1. Non-conforming to cultural or institutional mandates or norms, thus controversial (i.e., around PC language such as gender-pronoun usage, citing free speech as a value)
2. Traditional news media and other power structures ignore, criticize, or oust because of attribute 1 (above)
3. Commitment to intellectual integrity and learning; open to dialog with alternative viewpoints
4. Engages in discussion or debate with dignity, without snark
5. Has done substantial learning in their domain of expertise; does fact checking
6. Concerned with philosophy and cultural evolution (i.e., information ecology, tribalism, futurist)
7. Online influencer status (based on attribute 6, not primarily in the field of entertainment or “getting ahead” tips)
A New York Times article lists characteristics and individuals: "They all share three distinct qualities. First, they are willing to disagree ferociously, but talk civilly, about nearly every meaningful subject: religion, abortion, immigration, the nature of consciousness. Second, in an age in which popular feelings about the way things ought to be often override facts about the way things actually are, each is determined to resist parroting what’s politically convenient. And third, some have paid for this commitment by being purged from institutions that have become increasingly hostile to unorthodox thought — and have found receptive nonpartisan audiences elsewhere....Given how influential this group is becoming, I can’t be alone in hoping the I.D.W. finds a way to eschew the cranks, grifters, and bigots and sticks to the truth-seeking."
They seems to be centre-left or centre-right but also somewhat anti establishment, or at least not afraid to criticize current institutional functioning of societal pillars including government and higher education. See the Nolan chart. But it's not necessarily easy to categorize them, because they don't seem to conform to any party's proscribed views nor denigrate personalities and positions in a way that's becoming a commonplace tribal identifier. The NYT article states, "They’re committed to the belief that setting up no-go zones and no-go people is inherently corrupting to free thought….[and] that the boundaries of public discourse have become so proscribed as to make impossible frank discussions of anything remotely controversial."
Those in the intellectual dark web want to remain in discussion of culture without stating allegiance to one side or the other, without having to accept the whole party line. They’re willing to face the pressure from those who insist that you ultimately end up in one voting bloc or another, or you don’t count. To some extent, that has been true, yet being independent, you don’t have to keep defending ideologies of the problematic extremes of one tribe or other. You can get to the real work of discussing issues that are relevant, not commenting on every trivial scandal or mis-step on the other side .
Apparently, they aim to influence cultural trends by coming up with solutions that transcend political divides and business-as-usual narratives. The IDW is stepping outside (or have been forcibly ejected from) the traditional institutional structures to figure out solutions, sometimes trying to include or adapt ideas that aren’t in the realm of safe and mainstream. They are willing to grapple with complex realities, not simplify discussions to tidy sound bytes. Some of the IDW is starting to sound like what spiritual teachers have been saying: there is no technological or structural solution for what we face as a society. A shift in consciousness is needed. It won’t be everyone who will get there, obviously, but as Brene Brown suggests, we can get there with a critical mass.