Knowledge, spelled with a ‘c’

Did you ever not know how to spell ‘knowledge’? No, I don’t remember either. I do remember not understanding what ‘knowledge management’ was, initially confusing it with information management.

An early encounter was when I was asked to draft the organization’s knowledge management (KM) strategy. To ease myself into this new area of work, I made a list of words that I felt clarified the subject. To my amazement, many of the words I chose began with the letter ‘c’.

Conversation, connection, collaboration, consensus, community, cooperation, consistency, commitment, compliance, content, considerate, corporate, communication, compassion, coordinate, contacts, collate, creativity, culture, curiosity, change, capitalize ….

Today I add another word to this list, curation, from the Latin root, curare: to take care of.

I think there is a good fit with knowledge management, as ‘curation’ sits comfortably on the list of words shown above.

Here’s why I think it fits

Mobile balance sculpture trays, Copenhagen. photo by schan
Mobile balance sculpture trays, Copenhagen. photo by schan

Until recently, the term ‘curation’ related to art, with curators located in art galleries and museums. Today the meaning includes digital curation.

Digital curation

With most people having a smart phone, access to information online has never been easier. However, too much information can be as bad as too little, and how can you tell what is good or not so good. This is where the role of the curator comes in and where information can magically become knowledge.

The Knowledge Maverick site is an example of digital curation. I have used my experience to select experts who I respect, together with a range of resources that offer different and practical insights on the subject of knowledge-sharing.

Curation explained

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director of the Serpentine Galleries in London, notes in his book ‘Ways of Curating‘ that:

the verb ‘to curate’ and its variants (curating, curated) are coinages of the twentieth century. … The current vogue for the idea of curating stems from a feature of modern life that is impossible to ignore: the proliferation and reproduction of ideas, raw data, processed information, images, disciplinary knowledge and material products that we are witnessing today.”

According to Orbist, a professional curator focuses on four functions:

  • Preservation
  • Selection of new work
  • Contribution to art history
  • The making of exhibitions

When applying Orbist’s idea of curation and its four functions to knowledge-sharing, it looks like this (the links are to pages on this site):

Your turn

Do you recognize the term ‘curation’ in relation to your own work?

Do you think curation supports knowledge-sharing?

Ten minutes in and again at 13 minutes into this video Orbist talks about the value of conversation. Very KM!


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