I recently took a look at Pinterest, the latest social network phenomenon to go viral. It reached 10 million active users quicker than any other social network site. It’s been accused of being a virtual scrapbook for girls/women and appears to attract a certain age group that’s not young teenagers (they’re still totally immersed in Facebook,) and not much older than 40. As most people log in using their Facebook account, and can link their Pinterest posts automatically to a Facebook entry, it’s not really competing with Facebook other than for that most scarce of resources, user time.
But is Pinterest adding anything to the Internet? In an earlier post, I talked about the Internet and originality, and Pinterest seems to be the antithesis of originality. Just as people cut things out of magazines and paste them into their scrapbook, people see images on the web, and pin them to their Pinterest boards. There are very few original images on Pinterest–perhaps close to none. So what is the value added of Pinterest? According to Wikipedia, “Pinterest is a pinboard-style social photo sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests, hobbies and more.” Create and manage has been used by some commentators to argue that we are all become, wittingly or not, curators (my apologies to curators around the world.)
In a world in which massive amounts of data/information are being generated and transformed at break-neck rates, there’s clearly a need to organize it, and make it available. Given the almost infinite number of ways to do this, social networks and image collections are becoming not only the new way of curating data, but the definition of curating data. Are regular folk like you and me good curators? I don’t claim to be one, but recognize that simply by posting to my web, I am implicitly making decisions about structure and organization that affect how visitors read, view and absorb the content I am delivering. Is it OK for everyone to be unintentional curators, and if not, can we stop it?
I doubt it.