[Blog Lab is an ongoing series about blogging, writing, and social media.]
As I mentioned in my last post, I finished my dissertation and am awaiting the defense. While social media, and twitter, especially, are integral to my professional identity and engagement with the academic community, in the week leading up to the submission of my dissertation, I abstained from my daily indulgence: no tweets for me; I didn’t even read my time line.
My social media ban lifted the moment I submitted my dissertation. In the past few days, I re-discovered Pinterest and learned about the power it holds for academics–even those who deal primarily with written (as opposed to visual) discourse. I like that Pinterest allows me to visually express my dissertation and also share it with a wider audience.
When I jumped back into the social media game, I discovered that a fellow GradHacker blogger wrote a piece on using Pinterest to further establish a professional, digital identity and/or curate a storehouse of one’s online publications. I joined Pinterest a few months ago but didn’t do much beyond fill out my profile. I didn’t really get it, and I didn’t care to figure it out. After reading the GradHacker post, though, I decided to give it a second shot.
According to the Pinterest website, “Pinterest is a virtual pinboard…[that] allows you to organize and share all the  things you find on the web. You can browse pinboards created by other people to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.” The “things” you find on the web are–for the most part–images. Thus, you “pin” images to “boards,” and usually, all of the pins on a board are united under a similar theme or concept. Others on Pinterest might comment on a pin or even share it with others by “repinning” it to their own board.
I aim to make my Pinterest account an extension of this blog, so I created boards devoted to books, my scholarly work, and backpacking. For instance, I have devoted a board to “Hiking and Backpacking Essentials.” There, I identify some of the things I can’t live without while on the trail.
I also created a board called “American Literature that I Write About” that outlines, in visual form, some of the major primary and secondary texts that I deal with in my dissertation, Making Medicine in America: A Literary Account, 1870-1950. I even included an artfully-arranged Instagram shot of my cover page [insert slight sarcastic tone here].
While I’m still getting the hang of the site, particularly in terms of its “social” potential, I have two tips for academics who are interested in using Pinterest in a professional/scholarly capacity:
- Consider both the image and the source when creating a pin. That is, select interesting, varied images, but also choose them based on the website to which they’ll link back to if a Pinterest user explores the pin further. For instance, I use an image of the cover of Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and its Metaphors from Susansontag.com. A vintage cover of Claude McKay’s Home to Harlem comes from the New York Public Library and a map of the Chicago tenements, which I use to represent Jane Addams’s Twenty Years at Hull House, comes from the Hull House blog. (The map was commissioned during Addams’s time at Hull House.)
- Add a caption to each pin in order to properly contextualize the image. Pinterest allows 500 characters for a caption. I like to keep captions as brief (but descriptive) as possible, particularly when I’m pinning posts from blogs I that I contribute to regularly. These captions might induce other Pinterest users to read the post and/or share the link. I hope that my captions for the pins in my dissertation board might pique the interest of a wide variety of browsers (i.e., not just academics).
Are you on Pinterest? What do you pin? Share links to your boards in the comments section and then connect with me on Pinterest.