Network Authority

Alex Reid (network authority) has clarified his notions of authority, positing an interesting view of authority as situated in networks. He writes

So authority is always a networked condition. As the network changes so do the conditions of authority. So the traditional classroom offers one type of node or portal into a network of information (through the authority of the teacher), but when the rest of the network changes...


So I return to the point I'm trying to make here. My professional knowledge remains valuable. My knowledge continues to authorize me. But the shift in the network changes the conditions surrounding that authority and alter its relative value. Before the pedagogic value of my authority took shape in the lectures I gave, the other activities I orchestrated in the classroom, and my evaluation of student writing and tests. Now my ability to develop pedagogic value from my authority takes form in a different context.

Definitely. Also, as we are embedded in more than one network simultaneously, and so are our students, the different nodes in our networks perceive our authority differently. In a class of mine some time ago, one student was perceived by three others as persona non grata (due to aggressively asserting his ideas), while others in the classroom valued his opinion. One student said that he had his "own ideas," which was "very important." These niches aren't fixed as the student himself felt it important to get along with all classmates, worked at that goal, and by the end of the course had been able to collaborate pleasantly with at least two of the three.

Even so, a few caveats, because it is unlikely, at least for some time into the future, that an instructor's authority changes much simply because his/her pedagogical network changes. One is that although students can turn to other professors' online materials in the "academic marketplace where others are moving on, leaving me behind," they probably won't unless those other online materials aid them in meeting the expectations of the instructor who hands out their grades. Another is that the authority embedded in networks is governed by social relational models (see Social Relations and Classroom Activity). That is, the authority of instructors is not based as much on their pedagogic methods as it is on the authority accorded to instructors by virtue of their being instructors, at least for those students in a class. For others simply wanting to learn, then the pedagogically related network authority can increase.

Despite these qualifications, the idea authority being embedded in networks is a notion I plan to keep in mind and consider how to incorporate into my own pedagogical practices.