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Professional image curators are trained to use standardized vocabularies when providing institutional collection control and access. Curatorial language standards rooted in naming conventions have traditionally been considered critical to efficient archiving and retrieval in most large institutional image collections.

As non-institutional digital image collections expand into social media, independent non-professional image curators are emerging, apparently constructing alternative naming conventions to suit their needs in a social collecting environment.

This project considers how independent user-curators may be developing particular sense-making behaviors as they actively contribute names to large, unstructured social image collections.

In order to capture and explore this evolving language adaptation, Pinterest names will be analyzed using a matrix composed of Panofsky’s three strata of subject matter, Rosch’s levels of categorical abstraction and Shatford Layne’s image attributes. It is expected that Panofsky/Rosch/ Shatford Layne matrix will provide a method to isolate concepts being represented, particularly within the semiotics of the extended word play involved within Pinterest naming, without requiring intensive content analysis of the images themselves.

Analyzing Pinterest image names may illuminate previously unnoticed behaviors by independent user-curators as they create shared collections. Exploring the various language choices which user-curators select as they apply this new curating vocabulary could reveal some underlying user needs which may not have been apparent in traditionally curated collections restricted to traditional naming conventions.
What I am really interested in:
A short rant
on what Pinterest is and is not.

Pinterest is not an image storage site.
1. Image retrieval is not why eleven million people a month browse through Pinterest for periods averaging 40 minutes per visit. People use Pinterest to collect and share concepts, large and small, which usually (but not always) take the form of images linked to other web sites. The concepts being shared are the reason for the site's existence. The images are the bait used to illustrate and amplify and creatively express the concepts. The layers of meaning behind the concepts (intended and inadvertent) are the fascinating part of Pinterest. The layers of meaning behind the concepts are why this site has so quickly become endlessly absorbing for so many types of users on so many levels.

2. One of the most surprising aspects of Pinterest is the complicated, innovative, expressive ways users have evolved to name their collections, on all levels. Naming has become part of the fun. The intensity of this creative, highly personalized naming activity is NOT focused on providing efficient image retrieval.
Users are embedding meaning in the file names they use, adding one more layer of interest and expression to the way they present their Pinterest collections. These carefully crafted names are part of the meaning behind the concepts. The names are entwined with the concepts being staged.

3. Why do people love this? While it is a social site, with public user collaboration producing the core of the content, Pinterest has evolved into a personal and expressive form of communication, encouraging site-wide user behaviors that do not appear to be duplicated anywhere else in other free public online forums.

Why do users spend time inventing interesting and creative file names when a simple noun would work for retrieval purposes? When does naming a concept become an art form? How much intentional meaning do these pin names contain? Is it possible to identify and measure the creativity used in all of this naming activity in an analytical way, without getting sidetracked by the images themselves, the concepts being represented or the semiotics of all of this word play?
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