The Next New Thing

Energy is at a premium for college students. Many times to get schoolwork done we must sacrifice a good night’s sleep. We’re up late and up early, juggling school, a job, family and (if we’re lucky) friends. My next Storify story will be on three of the different ways people “find” energy to make up for their lack of sleep: coffee, energy drinks, and prescription amphetamines like Adderall and Vyvanse. I will be looking at the differences between them, a little about how they work, some of the side effects/long term use effects, and will be examining the overall benefits/drawbacks of these different types of energy supplements so that students who need a little help staying awake can make an informed decision about which route to go.

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Curating: When Anyone Can Be an Editor

Books have editors. Magazines have editors. Anthologies have editors. These editors decide what goes in–what people who view their content get to see. The internet, on the other hand, does not have an editor in this same manner. What goes onto the internet is equal to what anyone (and everyone) wants to put on the internet. There is no need to get approval from anyone. Click “post,” “tweet,” or “publish,” and boom: your content is now on the web.

As liberating and important as this feature of the internet is, it does create an overabundance of “stuff.” There then becomes a necessity for some sort of organization of what’s on the web–a way of enabling people to find what they want based on their interests. This organization is accomplished when people become editors for what they see as relevant on the web. This is more commonly referred to as “curating.” According to Rohit Bhargava, an online curator is someone who “continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online.” He stresses the importance of curating as a way for people to navigate the content on the web.

Just as there is no filter on web content, there is also no filter on who becomes a curator. Here, then, it becomes helpful to think about what constitutes good and useful curating.

Jon Vickers talks a little about curating and notes some important traits that good curators have. The job, he says, of the curator is to filter out “noise.” You want to present your audience with the best of what’s out there that’s relevant to their interests. This mandates that you know your audience, which is another key point with Vickers.

On this topic of knowing your audience, let’s look at a tweet put out by Jay Rosen. He said “the classic formula for success as a blogger: turn a passion into a niche, then dominate that niche. Add personality. Stir.” This sentiment rings true and here’s the reason: someone who’s passionate about whatever their talking about is most likely an expert in that field. They enjoy it, so they learn as much as they can about it. They develop opinions and make judgments about this topic in their own lives. By extending their expertise to their readers, they in effect become curators. They link you to what’s good or upcoming in whatever area they talk about. By focusing on a niche, as Rosen suggests, you ensure that you know your audience. If you’re a movie buff specializing in Japanese horror flicks, your readers will most likely share your interests. You therefore know them, and know that by staying on topic you’re giving your readers what they want.

Vickers also says one must allow for the entry of new audience members. To do this, make at least some of your content easily accessible either in appeal or content to the average person with minor interest in your topic. At the same time, in order to keep things interesting for those audience members you already cater to, he says one must also challenge your readers. There are many ways to do this, such as pulling in alternate or conflicting views on a particular subject into your curation. Doing this allows one’s curating to be more comprehensive and far-reaching than possibly other curators in the same field.

Bhargava also talks about what he sees as being the Five models of content curation. It’s interesting to think about there being different types of curation, but it makes sense to divide them up into the way they go about curating, since not every style of curation is right for every topic or every curator. In short, the five are:

Aggregation– A very economical style, it puts the most relevant information about a topic into a single location. Many times this is accomplished with the use of lists, such as “10 cities you must visit,” etc.

Distillation– This can be thought of as providing the “Reader’s Digest” version of things for your readers. With this type of curation, the curator only provides the relevant information, leaving out the bulk of other, unrelated material.

Elevation– A bit more difficult, this requires analysis and expertise on the part of the curator. It involves looking at the big picture made up of all the little bits of information put on the web to see if there are any trends or patterns that appear.

Mashup– This interesting type of curation uses juxtaposition to tell a different story. Merging contrasting, differing views on any one subject tends to have the effect of producing a whole new side of things–a new point of view.

Chronology– Generally seen as most useful when curating about a topic of which thinking or opinion has changed, chronological curating involves gathering together (many times historical) information and arranging it in chronological order to show the evolving understanding of a particular topic.

So let’s summarize what we’ve learned. Audience is important. Know your audience so you can make the best decisions possible for them. Judgment is important. A good curator must make good judgments about what is worthy and what is not, and again this is based on what your audience is looking for. Presentation is key as well: be clear, be honest, be concise. And in reference to Jay Rosen’s quote up there, having a personality on the web makes one’s readers happy. No one likes dry textbook reading. You’re a person, not a computer… prove it!

Sustainability and the Necessity of Getting Everyone On Board

Steven Cohen, executive director at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, wrote an article about the move toward sustainable practices in the future. A proponent of the sustainability movement, Cohen sees it as necessary, stating that “the current approach to economic life has created a lifestyle our forbearers couldn’t even dream of, but it cannot be sustained without a revolution in management, technology and scientific understanding of our home planet. Fortunately, I think we are capable of creating the change we need.”

Cohen aptly defines sustainability as “an effort to sustain production today without impairing our ability produce in the future.” In his article, he outlines some changes that he sees taking place in the economy and politics that show a movement toward greater sustainability practices. His general idea is that, in the long run, sustainable policies will win out over unsustainable policies due to the perceived need for policies that aren’t detrimental in the long run to production and the economy. He says, “Our goal is to base our consumption on resources that can be grown or renewed. There is no question that the use of scarce resources may benefit an individual in the short run; and that many people are more interested in making a quick buck than passing resources on to their children. Public policy and law can help prevent serious damage from these impulses. But the general point is that the best, most effective managers will be sustainability managers and the best run organizations will adhere to these principles because they lead to long-term profitability. A sustainability perspective would lead a CEO to question an entire production process and to see if there was some way to manufacture the same good without generating pollution and waste in the first place.”

While Cohen makes an outstanding case for why sustainability should be inevitable, I believe that he has forgotten to consider some important things. First, he suggests that part of the inevitable move toward sustainability will come from policies and laws put in place by lawmakers to encourage such practices. However, politics only goes so far in controlling businesses. So, while he argues that the “best, most effective managers will be sustainability managers” because these principles lead to “long-term profitability,” he neglects to acknowledge that the majority of small businesses don’t have the capital to invest in making sustainable choices.

He also fails to recognize that the majority of people, including those who are not educated about the importance of or necessity for sustainable practices, as well as those who would willingly choose convenience and low-cost over encouraging a change toward sustainable practices, do not see this move as inevitable. While Cohen puts the emphasis on policy, technology, and management, he seems to forget that ordinary, everyday people are an integral part of these things. They elect officials based on their stances on issues. They make demand for and consume (or choose not to consume) new technologies, and, on the whole, they choose to do business with companies that will charge them the least amount of money for any given service, regardless of the management style.

Cohen says, “The facts of population growth, economic growth, environmental degradation, and human reliance on the natural world make sustainability politics, technology and management inevitable.”

While I agree with Cohen that it is necessary that we make these changes because of these reasons, I would perhaps not choose to use the word “inevitable,” as it implies that we do not need to do anything more than what we’re already doing to facilitate it. It’s true—strides have been made in the direction of sustainability and if we remain on the path we’re on now, we will most likely eventually get there. But it will probably be too late for the Earth and most of its resources by the time everyone is on board with recognizing that we need to do something and having the ability to do something to protect those resources. In order to speed the process, I propose we work to improve technologies that will lower the cost of sustainable practices as well as educate the mass population about the personal benefits they will reap from sustainable practices. Lower costs for practices and resources that are sustainable, especially when combined with a greater sense of why sustainability is necessary, will lead more people to accept it as a viable option for the future. This will help decrease the gap in opinion about sustainability that may otherwise develop between those who manage businesses with great capital or policymakers and the general public who help support both of these endeavors.

Five Sustainability Links

The article “Thinking Beyond the Pale: Re-imagining Waste as Resource” is about the concept of “cradle to cradle” management of waste. This means “maximizing the use of what already exists, rather than producing more.” This is one major mainstay in sustainability. Our resources are finite, and thus we cannot produce infinitely.

Think outside the box! An article about the world’s largest vertical garden provides a space-saving alternative to gardening. This relates to the concept of sustainability in that it provides people with limited space the ability to grow their own food. Also, thinking about space as a limited resource in a world where the population is increasing exponentially, it’s not hard to see how a vertical garden would be beneficial.

Public transportation is a more sustainable option than each individual in a community owning a car. Take a look at some of the ways cities in the USA are envisioning the future of public transpo in the article “One Size Does Not Fit All: Different Approaches to Transit-Oriented Development.”

The move toward sustainability is “inevitable,” as is argued in this article “The Inevitability of Sustainability Politics, Technology, and Management.” The author proposes arguments for why sustainability is relevant and necessary for the present and future.

Bill Nye’s all for sustainability. He spoke at the Homestead National Monument of America in Nebraska in November 2012 and stressed the need for people to “do more with less,” citing unsustainable practices as contributing to global warming.

One Texas college’s plan to become more sustainable.

IUSB has a sustainability major. Read fellow IUSB students’ experiences in and discoveries about sustainability.

Center for a Sustainable Future: more info from IUSB’s website about this subject.

More on Sustainability

The Green Register is a website devoted to sustainable products and practices. It has a daily post, “The Green Minute” that has a small way to change one’s practices to be more sustainable/environmentally friendly. This is a neat little corner of the web because not only is the information useful, but it’s updated daily and so constantly provides new information!

http://youtu.be/9Ut0WDjjt74 The video Momentum 2012 is a video of a lecture given by M. Sanjayan about “What [it will] take to create a truly sustainable relationship with our environment.” He “explores how people and nature can thrive together if we reboot the environmental movement by engaging three often-ignored constituencies — the business community, the world’s two billion poorest people and today’s youth.” This is an interesting and informing video that makes a great introduction to the future of trying to make a sustainable future for our planet.

While not directly related to sustainability, the article “America the Possible: Breaking the Chains of Consumerism” offers insight into how to reduce wastefulness in America’s consumer-driven society. This article is relevant to the topic of sustainability in that it calls the consumerist economy into question and points out how wasteful and detrimental it is to the environment and the future. With a finite number of resources, consumption cannot be infinite.

A hopeful article about the strides already made in corporate America toward sustainability, “Slipping Green Through the Back Door” tells us that many businesses are making sustainable decisions even if they aren’t advertising it!

“How to Be Fully Renewable in 10 Years” — An article about Australia’s steps in the direction of becoming a country run completely on renewable resources. Bye-bye, high gas costs! So we see, there is hope that it can be done. Ten years isn’t (that) far away.