Put a Pin in It: Academic Pinterest
Pinterest might seem to be no more than a place to collect pretty pictures to plan events, but this aspirational social network has many more applications, including those useful from a science communication perspective.
When you think of Pinterest your first thought might be that it is only useful to plan weddings, dream vacations, or how to redecorate your home. This isn't surprising as Pinterest is also known as an "aspirational social network" where people pin things they hope one day to own, see, do, accomplish, or understand. Yet Pinterest can also be a more practical tool for finding inspiration or reference. For example, authors can use it to make mood boards as inspiration for their worlds and artists can use it to create reference boards or to develop a vision for a new commission. There are even applications in education, from help in creating class curricula or planning class projects.
Pinterest in Academia
Pinterest can also be of use in an academic environment, both in the classroom and in research. In the classroom it can be used to teach students curation skills or to allow them to collaborate on a project with a lot of visual components. In research, its use seems most powerful for science communication purposes, such as this pinboard of visually interesting science papers, or these boards with visual resources for historical topics. But it can also be used to digitise on the fly when doing fieldwork. Numerous different uses are possible, yet all of them are very much united in their heavy focus on visual content, such as pictures and videos. This is also the main limitation of Pinterest; it is a service which is most useful for visual content. For text-heavy content its presentation is far less attractive. Despite this, for the right fields, Pinterest can be a great tool to reach a broader audience, as discovery can be serendipitous through the guided browsing provided by the categories, the recommended pins, and guided search, or very direct through direct searching.
If you want to learn more about Pinterest visit the in depth page on the service, where you'll find more information and links to further reading.