Culturalist Turns List-Making Into a Social Network

“The list doesn’t destroy culture; it creates it”. Whenever you look in cultural history, you will find lists. In fact, there is a dizzying array: lists of saints, armies and medicinal plants; of treasures and book titles. We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die.”

Italian novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco, in his interview with Der Spiegel, hit upon the very essence of why we like lists. And his first line is the essence of what Culturalist is all about: a way to share culture in the form of lists.

In essence, Culturalist is a social network built around the platform of making and sharing lists. The lists can be of any topic, whether an artifact or human emotions. The point is to draw things together and share them, thus providing a look into who you are.

Culturalist--Main

What’s It All About?

One of the best parts about the internet is the discussions you can have on it. And that’s what lists are usually about. How many times have you participated in a thread about the best superhero movies? Or how about that raging argument over the 10 best horror books of all time (and that fool who thinks Stephen King’s Misery shouldn’t count).

Culturalist takes that love of making lists and turns it into a shareable experience. Exploring the site first shows you today’s top 10 lists, which can be anything from “Worst Political Showdowns In American History” to “Best Android Apps” — each with its own featured image. You can also click the Explore tab to browse through all of the site’s contents, although this can be a futile and tiresome experience given that there’s no categorisation.

However, when you have any list open, hit More Lists at the bottom and you’ll get similar lists on Culturalist. Apart from that, you can rely on the search function to look up an item or follow individual users, and thus get updates from contributions by all the people you follow.

Culturalist--TodaysTop10

Each list can have multiple users contributing to it. In short, a ‘list’ is a topic. The person who originally creates it will write what he thinks should be a part of the list. As a reader, if you think you can add to that, you click Make my list and add your own sub-list to the topic.

For anyone who wants to see a quick summary of what all contributors have said, they just need to click Aggregate — or they can browse through individual lists if they so desire. I’m not sure how the algorithm for the Aggregate function works, and Culturalist doesn’t seem to share it anywhere, but it takes a few elements from all the sub-lists to present a one-glance version.

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Make Your Own List

Of course, you aren’t going to have to depend on others to create topics. Hit Start a New List and you get a ready-to-go template of the headline, like this:

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Fill in the blanks and you are ready to start making a list. It’s quite straightforward. Just key in an entry into each of the 10 points and add rich media to it. This can be an image, an animated GIF or a video. Culturalist will automatically pick the right thumbnail and apply it. The portal also accepts article links, but in my experience, it never got the thumbnail right with those.

I liked that Culturalist doesn’t put the onus on you to come up with the right image. If any other list has an item similar to yours, you will get that rich media file as an option to add to your entry. Neat!

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Once you are done making a list, use the built-in social sharing options to show it off to people on Facebook and Twitter, or copy and paste the unique link created for it. Other Culturalists can add to your list, follow you, and you can get to know each other that way.

Too Little Info, No Discussion

Unfortunately, that’s the end of the interaction, which is the saddest part of Culturalist. Make a list and you’re done — there’s nothing more to it. You can’t even justify why you included one item and not another, or for that matter, include details like a link to it. In the Best Android Apps list, for example, there is no option to link to the app on the Play Store — extremely silly, if you ask me.

How can you possibly have a social network without any social aspect to it? There is no room for discussion on Culturalist, which kind of defeats the purpose of a list, at least for me. I want to know why a certain item was listed as pure knowledge, and as a social networking aspect, I want to know why it is important to you. Without that, there is no “social” to it, it’s just passive sharing.

Also, there is nothing to tell me about the expertise of a user in a subject to see why their list should or shouldn’t matter. Without metrics, it becomes pointless.

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Should You Check It Out?

In the end, Culturalist is some guy on Facebook writing and sharing a list of 10 things, only in a much prettier format than a Facebook post. But there’s no way to know more about that guy by clicking on his profile, nor can you discuss the items in his list with him. You can only create a similar list of your own and share it with him, which can choose to like or not.

Unless there is more depth to this platform, Culturalist isn’t a site I’ll be going back to. For lists — which generally are recommendations — I’ll still rely on the crowd-sourced knowledge of Twitter and Facebook, where I know the people or can discuss suggestions with them, whether receiving or giving.


Summary

Culturalist lets you make and share lists of anything with other people, but doesn’t offer enough details to make it a good social network

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