We’ve been thinking about curation this week – see our lead story – but so has David Byrne. Mainly because he’s curating this year’s Meltdown festival in London, but also because of his long-term musing on internet models. Unsurprisingly, he’s flying the flag for humans. “While the wisdom of crowds has been a popular digirati meme, sometimes the outlier – or a small group of them – is the one who has taken the time to find a better way or to try something new, to take a risk on something surprising,” he wrote in a New Statesman article. “In some ways, we ensure the survival of the soul… I would never call myself an expert but my point of view and experience, being a wee bit outside the norm, are a little more biased, skewed, pre-edited and peculiar than what those herd-based and algorithmic services come up with.” One thing not covered in Byrne’s piece, though, is that this kind of curation is exactly the core of what the likes of Spotify and Apple are doing in streaming music: they’ll have algorithms, yes, but also plenty of humans trying to provide that element of surprise. And in fact, one of the most interesting areas of digital music right now is the development of algorithms to match curators with listeners – to help those fascinatingly “biased, skewed, pre-edited and peculiar” outliers connect with the people who want to be surprised by their choices.

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