Overarching Intellectual Themes of the Blogosphere, 2003-present

One thing you don’t see commented on much is the emergence of big, previously understudied themes among the hivemind. For example, 2003-2004 saw the center-left blogosphere become heavily focused on ideas around the construction of narratives, getting up to speed on modern-day political marketing with its major element of media manipulation. This was to some degree a natural byproduct of getting blindsided by pervasive jingoism in the runup to the Iraq war, but it was also an organizational thing – several of the trailblazers in political blogging, such as Atrios, were alums of Media Whores Online and so they already had a well-formed framework of ideas to demonstrate. And now in 2010 you’re seeing big themes emerge in the writing of Matt Yglesias and others around public ignorance and how politicians interact with that ignorance to produce (or fail to produce) policy outcomes. (See this post for a more-or-less representative example.)

This is kind of a heady topic and I’m not sure I have much to say about it right now, but I think it’s interesting to trace these kinds of ideas. I do kind of wonder if a big element in this is the professionalization of blogging. In other words, as bloggers get signed to write full books just like other writers, their blogs become labs in which the intellectual skeleton of the book gets put together over a big series of related posts. John Quiggin at Crooked Timber did this to much more of an extreme by simply throwing whole chapters up there for people to review, but it’s probably happening less explicitly in lots of other places too.

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