Lambert and Frisch draw our attention to the fact that there are increasingly better and more cost-efficient – if not free – digital tools available for content mapping purposes, such as creating indexes for documentary collections and that some are for recreational purposes, while others are intended for experts.(1) When a platform like Pinterest is used recreationally to catalogue product purchases, inspirational images and recipes, be not mistaken, sales professionals pay close attention.(2) Marketers(3) and media publishers (4) utilize Pinterest to hyperlink product images or links to articles (5) while it provides meta data to corporations that are constantly accessing and leveraging information about prospective clients.
Being personally involved in the contemporary arts, I have had interactions with professional curators on a regular basis over the years. I therefore completely sympathize with Peter Morin’s position on the outright misuse and oversimplication of the terms “curator”, “curated by” and “curating” in online literature. He objects to the reductionist use of the term to casually describe the act of online scrapbooking, an embodiment of commodity fetishism that benefits no one but the retailers (6). I have a similar quarrel with the hijacking of the term “artisan” by the fast/processed food industries (7).
At times I feel a certain “uneasiness,” which turns into laughter, when I inadvertently come across some Pinterest boards of friends or former colleagues, and a certain pleasure when I create my own classification systems. I borrow the term “uneasiness” from Michel Foucault’s seminal preface to The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, because it points to the physiological/emotional reaction that one may have when coming across or creating taxonomies.(8) As a long-term collector of many different types of objects, I have organized a number of my collections in a fairly compulsive manner (books, postcards, etc.) and attest that there is something of that kind of reaction that effectively takes place. Taxonomies trigger a physical response, and Foucault’s preface reminded me that they have an effect on the reader. The analysis of Foucault’s text by Michael Duszat of Humboldt University of Berlin also makes important observations to this effect, in particular with respect to heterogeneous enumerations:
“One of the powerful effects that heterogeneous enumeration can have: it provokes substantial self-reflection, which, in an almost educational sense, can produce a disturbing but also immensely rewarding reading experience.” (Duszat, 2012, p. 203) (9)
“Heterogeneous enumeration becomes visible as a powerful literary device that can be employed to raise critical questions about many of our present concerns about the production and representation of knowledge and meaning, questions about rationality, order, and the power of writing.” (Duszat, 2012, p. 214) (10)
There is also something ultimately existential about list-making, as Georges Perec splendidly noted in Thoughts of Sorts.(11) Perhaps the appeal and popularity of Pinterest can be explained in part by the type of aesthetic gratification it brings its users (content creators) and readers, voluntary or accidental. The question however remains how many of its users will take advantage of this experience to engage in independent and reflective thinking about their own list-making practice and whom it truly benefits?
(1) Lambert, D. & Frisch, M. (2013). “Digital Curation through Information Cartography: A Commentary on Oral History in the Digital Age from a Content Management Point of View,” Oral History Review, (1), 135.
(2) Constine, J. (Feb. 2016). Image Recognition Invades Shopping As Curalate Raises $27.5M”, Retrieved from: http://techcrunch.com/2016/02/02/profiting-from-pretty-pictures/
(3) Hurley Hall, S. (Oct. 2014). How Successful Marketers Use Pinterest to Drive Conversations (And How You can Too), Retrieved from: http://unbounce.com/social-media/how-successful-marketers-use-pinterest-to-drive-conversions/
(4) Perez, S. (Sept. 2013). “Pinterest Appeals To Publishers With New Article Pins, Pushes To Become A Bookmarking & “Read It Later” Service, Tech Crunch, Retrieved from: http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/24/pinterest-ariticle-pins/
(6) Morin, P. (Oct. 2011). An Open Letter to Everyone Using the Word ‘Curate’ Incorrectly on the Internet. Retrieved from http://aboriginalcuratorinresidence.blogspot.ca/2012/05/httphermitagemuseumwordpresscom20111004.html
(7) Polis. C. (Oct. 2011). When 'Artisan' Means 'Industrial': How One Word's Definition Has Been Overused And Abused, Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/25/when-artisan-means-industrial_n_1031004.html
(8) Foucault, M. (2005) The Order of Things , Preface, p. xx, Retrieved from: http://beautifuldata.metalab.harvard.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Foucault_The-Order-of-Things.pdf
(9) Duszat, M. (2012), Foucault’s Laughter: Enumeration, Rewriting, and the Construction of the Essayist in Borges’s ‘‘The analytical language of John Wilkins’’, Orbis Litterarum 67:3 193–218
(11) Perec, G. (2009). “Thoughts of Sorts”, translated by David Bellos.