Curationist in Conversation: JANE PARK & MATT KENNEDY
Meet two more contributors who help make Curationist a reality:
What brought you to Curationist? What is your engagement with it?
Jane Park – I came to Curationist back when I was working with Creative Commons; we were specifically looking to work with museums and global archives on curation. I forgot who approached who, but we started talking to Christian Dawson, MHz Foundation Executive Director, and Hilary Osborne, MHz Foundation Sponsorship Director, and there was interest at the time to work together, to get more cultural works from around the globe online, and I think Curationist was in its earlier stages at that point. We thought there was a lot of potential for collaboration. My interest in Curationist, and Creative Commons generally, was about getting more access and exposure to cultural works that were previously behind digital closed doors, or actual physical closed doors around the world, that just, for whatever reason, were not being openly archived and accessible to the public.
Matt Kennedy – I came to the project by way of connection with Christian. We’ve known each other through mutual contacts in the hosting industry, and as we’ve known each other over the past couple of years and communicated, we’ve bonded over a combination of technology and the arts. A lot of musical and other artistic interests. And, for me, it was the convergence of the two, of the mutual love of technology and art, that drew me to the project.
Would you say there’s a difference between “just Googling” something to find an answer and truly understanding a topic?
MK – Yes, absolutely. You can get the top level summary, almost like a quick Wikipedia level answer from Googling, but to get a real true understanding of something that requires a lot more exploration. Having a little more access to in-depth, guided instructional or curated material is a good next step to come into deeper understanding of it.
JP – Yeah, I would definitely agree. I generally use Google to see if something is trending and what the current sort of events may say about it. But if I really want to learn more about that particular cultural object or work, I would probably start with Wikipedia or dive deeper into tertiary sources.
When was there a time when someone’s introduction to a subject or unique perspective made you more interested in it?
JP – For me, I was just talking to a friend and they were talking about, of all things, Orientalism by Edward Said. It sounded really interesting to me because it was basically the seminal book around what made that term particularly un-PC. It kind of encapsulates a lot of history that comes with the whole middle eastern conflict, and all that kind of stuff. But it’s more a book about how academia, in general, has particular biases embedded within it that very much comes from a Western perspective. Reading that book really made me much more aware of all the issues, especially why a project like Curationist and the Creative Commons and Wikipedia and projects like that, in general, are so important because they expose perspectives from other regions and cultures.
MK – Yeah, that’s great. For me, in terms of finding a subject or something that piques your curiosity, I tend to be permanently curious about a lot of different things and find myself trying to find ways to research and learn more all the time on a variety of subjects, mostly technology-oriented. But when Jane was talking about Orientalism, I was reminded that my partner teaches at the University of Flensburg and was doing some classes on gender studies that was getting into some research on writing perspectives and how one’s identity, race, gender, and perspective, come through in the writing style. And that put me down a rabbit hole of research and thinking about my own voice, and how the other writer reflects their perspectives and how that can be representative of their background, but also carrying over biases. And like Jane was mentioning, the problematic nature of the term Orientalism and figuring how much of your own background or privileges of biases come through in writing; that would probably be the last real deep rabbit hole that I went down on reading and research. There’s some really great material about it, but it’s also I think, it’s still a pretty new area. There’s a lot of stuff like that I’m permanently looking for, some new source of information, some new path to follow to learn more.
The Internet is a global phenomenon, and yet much of the content is from a Global North (aka Global Minority) perspective. Why do you think it’s important to include different perspectives?
JP – Yeah, I mean, so building on what Matt was saying, even sort of slight differences, or maybe major differences, and how different genders may, you know, express things. I think that’s even more so for different cultures and different languages especially. There is a lot of literature and a lot of content being produced in every region. But there isn’t the same sort of transition into the bite-sized Internet sphere, where someone with just sort of a passing interest can really explore something about another culture; a lot of the times it’s because it’s in a different language or because they’re just simply not an expert in that area, and they don’t have access to that kind of literature, or interest in accessing that kind of deep literature. It’s more about is there sort of a Wikipedia bite-sized representation of that work, or that particular perspective. And there really isn’t that layer, and so I think that’s why a project like Curationist is very ambitious and would be important.
MK – My thought on that is, especially too, with more historical and different cultural works I think it’s very important to have a good international perspective in terms of really being respectful to the origins of any particular work, because so many museum pieces throughout history are often presented from a very north western hemisphere perspective of you know, where it was at in the universe and where it had been claimed through to European archaeologists or American archaeologists. You get the pure, sort of western perspective. And I think it’s important to be able to have something that has a lot of clear details about a work of where it came from, who it’s important to, if it’s something that has been up for question of being returned to its particular culture. You know, understanding the real inner workings of the roots of the culture that particular piece originates from.
We have access to an almost incomprehensible number of cultural works. Do you think there’s still a value to providing context and commentary alongside this content?
JP – Yeah, more than ever before because there’s so much stuff out there. I think a problem now, and this is something I encountered at Creative Commons, there wasn’t a lack for the amount of stuff that was under CC or in the public domain, and there could always be more content that we want in the Commons, but there’s already over a billion works in the Commons and no one person is going to go through all that work, because it’s just too much for one lifetime. So the need now more than ever is more curation when it comes to a search or discovery tool, and placing that work in the context of the region and the history, and then the different perspectives that can be shined on it. I think in today’s climate, giving someone a bit more in-depth understanding of something and different cultural perspectives, is a greater value-add than just having access to the sum of all human knowledge, which I think most people kind of have if they have access to the internet.
MK – I really don’t think there’s anything more I can add to what Jane said, there’s already so much data and raw information available on the internet that at this point, I think there’s more value in terms of being able to mold that into a more informative context.
What do you think the future will hold for MHz Foundation’s technical development as an Open Source project?
MK – I’m hopeful that we can get something out there that gets some attention and I think there is a service group that overlaps on technology and on art. That’s something that Virginia Poundstone, Curationist Content Curation Director, and I were talking about the other day. She was sharing this really interesting product that came from a museum; they were producing a tool that could take some of their artworks and render it using like ASCII art, and actually colored in terminals and stuff, just really crazy. And, you know, there’s a community out there that is really passionate about the arts and really passionate about technology. I think that’s an area where we could have something that overlaps with both of those and I would really like to contribute towards that.
JP – I would just add on that, in my experience, as part of the open cultural and Creative Commons related events abroad, there’s so much appetite for people from different regions who want a platform for their expertise and for their perspective and for their knowledge to be shared. And I think there’s just not as much funding and resources going to them as there is in the West. And I think that’s a huge space where Curationist could definitely tap a lot of interest and passion.
Curationist is one website with multiple views.