A reflection on blogging

A lot’s happened for me in 2014, although you wouldn’t necessarily know it looking at this blog. Things have been relatively quiet here of late!

Tumbleweed (Source: Wikimedia commons)
Tumbleweed (Source: Wikimedia commons)

This is reflected by site analytics for this blog, which among other things show that only two blog posts from this year were in the top 10 most-viewed pages. (FYI they were October’s piece on The Language of Objects and May’s piece on What do museum visitors think science is?). The most popular posts overall remain ones on visitor statistics and exhibition costs. Even though they are a few years old now, they are obviously topics of perennial interest.

Overall, I only posted 22 times this year compared to 33 posts in 2013. This didn’t have a dramatic effect on overall site traffic though, since most people seem to come to this blog via google searches rather than via links to new content or social media shares (Is this normal for a blog? I have no idea . . . )

Anyway, why so quiet this year?

One possible reason is content exhaustion: I started blogging in 2010, and while it took me a little while to find my voice, I probably felt like I had more to say in the early days – especially when I was first getting across the visitor studies literature in the early days of my PhD. Now, I find it harder and harder to find new things to write about (and am in awe of people like Nina Simon who has been able to punch out a post a week on Museum Two for years!). It makes me wonder whether there is a natural life cycle for most blogs, and this one may be coming to its end (I hope not, but I have to think about that possibility).

Another reason is that my writerly efforts have definitely been focused elsewhere this year: I wrote up my PhD thesis, submitted it for both internal and external examination, made changes as appropriate along the way and am now waiting for the final changes to be signed off by the Grad School, the last hurdle before they confer my degree. A lot of the time, if I wasn’t working on my thesis, I really wasn’t feeling much like doing any other writing!

Finally, just as there are only so many hours in the day, brain space is a finite quantity too. I’ve come to the (possibly late) realisation that “busyness” is not always best quantified in terms of hours worked, and might better be measured in terms of cognitive load. For instance, If I quantified my year purely in terms of hours spent at the desk, it wouldn’t seem all that bad. In fact I’ve been feeling quite guilty about how worn out I’ve been feeling given I hadn’t been working particularly long hours. But then again, other things have been going on – I’ve been making the transition from student to consultant, setting up the interactivate consultancy in June and rebuilding a client base. On the personal front, I got married in April, and even the simplest of weddings requires organisation, planning and thus brain space. We also had minor renovations happening for most of the year, and although we weren’t doing the actual work we still had to check on contractors, make design decisions, and lots of little things that also take up brain space.

I’m not 100% sure what 2015 will hold for me yet . . . but more on that in the New Year.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from fellow bloggers about how you manage the ebbs and flows of your ideas and creative capacity.

Holiday Performances

It’s that time of year where, in Australia at least, everything steps down a gear or two (or even three). Given that here the Christmas holidays coincide with the long school break, the usual Christmas / New Year wind-down segues into languid summer days, meaning that office life doesn’t seem to get back to usual pace until after Australia Day (January 26th). Indeed, many places (especially factories) shut down completely for at least two weeks at this time of year.

Anyway, this means that a fair proportion of Australians are on holidays right now. And we’re all having a great time, right??

But sometimes our holidays are not what they’re cracked up to be. Via Twitter I came across London’s most miserable visitors, ostensibly a humourous poke at some ill-informed TripAdvisor reviews of London attractions. Quotes include: “Just a collection of pictures!” (National Portrait Gallery) and “The museum’s collection seems to have little to do with Victoria and Albert” (the V&A).

On one level, it’s easy to file these comments under “Well what did you expect?” and mutter something about (with apologies to my US readers) “dumb Americans”. But I want to take this to another level – assuming they are international tourists, why did these people spend the time and money travelling to London in the first place? What were they hoping to find, and where did these expectations come from?

Are these places idealised in the popular imagination to the extent that the reality cannot meet expectations (a variation of Paris syndrome)? Or has a theme park culture created expectations of visitor facilities and comfort that real-life heritage places cannot fulfil? Is there in fact a kernel of truth to some of these comments?

Perhaps it’s a bit of each. I’m also inclined to wonder whether some people travel to London (or Paris, or wherever) not because they want to, but because it’s what you’re supposed to do if you can afford it. It’s how you demonstrate that you’re cultured, worldly, sophisticated. It’s tourism as a Goffman-esque* performative act. And if you’re someone who would actually prefer the familiar comforts of home, it’s not surprising if you have a crappy time.

I’m sure this is something that’s been looked at in far more detail in the tourism literature, but this is a holiday blog post so I’m not going to go there this time. I’m more throwing it out there as some pre-Christmas food for thought. How much of your holiday will be what you really want to do, and how much will be performance of social expectations? Is there even a clear line between the two?

Merry Christmas and Happy 2015 everyone!

*Goffman, 1959. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Although a product of its era in places, it’s still a read I’d recommend.