there’s an app for that.
there are plenty of apps/platforms/outlets for storing (and sharing) your lists. there is Padlet, Flipboard, Pocket, Instapaper, Pinterest, Scoop.it!, Pearltrees, diigo. there are some that will curate content for you such as paper.li, if you are into those sorts of things. the added and potentially one of the biggest benefit of these platforms is they are not a part of the stereotypical social media lexicon (jury is out on Pinterest). the platforms can be social in the way you decide to use them! now which one to choose?
set your goal.
first, you have to determine your goal. right now, i am testing out Padlet and Flipboard. my goal is two-fold. to maintain an easy-to-update and access page for academics looking for resources to become public scholars, and to save and share all the interesting (but not relevant to public scholarship) articles i intend to read. considering my audience, padlet makes more sense because it is user friendly and visually appealing as a resource canvas. but padlet’s layout is not visually appealing enough for a reading list. i see flipboard and i envision someone sitting in a cozy chair with an tablet catching up on their readings (it’s me, i am my audience). currently, neither of them are built to be social, but the functionality is there when i need it.
does it fit into your workflow?
ease and functionality is crucial. the last thing we want here is to create more work for ourselves, and even a few more clicks is more work! do you want it to be a phone app? a web browser extension? consider your work flow – where and how often are you coming across content you want to save/share? i am always on my laptop, so a web browser extension is necessary. but i do tend to read email newsletters and twitter from my cell phone, so the platforms need to also have an iPhone app so i can easily add articles to my list. you will only figure out what works once you test out some of the options.
is there a social aspect?
once you start building your curated list, you share it! share it in your social media feed, as you many of you are already doing. add the link to your online bio/profile. post it in conjunction with a newly published paper. share it with coauthors or graduate students looking to dive deeper into the topic area. many of the platforms include options to include public commentary and notes, giving you the space to engage with your audience and further develop your thought leadership on the topic.
creating a curated public reading list serves two purposes: organizing and saving relevant content, and showing interested publics what content you find interesting and relevant. there are many apps and platforms that help save time and keep you organized, depending on your goals and work flow.
do you believe academics and scholars are content curators?
this post was inspired by Mark Carrigan’s ‘Social Media for Academics‘ chapter on using social media to manage information.