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2019 | OriginalPaper | Chapter

4. Values, Media, and Genres for Standardization

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Abstract

This chapter applies genre theory to the history of voluntary standardization. Drawing from research on electrical, Internet, and Web standardization reported in Yates and Murphy (Engineering rules: global standard setting since 1880. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2019), I show how genres shape and reflect the values and processes for arriving at product and performance standards across firms in voluntary standard setting, and how they change when new values and media are adopted. The traditional genres of standardization used through most of the twentieth century (demonstrated in genres used in radio frequency interference standardization in the 1960s through 1980s) reflected values of technical orientation, consensus, balance of stakeholders, respect for all stakeholder views, willingness to spend time on due process through repeated balloting, and (at the international level) internationalism. In the late 1980s, new standards organizations emerged to set standards for the Internet and the World Wide Web. In them, new or altered genres arose, reflecting and revealing shifts in values toward transparency, timeliness, and free availability of standards, and less emphasis on balance, respect, due process, and international representation. The move to electronic communication occurred from the beginning in the new standards organizations, also shaping the new genres. In contrast, the old organizations simply reproduced existing genres in new media, reinforcing my earlier work identifying values more than media as the key driver in genre change. More broadly, this study argues that genres are useful tools for historical and contemporary social analysis in many realms.
Footnotes
1
To save space, I have simplified the process here, omitting, for example, desk rejects and additional layers of editors used by many major journals.
 
2
This section is based on Yates and Murphy, Engineering Rules, 2019, especially Chapters 1–3.
 
3
Of course, once a standard is widely adopted, small producers and users may feel they have no choice but to adopt it. In addition, governments (or intergovernmental bodies such as the European Union) may later incorporate private, voluntary standards into regulation, ultimately making them mandatory.
 
4
This discussion of RFI standardization is based on Chapter 6 of Yates and Murphy 2019. The chapter is based in great part on 200 boxes of personal files of Ralph M. Showers, at different times chair of both the C63 Committee and of CISPR (discussed below), made available after his death by the Showers family. These papers have now been deposited at Hagley Museum and Library. Hereafter these papers are referred to in the text as the Showers Papers, with dates and identifiers of specific documents.
 
5
For example, such a table created in 1975 for the introductory section to the updated versions of C63.2, C63.3, and C63.4 may be found in ANSI C63 Correspondence, in Leonard Thomas Papers, obtained from Dan Hoolihan (a former chair of C63) and deposited in Hagley Museum and Library.
 
6
Beginning in the 1920s, intergovernmental bodies such as the ITU set up their own standard-setting technical committees that were a hybrid of private and public standard setting. They followed many of the norms of private voluntary standard setting, and their standards were recommendations, not regulations. If they were adopted by the ITU itself, however, they often were subsequently written into national and international regulations. Moreover, their national delegations, though typically composed of technical members, were chosen by national governments and could be filled with diplomatic rather than technical members if desired. Their genres reflected the intergovernmental nature of ITU in being more bureaucratic than those of private voluntary organizations such as IEC and ISO. See Yates and Murphy 2019, Chapters 5 and 6.
 
7
This document is in a set of papers digitized by Don Heirman, former chair of CISPR, and shared with me during research on Yates and Murphy 2019, Chapter 6.
 
8
Some of the senior members of NWG would become involved later in the 1980s internetworking standards war, but when they did so, they worked through other bodies that were involved in the standard-setting world, not through NWG. See Yates and Murphy 2019 Chapter 7 for a discussion of their unsuccessful attempt to work within the traditional standard-setting organizations.
 
9
For example, see RFC 5741, L. Daigle and O. Kolkman, “RFC Streams, Headers, and Boilerplates,” which has “Internet Architecture Board (IAB)” at the upper left of the header.
 
10
As we discuss in Yates and Murphy 2019, Chapter 7, consortia are clearly not voluntary consensus bodies. They do not even attempt to have any balance, but bring together like-minded firms (e.g., all producer or all user firms) that operate on what is often called a “pay-to-play” basis.
 
11
Chapter 8 of Yates and Murphy (2019) provides a detailed look at the process of standardizing in this working group, based on following it for almost 5 years. During that period I read all the emails on their list (over 5000), attended two face-to-face meetings, and listened in on biweekly phone meetings. What follows is based on that work and is documented in more detail in Chapter 8.
 
12
A few W3C committees (e.g., one that looked at the sensitive issue of patent policy) were closed to nonmembers, but most working group lists were open to be read by anyone, though nonmembers could not post to them. Working groups typically had an additional list on which the public could post comments and get replies from working group members.
 
13
The papers of Murray Freeman of Bell Labs, who chaired the X3T2 subcommittee are in Series II, X3T2 materials, Boxes 6–8, Freeman Papers, Haverford College Archives.
 
14
See OpenStand web pages https://​open-stand.​org/​infographic-the-5-core-principles-of-openstand/​ and https://​open-stand.​org/​about-us/​principles/​ (last accessed 12/6/2018) for the five principles as currently stated.
 
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Metadata
Title
Values, Media, and Genres for Standardization
Author
JoAnne Yates
Copyright Year
2019
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-18955-6_4

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