As a professional researcher and writer, I’ve been fascinated by the interplay of ideas and viewpoints that shape so much of modern writing. Op-eds, think pieces, political opinions and tracts, articles on current issues and controversies – the list is endless. A vast writer’s market exists for those who can research and write.
As I developed my skills, I began to use the Internet as my primary source of information. I watched it become a growing resource for researchers and an expanding market for writers. The reading public was turning to the Internet for news, views, opinions and entertainment. I realized that this development was creating opportunities for writers who could use this new media to research their articles and market their stories.
By the mid-nineties, the Internet had become a mass media. Never before had such vast communications resources been available to small groups and individuals. This new mass media has transformed whole areas of communications. The rise of policy sites, issues oriented news, the dot-coms and all the rest had opened a whole new world for writers.
However, there is still the problem of tapping into this new market. Part of the answer lies in the realization that the Net exists to serve a knowledge culture, a culture of people who want to KNOW. With so much of the Net being driven by controversies and issues, and used by people seeking information, the writer’s ability to research was becoming increasingly important. This new market requires a high level of research as well as writing skills. A writer who can sift information, sort out viewpoints and develop new and interesting angles has the key to success. However, to do this research the writer has to sort though a mass of material put out by groups promoting agendas, distorting issues and spinning ideas. This is the challenge that goes with the new opportunities.
To address this new challenge, I researched how information was being used on the Internet. I examined how rival groups were using opinion sites and articles to shape public opinion and public policy. This is the intense conflict of ideas and assertions now known as InfoWar. These researches led to the realization that my studies in Intellectual History (the history of the interaction between people and ideas), had given me unique insights into how the Internet was being used and how a researcher/ writer could profit from it.
As a professional analyst and researcher I watched the same tricks being used and re-used to mislead the unwary and shape perception.
Out of these researches and realizations came my first book “InfoWar in Cyberspace: Researcher on the Net”. In it, I explained the history of the Internet, the purpose of InfoWar and the understandings necessary to do effective research.
Using these basic understandings, I went on to explain how the research process really works and how writers can exploit it. This book gathered the understandings and insights that had taken me years of graduate studies and practical experience to acquire. The result was a primer on the Internet and research, designed for the writer, the researcher, the student and the activist user of the Internet.
The Internet is something new in the history of the world. A vast electronic commons where more people than ever before have a voice. It’s also our only uncontrolled mass media. This is significant because, historically, control of information, control of discourse and control of perception have been the keys to power. However, lack of elite control cuts both ways – information is “free,” but people must sort it out for themselves.
The writer who can successfully navigate this medium through effective research will not only find a vast array of article ideas, but will also serve their readers more accurate and informative features.
Bruce Gold is a professional researcher and analyst. He is the author of InfoWar in Cyberspace: Researcher on the Net.