I didn't set out to write a book about authority, but this topic emerged as one of the most intriguing themes. I became fascinated by the shift from traditional sources of authority such as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Oxford English Dictionary, and the Wall Street Journal towards the collective intelligence embodied in the Wikipedia.
In fact, I found myself relying on the Wikipedia as an invaluable reference tool, alongside such authorities as Nature, Scientific American, and Harvard Business Review. And I ended up singing the praises of the collective intelligence embedded in heavily edited Wikipedia articles, and arguing:
"Like relevance, authority is subjective and ascribed by the viewer."
And when it came time to solicit advance praise, I naturally asked Jimmy Wales, founder of the Wikipedia. So, imagine my surprise when I received an email from Jimmy in which he flat out disagreed with my definition of authority. In short, he stated that authority is objective, and that the Wikipedia is just plain better and more authoritative than Britannica.
We had an interesting debate via email (which I promised not to publish) and we both ended up where we started. Since then, I've had little time to dig into this subject. Beyond this post about the nature of authority by Clay Shirky, I haven't found much.
So, what do you think? Is authority subjective or objective? What role is findability playing in changing our sources of authority? And where can we go to learn more about authority? Thanks!