The Curated Life

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June 14, 2015 by Wayne.

So this was supposed to be the first entry for my podcast series thingamajig, but I didn’t have enough time this weekend. Instead you get a rambling (shorter) blog post! You kids are so lucky nowadays

Keeping in line with the initial theme, the post will be verbatim (unedited in this case) and loosely structured. Okay, I lied la, there’s no structure at all


Anyway, I was thinking about how we’re all actively involved in curation – both in terms of choosing the content we consume, and in terms of how we decide to showcase our output/thoughts/feelings. The latter in particular has only recently become a more universal quandary, thanks to the accessibility (and acceptability) of a myriad platforms built around content creation. And of course the shift has been towards every random thought, every photo, every reblogged quote being part of said content creation. The self is now on permanent display. Or can be, at least.

Inflow

How do you wade through the Internet to access things that you like? Or, wait, a better question: should you merely look for things that you like?

Personally, the search to expand my horizons started out as a way to learn more about unfamiliar topics, and find out if I could grow to like them. The end goal, essentially, was to end back up in my comfort zone in the long run. Meanwhile, I’d do all I could to expand said comfort zone.

Now that it’s been almost a decade since I’ve started exploring stuff, it’s a bit harder to say what my end goal is. Like most things in life, there’s really no clearly defined destination in view. Take, for instance, music. I still actively source a variety of albums across the entire spectrum of genres (though admittedly at a much more passive rate since I started working), and I still listen to stuff that’s familiar and comfortable to me. I play songs on loop all the time (the most recent entry being Sharon Van Etten’s Your Love Is Killing Me) without feeling particularly guilty about the new tracks that I’m consequently missing out on.

Come to think of it, though, I’m really only like that with music. I do rewatch movies occasionally but those are typically the films that already fall in my personal top-30, ie. the sort of movies that made it into the list due to their innate rewatchability. I basically never rewatch TV episodes unless I’m watching it with another person. And the last time I re-read a book was…gosh. Years and years ago. Such a stark difference from when I was a kid. I used to go through Roald Dahl and Goosebumps over and over again. Pretty sure I’ve read The Hobbit and LOTR at least thrice. I guess I just don’t have that sort of time anymore. My reading time is largely restricted to the 30 odd minutes on the way to work (and that’ll probably disappear soon when I get a car since I’m doing all this reading on the train) and occasionally on the trip back. The disjoint is due to the fact that I sometimes opt for music instead on the return journey. Oh, and I read during dinner sometimes. That’s about it, really.

Side note: maybe I should transition to regularly eating lunch alone, while reading. I could start preparing some food, microwaving it in the pantry, and bringing it to somewhere secluded to eat and read. Maybe the conference room next to the office, or the cafeteria (though it’s noisy af), or… hmm. Not that many other places, come to think of it.

In summary, it’s probably safe to say that I’m still trying to explore the various spreads of each interest, and I’m quite well aware of how far away I am from each. In terms of music, there are several unexplored styles that I really want to delve into, as well as a couple of others that I’ve only a very shallow acquaintance with. At the same time, I’m comfortable enough with my current collection to know what sort of music to look out for, which artistes to follow and track etc. When I do want to discover new music, I’ve a system that’s about a year or so old, and it hasn’t gone wrong so far. It basically just involves gathering information from multiple sources, filtering it to see which I’ll enjoy, and just going from there. I guess I’m in quite a good place, music-wise. For now, at least.

As for books, I’m very far behind where my 2008-ish plan thought I would be. I have plenty of books, sure, but I’m reading them at a ridiculously slow pace. There are some books from Canada that I haven’t finished yet. Worse still, there are books that were lying around from before I even left for Edmonton that are still untouched. So yeah, a lot of books. I’m trying my best, but I haven’t been disciplined enough to set aside pure reading time. Perhaps once I finally clear all my tabs and my desk and some of my to-do list, so probably never.

I’m generally quite happy on the TV side of things, although there are a couple of series I’ve been meaning to get into for ages now. Can’t quite say the same about films, they’re just too long to really make much of a dent in my backlog, while still doing everything else.

And what about all the other forms of curation that I – that we partake in daily? Think about how we organize our work- and home- spaces, how we choose the particular pieces of art and photos to showcase, how we set up our desktops and phone layouts even. Flanagan’s Smart Home is a great little book that’s massively helpful when it comes to paring down and/or starting over. I’ll be reviewing it in the upcoming Culture Club episode. But of course one book isn’t enough. There’s everything I’ve absorbed along the way and distilled into my trusty long-living Moleskin that’s finally being replaced. There’s Apartment Therapy and the endless rabbit-hole of links on minimalism. There’s the philosophy of subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful. There’s the real-life limitation of money.

Also, one of the things I’ve been working on for quite some time now is a sort-of complete manual to everything that makes me me. Obviously pretty dangerous from a doxxing/privacy-security perspective, but I don’t think I’d enjoy dying before I can leave behind everything I’ve learned in the process of life.

Ultimately though, I think it’s fair to say that there’s a two way relationship between the Inflow of curation and your worldview. The type of things you choose to consume are necessarily guided by your beliefs, feelings and emotional state, but they also end up being the tiny building blocks of your “self”.

Outflow

I overshare on social media, largely on Facebook and through shitty (seriously shit-tier shitty) Instagram snapshits. There’s quite a lot of curation involved, though. I don’t share every single thing that provokes an emotional or intellectual response, and neither do I share all my actual feelings and thought processes. In a way, I approach it a bit like I approach my poetry – all my posts across my entire social media presence is a concerted effort to project a persona vaguely shaped by how I want people to see me, but also to a large degree by how I think people already see me. In practice, this means I don’t bother contextualizing a lot of captions and statuses, relying instead on each piece being placed within the ongoing timeline, with all the preceding parts not rehashed but clearly available for retrieval, if need be.

And what about IRL practice and not this bullshit wrapped in meaningless words?

Well, I post terrible photos of food. I don’t put much effort into the reviews – I certainly don’t try to use food to paint a broader picture, though I might if I could get paid for it. I also post other photos on Instagram that vaguely come together to form a blotchy, blurry patchwork of a busy, interesting life. Whatever interesting means.

I don’t know. There’s a lot of pent-up resentment and disdain for people that I get to leak out slowly through Facebook, so that’s nice I guess.

From a broader perspective though, how you curate your Outflow ultimately determines the sort of impression you have on other people. In essence, if the Inflow creates the “real” encapsulation of who you are, the Outflow creates the object that people respond to. And in general, people respond best to things that they enjoy too, or that they feel forms a defining part of their actual self. This typically means more irregular tastes (ugh, tastes) place one in the out-group in most situations.

Honestly, I don’t curate my Outflow all that much. I don’t bother trying to overtly conform, apart from when it’s necessary. Like in work situations. Though even then, I’m not doing a particularly good job, judging from all the hate I’ve been getting. Office politics, eh? Hard to play it right.

Anyway, other than that, I’ve stopped trying to dumb down to reach a lower meeting point. I do need to stop being so condescending though. Well, not need, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to work on that.


I’ve a couple of upcoming posts and projects still in the works, so look out for em. Amongst them include the long-delayed MaPoWriMo collection, a guide to surviving UOL and the latest Culture Club episode. Plus maybe a revamped Food Guide!

Until next time, then. Feel free to drop me a message or something, would love some conversation. Though talking to myself isn’t half bad

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