What Do I Mean by Idea Impact?


The term Idea Impact refers to both a Hit and Hits.  Idea Impact refers to a target or a Hit, whereas the term Hits measures theimpact of an idea within political culture, broadly defined using my perspective on Euclidean logic.  It focuses on the intersection within political communication and public opinion — or the vortex and/or vortices.

  1. Political Communication

First, the field of Political Communication within political science studies the role of ideas in political, social, and economic culture or cultures, though it focuses on the ideas formed by elites primarily.

The political science literature on elite behavior has been eclipsed by the more interdisciplinary work in communication studies.   This seems to be changing rapidly.  Browse the American Political Science Association Annual Program that convened in Chicago in 2013.

  1. Public Opinion

Second, Public Opinion, by contrast, is a field in political science that focuses on the masses or the audience consuming mass media or different mediums (blogs in social media).  Again, I would encourage everyone to browse through APSA’s 2013 Programusing the keywords: social media; thought, tradition, ideas.

Since the 1990s the social constructionist perspective, which concentrates on the reciprocity between the elite and the masses or the producers and consumers of media has played a significant role in communication studies in addition to the more narrow field of political science.  (See Dietram A. Scheufele, “Framing as a Theory of Media Effects”Journal of Communication 1999 for an excellent overview.)

III. What I call the Vortex, and refer to as going Beyond Polls indicates how I will analyze political communication and its effect upon public opinion by virtue of traditional and social-media impact in terms of the role of ideas.  Just as culture has become ascendant under globalism, so has the role ideas play in shaping politics.   In addition to keeping track of articles in political science journals, university presses, particularly the elite university presses have had great impact on political science.  (For the presses that have the most impact in political science click here.)

The approach I take is qualitative and quantitative (relying on metadata, though from a critical perspective). It includes book impact by university presses, in the long and short term as well as some study of mainstream media (relying on the papers of record, as well as Google alerts, and key social media sites). And it emphasizes the vortex or the reciprocity between political communication and public opinion.

Whether in political communication, public opinion or the vortex or whirlwind of what goes viral – the vortex — the term idea impact relies on narratives as well as  framingand scripting as well as understanding metadata (defined as models created to target a predefined class of issues, concerns, and problems).

For framing see chapter 6 of Out of Many, One about race as a Foucauldian construct for understanding Obama’s leadership constraints as a candidate in 2008 and during his first term).

For enlightening article on folklore and Political Communication see Margaret Duffy, Janis Teruggi Page, and Rachel Young, “Obama as Anti-American: Visual Folklore in Right-Wing Forwarded E-mails and Construction of Conservative Social Identity,” Journal of American Folklore 125, no. 496 (S 2012).

  1. Thought Leaders and American Political Thought

Put differently, this tab will measure traditional political thought as well as the thought of the tenured elite in American universities  —  yes, those “liberal” professors, like me, whom Rush Limbaugh referred to as a professorette.*

What is so galling about the right-wing portrayal of the academy is they cannot even get their labels right (I’m to the left of a liberal), and that their labels are reductionist, redundant, and outdated by more than 50 years (which is to say antiquated, since an antique is 50 years old, not 100).

Contemporary Political Thought as opposed to Political Communication occurs in real time as well as in, over, and across time.  Having the race/gender dichotomy bound to dominate political thought from 2008 to 2016 makes identity issues particularly salient from the perspective of media consumers and producers.  The term Thought Leaders best captures this

Political thought can also be contemporary and contingent and it is reflected in work about political communication.  Contemporary political thought is ideas that last or have resonance and can be viewed as political and cultural currency.

Political Thought is traditionally considered the thought of politicians, pundits, and public intellectuals, as well as ideas floated by domestic and international statesmen and stateswomen (as expressed in speeches and remarks, for instance).





Imprint of American Political Thought (weighing how contemporary political thinkers in the United States affect political action with their ideas).  Politicians pass legislation and design public policies that can help or hinder the United States, depending upon one’s political perspective, but what role does political thought play in the construction of  the polity, the society, and the market?

Traditional American Political Thought (measuring rhetoric in terms of speeches delivered, etc., significant court decisions.)  The field of American political thought is dominated by 18th century and 19th century work about the founding fathers or political thinkers from the Federalist Papers written by John Jay, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison to John Calhoun’s A Disquisition of Government. 

Contemporary Political Thought & Thought Leaders

Who or what is a Thought Leader? This term is not a product of the right or the left, or of England or the United States, as both the Guardian and Forbes will tell you.  And, as suits both publications, the Guardian uses the term for the section of the news that does blogs, opinion, and analysis, whereas Forbes markets it as part of a hot social-media tip about what’s hot in social media (repetition intended).

It also means the information barrage we all face is being streamlined or simplified.  We will get more pictures, explaining why I have three.  Hence the rise of Pinterest and other new image centered platforms along with those social media services like Klout that tell us who has it (klout) or who is a “networker” or better yet, an unpaid Huffington Postmedia “moderator.” The social media will have more gatekeepers, clearly.

So is a thought leader a good idea?  I think so.  A thought leader is different than all of these folks.  S/he performs or tries to persuade on a different kind of platform — one that is content rich.  The content, however, mush have weight so the author must have some kind of “cred.”  Nowhere better is this then the academy so wealthy with ideas.  Finally, thought — political thought or any kind of academic thought could mean that professors have ideas with impact.


*Presumably Rush Limbaugh gave me this nickname since I’m a woman (a diminutive); and/or since my blogging is reminiscent of “The Wonkette” published by Ana Marie Cox.  Cox was one of original three “liberal” blogs.  The Daily Kos, founded by Markos Moulitsas; and TPM founded by Josh Marshall still exist, whereas The Wonkette is defunct, with Cox writing for The Guardian.

Published by *Ruth Frick O'Brien

Professor Ruth Frick O'Brien, City University of New York, Graduate Center, 1st "professorette" nicknamed by Rush Limbaugh nickname. Ruth Frick* O'Brien & Frederic Halper* O'Brien, Dep.M.E. @ National Review *(honoring our mothers)

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