“INDUSTRIAL LEGISLATURES”: CONSENSUS STANDARDIZATION IN THE SECOND AND THIRD INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTIONS
Consensus standardization is a social process in which technical experts frompublic, private, and non-profit sectors negotiate the direction and shape of technologicalchange. Scholars in a variety of disciplines have recognized the importance of consensusstandards as alternatives to standards that arise through market mechanisms or standardsmandated by regulators. Rather than treating the consensus method as some sort oftimeless organizational form or ever-present alternative to markets or laws, I argue thatconsensus standardization is itself a product of history.In the first two chapters, I explain the origins and growth of consensus standardsbodies between 1880 and 1930 as a reaction to and critique of the existing politicaleconomy of engineering. By considering the standardization process—instead of theinternal dynamics of a particular firm or technology—as the primary category of analysis,I am able to emphasize the cooperative relations that sustained the American style ofcompetitive managerial capitalism during the Second Industrial Revolution. In theremaining four chapters, I examine the processes of network architecture andstandardization in the creation of four communications networks during the twentiethcentury: AT&T’s monopoly telephone network, the Internet, digital cellular telephonenetworks, and the World Wide Web.Each of these four networks embodied critiques—always implicit and frequentlyexplicit—of preceding and competing networks. These critiques, visible both in thetechnological design of networks as well as in the institutional design of standard-settingbodies, reflected the political convictions of successive generations of engineers and network architects. The networks described in this dissertation were thus turning pointsin the century-long development of an organizational form. Seen as part of a commonhistory, they tell the story of how consensus-based institutions became the dominantmode for setting standards in the Third Industrial Revolution, and created thefoundational standards of the information infrastructures upon which a newly globalizedeconomy and society—the Network Society—could grow.
|Year of publication:||
|Authors:||Russell, Andrew Lawrence|
|Type of publication:||Book / Working Paper|
|Type of publication (narrower categories):||Thesis|
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