Eco and lists

Curating is making a list, but lists are significant.

The list is the origin of culture. It’s part of the history of art and literature. What does culture want? To make infinity comprehensible. It also wants to create order – not always, but often. And how, as a human being, does one face infinity? How does one attempt to grasp the incomprehensible? Through lists, through catalogs, through collections in museums and through encyclopedias and dictionaries. Eco on lists

I’m not talking about The Ten Best kind of lists, or their detractors. Or maybe I am, but I’m not emphasizing those occasional-lists here. Those lists that are aimed at narrowing, at reducing what is complex to a commodity chunk. I’m talking about the curated list, the list we make not to reduce to a finite and clever number but the list that we make to articulate the complexity. The list, the categorized list, organizes complexity without reducing it. Eco again:

Lovers are in the same position. They experience a deficiency of language, a lack of words to express their feelings. But do lovers ever stop trying to do so? They create lists: Your eyes are so beautiful, and so is your mouth, and your collarbone … One could go into great detail.

But listing is not just infinite expression and love. The culture part is indexing: how the list can be an index to the location of a tiny element of the thing.

Culture isn’t knowing when Napoleon died. Culture means knowing how I can find out in two minutes. Of course, nowadays I can find this kind of information on the Internet in no time. But, as I said, you never know with the Internet.

And while Google is The Master at aggregating the elements, it’s we Turks who gather and arrange and name the items to be indexed. That’s what makes even Google (even Google?) problematic. That’s where curation comes in. To feed Google so others can find out in two minutes.

Think of the list as a method of content curation, and as an index, or fetish.

Character and lists

Practice. Draw up a list of 40 items that characterize a friend or place.


Curating the Digital World: Past Preconceptions, Present Problems, Possible Futures