Our information environment had been monopolized in the last fifty years or so by large, corporate interests. Whether it be newspapers, book and magazine publishers, politicians, educators and textbook publishers, television, radio, advertisers, etc., the focus and flow of information has been from those with organized, bureaucratic, commercial, and political agendas to the masses. It's probably conspiratorial to believe that an orchestrated attempt to control the cultural mindspace has been underway, but because of the way information is structured and consumed, a high level of control has nonetheless been effected.
When information is collected and disseminated by any clearinghouse, an inevitable filtering process alters meaning to some degree. News reporting, for example, is hardly characterized by an objective, just-the-facts perspective one might wish for. The simple decision what to include and/or exclude creates a context that channels the perception of the reader/viewer. Anyone who has witnessed an event later reported by the media knows that the story is shaped and massaged, often in an egregiously distorted manner. Some may recognize when they are being served propaganda, but not always. (You can fool some of the people all of the time; you can fool all of the people some of the time.) Advertisers are the most obvious propagandizers but not the only ones.
One of the surprising developments the latest communications innovations (following the printing press, the telegraph, the photograph, the telephone, the moving picture, the television) have given us is the blog. The blogosphere is characterized by individuals publishing their personal observations and opinions. Nothing could be more democratic. Although there are a few corporate-sponsored blogs, that's not yet the nature of the beast. If there is cause for hope in the culture, and I believe there is, perhaps it's that some have broken the information monopoly and are collecting and disseminating their own views, filtered through one's individual experience rather than a corporate agenda. Political agendas persist, but they are relatively simple to recognize and diffuse.
Perhaps the best collateral effect of the blog is a return to language. "What? We never abandoned language," one might say. In the nominal sense, no. But today is the time of the image. "A picture speaks a thousand words," it used to be said. We've forgotten how significant that is. Prior to the photograph, images were stylized and nonliteral depictions of reality and weren't the dominant means of transmitting information — language was. Although historical literacy rates were nothing like those of the 20th or 21st century, the cultural mind was synonymous to the typographical mind. Information was processed first and foremost through language. The sequential, syntactical, propositional nature of language necessarily shapes information and knowledge, leading to a reasoned, logical way of thinking, which in turn has obvious implications for cultural and political discourse. The robust practice of publishing pamphlets and broadsides in the Revolutionary Era and the development of formidable writers, thinkers, and philosophes such as Thomases Paine and Jefferson is instructive.
Photographic images lack those characteristics and instead rely on intuitive and emotional processing, requiring little context as they are mostly self-contained. Video is essentially an extension of the photograph, giving the still image an aspect of time. Captions and dialogue embedded in pictures and video are not the dominant element, and in fact, the processing of the purely visual aspects of video interferes with language processing, not the other way around.
Most blogs, in contrast, are primarily text. Habits of mind necessary to craft effective messages are learnt through imitating worthy models and through trial and error. Clearly, though, more lay people (not professional writers) are learning to deploy language with greater facility and effectiveness, mostly free from the corrupting influence of commerce (though it is probably infused with the corrupting influence of sef-aggrandizement and celebrity). No copy editor tells a blogger to punch up this or that aspect of a post or to avoid embarrassing the sponsors.