If you enjoy falling behind the times and are not amongst the 10.4 million, Pinterest will probably pique your interest in the coming months. According to Shareaholic’s monthly traffic report, this February Pinterest generated more referral traffic than Twitter. Pinterest recently became a featured app for Facebook Timeline and grew its user base by 60% as a result. Nevertheless, the app has been met with some harsh criticism. Some point out that it has an unbalanced majority of women users and pinned items are often home decor or fashion. Check out Ann Romney’s pinboard entitled “Patriotic” which features red, white and blue household items. 97% of Facebook Pinterest “likes” are from women users. This gender slant hardly seems problematic when many media outlets are skewed towards men.
Pinterest’s user experience is not really concerned with what was, but it hinges on what might be. Visual bookmarking is not about checking in, it is not an album of memorable wedding photos, rather it is the public curation of coveted objects that represent inspirations, desires, goals, and expectations. It inspires users to conceive their futures, rather than select the bits of their past they find worth broadcasting. From this Facebook Timeline ad, it is clear that the Timeline is meant to be a record of events from our birth to the present moment.
This ad makes an appeal to our nostalgia for memorable milestones. Pinterest, however, is not interested in compelling users to state what has happened, but is more tailored to enabling users to think about what might happen. Pinterest answers what you can do with their site with the following answers: “Redecorate Your Home! Plan a Wedding! Find your Style! Save your Inspirations! and Save your Recipes!” Plans, recipes (plans of sorts), and inspirations, all are concepts related to what’s cooking if not at this moment, but maybe tonight or next year.
The visual pinboard is a provocative virtual space for users to introspect in an extroverted way. It allows users to conceptualize, organize, and curate their inspirations through images, videos, and text. It is a space for users to highlight their objets trouvés from their peregrinations in the virtual world (and maybe in the actual world). By enabling the user to categorize their boards with personalized themes, Pinterest allows them to focus on specific mental spaces of their life. More interestingly, the board of floating blocks, or pins, on a user’s full-view of his pins, allows her to see a random smattering of everything at once. This full-view represents a user’s broader context and may even lead her to see connections between seemingly disparate aspects of her life.
Whether it is the books that inspire Alisha on her Library Card Please board, or the inspiration Maria has for her apartment on her La Casa board, Pinterest does not showcase objects that have necessarily been consumed. Rather, pins are inspirations, or the things that stimulate users to do or feel something. They are the objects of a user’s possible consumption not actual consumption. The quoting of images on Pinterest makes me think that it has the ability to turn us into collectors or some off-modern Walter Benjamins. As a child I collected rocks found on playgrounds, my friend Amanda collects random pieces of trash she finds on New York City streets. As we journey through the digital jungle, we store images in our photographic memories, and Pinterest offers us a public space to select, store, and reflect on our hyper-personal virtual experiences.
Our cyberspaces are becoming more sophisticated versions of the worlds that live inside our heads. And those metaphysical worlds inside our heads are known as our memories. Memories are reflective. And those individual memories, those images and sensations, that we reflect so heavily on and objectify, those are called inspiration. We may never plan to sport a “pinned” hairstyle or purchase a pinned pair of shoes, but for some reason we want to think about it, flirt with the idea of it, and be able to return to it as inspiration.
Now, while dining with my parents in Brooklyn, I not only broadcast the time, location, and a photo, of our brunch, but I post this event on the tail-end of my Facebook Timeline. But the Facebook Timeline is not my full autobiography. Our autobiographies should also capture our hopes for the future. A pinboard, “What’s for Brunch?” of images of brunch places in Brooklyn that I intend on eating at with my parents allows me to build expectation for more plans with my parents. The possibilities for what we choose to collect on our pinboards are truly endless and can range from the intensely personal to the harmlessly banal. According to Benjamin, “Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories” (Benjamin’s “Unpacking My Library, A Talk about Book Collecting”).
Facebook has integrated Places as its answer to Foursquare, and Subscribe/Follow as its tweet at Twitter. But Pinterest, how is it going to do that? Will Facebook start offering us the option to add years to our life? We have the option to create social events. But what about personal goals and hopes? According to Mashable, Mark Zuckerberg has has “liked” Friendsheet, an app that makes your Facebook Feed look like Pinterest. Going forward for now, Pinterest, das Futurist.