I had settled for real-time authority as the title for this blog post but then realized that the title might be misleading or deceiving. Authority in Real-Time seems more apt for the thoughts I would like to share with you today. I would like to explore what Authority is today and how you can develop your authority while you are in the process of learning yourself – hence the phrase authority in real-time.
My girlfriend wants to go back to University to do her masters. I am not so excited for her as I should be because I figure the best University today is the Internet. My worry for her stems from the fact that our universities curricula focus so much on 200 year old theories that are never reconciled with emerging realities. I don’t mind learning the basics, the history; in fact, I loved it. And I still remember it all: the Malthusian, Keynesian, Classical, Monetary, Neo-Classical theories and whatnot. In sociology, I can engage you on all schools of thought. I loved learning this stuff. But I always had an issue with my lecturers when it ended there: no reconciliation with emerging thoughts and new truths. When theories have been put to test and failed the test, why not teach that as well. Why not include new books that document economic and sociological problems in the technological revolution. For my girlfriend, I fear that she is going to learn agricultural and industrial revolution theories in a technological revolution and new media phenomenon age.
In my first year of University back in 2005, our communications lecturer told us not to read books that were older than 10 years as true depictions of the day’s realities. He went on to say that things were changing so fast that what was true 10 years ago may no longer hold water today. I could have sworn that three years was a better time frame at that point in time. But the irony is that for the next four years of my university life, lecturer after lecturer would quote and propose reading some archaic books that far exceeded the safe time frame the communication lecturer had proposed. I was only saved by the smart person who was responsible for stocking our library because every week we had a new stock of books. I would beat most lecturers to reading the latest and the best books in Sociology and Economics and sometimes philosophy. That is how I beat the system. I always said I was there to learn, not pass exams. And as my girlfriend’s heads back to University, I want her to learn and to make a difference.
But since new realities are now emerging every other day and especially the way social media has changed the world today, for her and many that will come after her, there is no escaping this. So I had a proposition for her. She has no online presence save for email. But I still got her to see reason in my proposal.
I asked her to make sure that before she steps into her first masters class, she makes sure she has a blog ready and understands the basics of blogging. I want what my girlfriend learns to be tested in real-time. I want her to question what is said in class against what is happening in the world today. I want her to open up her class to the world through social media to reconcile thoughts and theories as she learns them. But more importantly, I want her to learn and evolve and become an authority in her niche as she goes through University – not wait until she graduates to try and build a name for herself. I want her to be a student and a teacher, a connector, a moderator, a community manager, a creator and consumer of content. I want her to reconcile for herself what her lecturers will probable fail to do because once again, it is a different world from the one the books are quoting. And there is no better tool to tell you the pulse of the world than social media.
The best and brightest in social media today have one thing in common; they refer to themselves as students because you never stop learning. They are already authorities but they never stop learning. So there is nothing wrong with building yourself as an authority even as you learn. We all had to start somewhere. And I want my girl to be the best in what she does which though informed by theories from the past is grounded in the realities of now.
It’s a different world.
In the years gone by, people spent whole lives seeking the elusive expert/authority status in their niche areas of study. They spent years studying and even more years teaching before they were acknowledged as authorities. However, in today’s society, you get to authority status via a different route. It is a lot of work but with the technologies available to use today coupled with the new social realities, I believe that she can claim her place as an authority while she studies and she would at a better place to implement her plans than any other person. Just for the record, if there is one thing I honestly regret, its failing to start blogging earlier especially immediately I joined university.