In the site's about section, Pinterest.com bills itself as "a tool for collecting and organizing things you love" or "the things that inspire you" ("About," 2013). A cross between a digitized scrapbook and an online inspiration board, Pinterest is a site where one can curate bookmarked content, posting selected "pins" (usually an image-based link to outside content) to themed "pinboards" (pages of curated content that generally accord to a theme, like recipes or craft projects). According to Pinterest.com, pins are "like handsome little bookmarks. Whenever you find something on the web that you want to keep, add it to Pinterest. Your newly minted Pin will be here whenever you need it, and will always link back to the site it came from" ("Pinterest Basics," 2013). A pinboard is described as "where you organize your pins," and "you get to decide what they're all about" ("Pinterest Basics," 2013). The themes for boards seem endless—whatever one can dream up—and individual users can have tens or even hundreds of boards on their account (super-pinner Jane Wang, for instance, has 111 boards as of this writing).1
Pinterest is a highly visual space, and pins and pinboards are multimodal compositions. The "handsome little bookmarks" take the form of images, selected by the user from among the visuals available on the page she/he wants to bookmark. The user is required to provide a textual caption, or "description," of the pin and image being posted. Thus each pin is a multimodal composition, using visuals (usually images, though one can pin videos) in combination with text to create meaning. Collected together, the pins create a bricolage and representation of the user and her/his interests. As David Harper (2012) described it, "Pinterest invites us to make meaning from a variety of images organized by users," and when juxtaposing these images together on a pinboard, "a Pinterest user invites an audience to decipher a composite image of self" (para. 2). Although pinboards are primarily composed through images collected together to form these "composite image[s] of self," the texts composed and rhetorical interactions within the space are highly multimodal, combining visual and textual compositions to create complex representations of the users' selves and their interests (para. 2).
How to Use Pinterest
As with all websites, one can interact with Pinterest in as many ways as one can envision, but generally speaking, the interface of Pinterest encourages use in certain ways. An individual can navigate to their Pinterest home, and there one will encounter the most recent pins posted by the other users and boards that she/he follows. The pins can cover a variety of topics, depending on an individual user's interests and preferences. A user can tailor her/his experience, following other users and boards that match their interests (further, one might even choose to only follow one board belonging to a user, if a particular board's topic interests him/her).
On the Pinterest home page, a user can browse the pins that have recently been posted. Clicking on a pin can lead a user to get more information about it; for instance, one can read the caption the user has provided for the pin (users are required to caption pins they post), see what comments have been left by other Pinterest users (a primary means for interacting and communicating with another user), and navigate to the content linked by the pin, visiting an outside site. After viewing a pin, users can interact with it further within the context of Pinterest, choosing their preferred action(s): repinning the item (posting it to one of their own boards and sharing it with their followers); liking the item by clicking on a illustrated heart link; and/or sending the pin directly to another user who they think might like it. Users can also comment upon a pin, voicing their opinions and ideas.
Until the announcement of the addition of private boards in late 2012 (see Evrhet Milam, 2012), Pinterest boards were largely accessible by the public and other Pinterest users. All that is required to access a pin and other information collected by the site—like comments and the number of repins and likes (or hearts), for instance—is registering for an account on Pinterest, which one can do in just a few seconds for free. Catherine Hall and Michael Zarro (2012) characterized the site as "a social and transparent site; usernames, profiles, and pins are viewable by other users and the general web-public" (p. 29).2 Furthermore, "activity and certain statistics are public, which allows users to see that number of repins and likes a pin has received and also to read and contribute comments" (p. 29).