Monday, July 21, 2008

Self-Curating World

It seems that the world is now self-curating. The old model of librarians, curators and researchers collecting material in a thoughtful and well organized way, and producing cohesive collections is becoming, to some degree, obsolete. Such work involved finding obscure works moldering in someones attic and collecting, organizing and presenting them to the world.

Nowadays those works stay in the attic, but the owner digitizes them and uploads them to YouTube. The search function is now the curator. These days I find myself keeping YouTube and WikiPedia open in a browser when I read, and when an event, person or performance is referenced, nine times out of ten it's on YouTube.

I read Joe Boyd's "White Bicycles" memoir recently, about his musical experiences in the 50's and 60's. He was everywhere things were happening, from Jazz to folk to high mod happenings. I was amazed at how many of these events are now on YouTube, from Dylan going electric, to Pink Floyd at the UFO club. Even obscure English folk musicians have a clip or two that some fan has uploaded. It's like everything now has a multi-media addendum available at the click of a search button.

This is not a new insight. There are books written about how well-programmed search engines reduce the need for organizing information. I'm just amazed at how well the world is now curating itself. YouTube was devised as a way for people to create their own content - movies of their cats or bike stunts. But I think it's true worth is in the amount rare footage that has previously been unavailable.

As a music fan, I'm astounded that there exists footage of things like the Velvet Underground performing at the NYC Psychiatrists convention on 1/13/1966 (the exact day I was born), the Talking Heads at CBGB's performing in 1976 as a nervous three piece before Jerry Harrison joined, Tom Verlaine teaching Television songs to Richard Hell (who seems like a slow learner), and the single best concert film ever - Talking Heads live on Italian TV in 1980. It blows "Stop Making Sense" out of the water, which is no mean feat. And I don't even need to post links to these clips (they get taken down and re-upped anyway), just go to YouTube and search.

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