I have a problem with authority. It’s not that I’m independent, insubordinate, and contrarian. I am, but that’s not my problem. My problem is with the rising abuse of the word amongst bloggers, wikipedians, folksonomists, and other social software activists.
In the good old days, not so long ago, in the context of the written word, authority was a term used primarily by librarians as a criteria of evaluation.
Along with accuracy, objectivity, and currency, we judged source authority. Who is the author? Who is the publisher? What are their individual and institutional qualifications and reputations? Have the contents been edited and refereed? Is this an authoritative source?
But then, authority was appropriated by the Technorati mob, where it swiftly lost definition in a tangled tag soup of popularity, power, trust, credibility, and relevance. These words were tossed around indiscriminately in a Bacchanalian festival of semantic anarchy.
For those of us who value a taste of hierarchy along with our hypertext, things were beginning to look a bit dicey. Fortunately, before the tag clouds could totally eclipse the sun, a new entity emerged as a source of authority and illumination.