The word 'curation' has become popular recently in the tech world to describe what I call mutual media - the way, by reading many things and passing on a few of them, that we mediate the world of information for each other. As m'colleague JP Rangaswami says, "Curators add to relevance by stripping away the irrelevant and the unneeded and the shoddy."
However, there is a move to co-opt this useful term into a new form of centralised control. Sarah Rotman of Forrester defines 'curated computing' as:
A mode of computing where choice is constrained to deliver less complex, more relevant experiences.Given Forrester's background, expect this 'curated computing' idea to be used to justify IT departments preventing corporate users from using applications they choose any day now.
At the D Conference last week, Steve Jobs embraced this term, referring to a 'curated app store'.
This definition moves the idea of curation from democratic to hierarchical - our choice becomes take it or leave it. As Jobs said
Things are packages, of emphasis. Some things are emphasised in a product, some things are not done as well in a product, some things are chosen not to be done at all in a product.
This reminds me of the classic 'Curate's Egg' cartoon:
Bishop: "I'm afraid you've got a bad egg, Mr Jones";
Curate: "Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!"
When choosing what features go into Apple Products, of course Jobs gets to decide this; it is indeed a great skill. However, when offering technology platforms for others to build businesses on, this is more problematic.
While talking about Flash on the iPad, Jobs said:
A more popular developer environment was HyperCard, we were OK to axe that[...] Hypercard was huge in it's day because it was accessible to anybody
Indeed it was - many people miss it; Dale Dougherty says he wants a HyperCard for the iPad. I don't think he does.
When Steve Jobs's Apple cancelled the HyperCard in QuickTime project, all the people who had built businesses on it could do was plead with Apple, to no avail.
As Jobs himself says, we have a platform to build on for the future - it is HTML5. It's an emerging standard that is not under the control of any one company, but is built on the Web as agreement. And even Steve Jobs can't stop it.