What is it?

Pinterest is a social media network with a large focus on the visual presentation of content. You can 'pin' links, pictures, and videos to 'boards' to curate different collections of pins on different topics. Pinterest currently has around 70 million users worldwide and has a very active core user base. What sets Pinterest apart from other social networks and social bookmarking sites, is that Pinterest can be classified as an "aspirational social network" where people pin things they hope one day to own, see, do, accomplish, or understand.

While this might make Pinterest sound as a network that's only useful to people planning their wedding, their dream vacation, or their next season's wardrobe, there are actually far more uses for Pinterest. Authors often use it to create inspiration boards for their worlds or their characters. Artists use it to showcase their work, collect inspirations or develop a concept for a particular work. And school teachers create boards to plan class curricula or projects. So there's a large variety of uses for Pinterest imaginable.

What can it do for me?

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 account which curates information, articles, etc. about the Social Sciences or more visually focused fields of study such as art history. But it can also be used to digitise on the fly when doing fieldwork.

Privacy issues?

Beyond the usual caveats, Pinterest doesn't seem to have major privacy concerns attached.

Pros & Cons


  • Pinterest reaches a different audience;
  • Pinterest is a powerful tool for sharing visual content;
  • Altmetric.com tracks mentions of research in pins.


  • Pinterest is of limited use for text-heavy posts, such as this board from academic publisher Wiley demonstrates;
  • The learning curve and time investment, at least to first get your boards organised, might be considerable.

Who in Leiden?

Miko Flohr (Institute for History)
Leonor Veiga (Centre for the Arts in Society)
Sexy Codicology (Marjolein de Vos and Giulio Menna)
Leiden University
Leiden University Library (UBL)