Blogging is innate to the human psyche and I’ll devour my own tail if I want to

I wish I could remember where I read that blogging about blogging is the refuge of the truly desperate blogger. It has a terrible snake swallowing its own tail feel, like books about books, sitcoms about sitcoms, mirrors reflecting mirrors reflecting mirrors …

Nevertheless, today I am blogging about the process of blogging. Why, at what seems the embryonic stage of this blog rather than its death knell, do I choose to write about the process of writing? Am I determined to alienate my small but devoted band of readers? (I wouldn’t actually have thought I had any until I chatted with them over morning tea and hot cross buns at Easter, and there’s a good chance that not posting for almost a month might have disillusioned even that loyal following).

(‘Ouroboros’, from MShades’ Flickr photos and reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence)

Readers of this blog — if there are still any left — are probably aware that a significant amount of what I do at work consists of monitoring the publication habits of Swinburne University researchers. This is mostly done automatically; I subscribe to table of contents alerting services for the major bibliographic citation databases like Web of Science and Scopus, and I have a Google Alert on the search term ‘Swinburne University‘. Google’s alert service notifies me when Google indexes a page containing my search term, while the citation databases notify me when someone affiliated with Swinburne University publishes in a journal indexed by that service.

Naturally, this method isn’t foolproof. As my colleague Sara mentioned some time ago now, Google Alerts are not always perfectly accurate. On average, I receive one or two unrelated alerts every day. One of the problems with my particular search terms is the existence of the philosopher Richard ‘Swinburne‘, and the fact that he works at a ‘university’. But if I just need a quick overview of who’s talking about us, it’s a good start.

Over the last few months, I’ve received well over 40 unique alerts for blog posts, newspaper articles and media contributions referring to a single piece of research published by two Swinburne researchers. Usually it’s our astronomers who attract the most attention here and overseas; our research centre is world class, and the stellar subject matter inspires an amateur cult following. It’s such a delightfully romantic Enlightenment Era profession, being a stargazer …

Yet it’s the humanities researchers who’ve been making waves of late (I hope the oceanographers will forgive me for that one). The Brain Sciences Institute researchers have recently discovered that Pycnogenol can have a significant impact on the cognitive ability of the elderly. Earlier in the year, a study conducted by Swinburne psychology researchers caused controversy in the international media as the preliminary results were (no doubt wrongly) interpreted as a third of Australians aged 18 to 25 cheat on their partners.

And the single most popular piece of research? An article published in the February issue of CyberPsychology & Behavior, which has generated a collossal amount of traffic on the Web (and in my inbox), the results of which have appeared in posts from bloggers as diverse as Welsh MPs, American cataloguing librarians, creative writing groups, marketers and the writers of the popular technology news blog TechCrunch.

So what do librarians and members of parliament have in common? What research discovery could have the power to create so much interest in the blogging world across such a variety of topics?

The answer is simple. Susan Moore and James Baker have given us all a reason to keep blogging. The study suggests that like keeping a diary, blogging can help those who feel alienated, lonely and distressed to vent their frustrations and build a support network through comments and feedback. Pseudonyms (increasingly called ‘netonyms‘ in an online context … shudder), allow bloggers to communicate thoughts and emotions that they may be too afraid to put forward under their own name.

It doesn’t sound like a revolutionary notion. In fact, it makes perfect sense. Many introverts like to write, and some of the world’s greatest writers use(d) pseudonyms when really they had no reason to be ashamed of their work. I suspect the reason that the meme (dare I use that word without fully understanding its meaning?) has appeared to reach such plague proportions in the blogging world is that for many bloggers, it gives a sense of validation to what might otherwise have been considered pointless vanity publication.

For that, I think bloggers can thank Swinburne.


3 Responses to Blogging is innate to the human psyche and I’ll devour my own tail if I want to

  1. kim says:

    Only problem is that most of my readers (all 7 subscribers) know me personally so if I did want to vent about work for example I don’t know that my current blog would be the forum.

    I have actually been thinking about starting another blog and shifting my haikus to that but I have one poet (a real) one who reads my blogs and I don’t want to alienate him. I should have given my netonym more thought. But I didn’t think I needed one for 23 things.

  2. Sara Jervis says:

    I reminded myself about the post on google alerts and was quite surprised at my erudition.

    Then I recollect that:

    I am not anonymous so take careful steps in composing – grammatically correctly and concisely.
    I am intellectually stimulated by new discoveries that seemed futuristic then (a few months ago) and are now common place ish for me; so I was writing in the swing of experimenting and getting an unexpectedly good result.

    A meme, if it had been described, would have made sense to the Renaissance generation, the Hottentots, M Luther King and JFK, especially the latter two.

    I have continued to make posts because I keep learning new things and relate them to old things. I have always written down in notebooks and diaries special sayings, books to read, mantras for the issues of the day, dreams.

    I believe my posting is in this vein. I go back to my opening sentence – I am often amazed at how I thought and how I expressed the thoughts through the pen. I do not fit within Susan’s cohort. I write for myself, unconsciously recording me.

  3. Sara Jervis says:


    Blogging – the future

    I have just noted this item from one of my G alerts:

    Move over: journalists will have to share their space

    Roy Greenslade
    May 1, 2008


    “Newspapers are dying in the United States and the death knell is also sounding for newsprint in Britain and across the rest of Europe. I still feel a little sad when I write that, because I’ve been a newspaperman for 44 years.
    But the sadness is beginning to diminish because I’ve been a blogger for two years, spending five days a week writing on screen. So I have now come to terms with the decline of newspapers by realising that there is life after ink on paper. A life for journalism, that is.
    As an unashamed digital revolutionary I can see that we are in the process of moving from one news platform to another. The stagecoach is giving way to the train. The great change does not spell the end of journalism itself.”

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