There is no MLA for the Internet.

Y’all! In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been fascinated by different articles about digital content curation, what that means and how to do it “properly.” Perhaps you guessed as much by my previous ramble about Pinterest. Most of what I’ve been reading about involves the ethical process of reblogging/repositioning/repurposing of content.

When you reblog, or pin, or share in general, is there a protocol for citing the original source? If we insist on standard attribution to an Original Source, does that take away from the cooperative, community aspect of sharing knowledge and creative work?

Austin Kleon, "Good Theft vs. Bad Theft"; StealLikeAnArtist.com

The cool/Nebulous Issue thing is: as we’re talking about the Internet, there is no absolute answer. Which is important! The conversation around the ethics of sharing, and the organic development of creative communities, will only inspire better, more interesting work — even if, at times, that conversation can seem aimlessly exhausting/circular. An interesting look at how to approach appropriate citation and attribution might be taking a look at literary criticism, its circular nature and how academics are very similar to content curators — albeit, possibly held more accountable by the nature of print and potential ubiquity of source material.

A friend of mine and I recently got into a conversation about the Curator’s Code, which essentially provides a framework for attribution of creative content by those who would repurpose that content (spoiler alert: there’s a large moving eyeball on the Code sight — it’s nothing short of terrifying). It’s a couple of symbols attached to a post, or what have you, that provide a convenient shorthand for citing original sources. David Carr wrote an insightful NYT article about it following a South by Southwest Interactive panel on the business of attribution and creating unifying symbols to identify content curation. Interesting point: “Where is the line between promoting the good work of others and simply lifting it? Naughty aggregation is analogous to pornography: You know it when you see it.”

I’m not sure if the Curator’s Code actually works in practice, although I do like the idea of it. Is it something that will catch on in common Internet practice? I hesitate to make a prediction either way, but the concept of a Curator’s Code does make me think twice about the manner in which I approach re-blogging/re-tweeting, etc. I am trying to get away from the visual of “Curator’s Code” as somehow involving Nicolas Cage in an Internet hacking cagefight for creatives everywhere.

Additional reading on the subject:

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