OK, the idea of codifying the act of sharing on the Internet seems a bit overwrought. But then there’s this rant from Gizmodo’s Matt Langer about the utter bullshittery of the entire enterprise.
It would be easy to dismiss this as an anti-intellectual screed, but there are good points here. No one’s “curating” anything. We’re sharing links. It’s an act so utterly baked into the Internet that devising a “code” to guide our curatorial acts seems a bit like inventing rules for walking.
But there are rules for walking. Like you can’t jaywalk. Of course, everybody does jaywalk, but imagine the chaos that would ensue if crosswalks and lights were completely ignored. I guess what I’m getting at is exactly what Langer brings up in his Gizmodo item. He points out that in the olden days we’d chat via email about a cute kitten photo in a magazine, and then we’d Xerox the thing and snail mail it. This was how we shared stuff. (No we didn’t, but that’s beside the point.)
But what happens on the Internet is something entirely different. It’s a new form of interaction that arises when sharing becomes so seamless and easy. The point is, it’s a new form of sharing. Much like how the acceleration of the still photo gave birth to cinema, the Internet’s galaxy of hyperlinks gives birth to new forms of social interaction. What would a Xerox-based Facebook look like? It’s almost impossible to imagine, though you could point to things like high school yearbooks as some sort of faint historical analogue.
Aggregation and sharing should be the object of debate, particularly when copy-and-paste culture is the norm. It’s the very naturalness of the act that behooves us to think in terms of etiquette and ethics. Call it curation or sharing or whatever. That’s just semantics. What’s important is ensuring that sources are never submerged in a sea of ambiguity. No one over the age of 8 wants to use the game of “Telephone” as the model for information sharing.