The 21st-Century Curator

There’s a scene in the Netflix series Master of None where Aziz Ansari’s friends want to go grab a taco. Now, this is from memory, because I haven’t rewatched the series since before Aziz got cancelled. He doesn’t want to leave this taco experience to chance. Given the opportunity to get a taco, he goes online and does a little research. He has to know the best taco place in the immediate area.

On one level, I get this. It’s not even a “fear of missing out” thing. Katie and I had some spectacularly bad Chinese food a while back. It was as if someone who had never eaten Chinese food was shown a picture of various dishes, and they said “yeah, I can cook that”. We later found out that half a block away, in a less conspicuous location, there was a phenomenal Chinese place.

Katie and I are also the type of people that will see an interesting looking hole in the wall and take a chance. We’ve discovered a lot of great restaurants that way. It is, admittedly, how we ended up in the bad Chinese place, too. If you’re willing to take a risk you can be rewarded, but not all of the time. Hence, Aziz does research.

“The 21st-century curator works in a supremely globalised reality.”

Hans-Ulrich Obrist, interview in The Telegraph, 8 October 2010

In putting together my 2021 bullet journal, I have an eye on that sort of curation. There will be lists of books I want to read. I will have collections of movies I want to see, and television shows I’d like to check out. When I have the time, I can check out the list.

The 21st-Century Curator

There’s more to it than that, though. If I want to pick a movie I haven’t seen, my Netflix queue saves me a lot of writing. There’s no need to clutter up my bullet journal with that. The flaw is that a) the queue limits my choices to what’s on Netflix, and b) it doesn’t tell me why I put that movie in the queue in the first place. I might not remember, several months later.

So what I’m doing is making notes in my bullet journal collections, rather than just listing things. These books are Booker Prize winners. This list contains books I want to read as research for a specific project. This is an author I want to check out, and this is how they came to my attention, and this is the book of theirs people suggested I start with.

I’m also trying to change my thinking. A collection of media to be consumed, or even projects I’d like to work on, is not an obligation. Because I need to schedule in reading and viewing — I’m curating how I use my time — these are things that can be migrated. At the start of a month, carry forward the book I didn’t get to last month. Go to the collection of books I want to read and pick one or two more.

That’s far less overwhelming than having dozens of choices staring me in the face.

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