Foundations and Future Prospects of Standards Studies: Multidisciplinary Approach

Foundations and Future Prospects of Standards Studies: Multidisciplinary Approach

Shiro Kurihara (Hitotsubashi University, Japan)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-946-5.ch001
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The standards world has radically changed over the past two decades, especially in international standardization, with an increased impact on business and society, although the essential characteristic of standardization in general; namely, to achieve the optimal order in a given context, remains unchanged. In this article, such evolution of international standardization, caused by its structural adaptation to changes in its environment as well as the origin and history of standardization and standards, are reviewed initially. Subsequently, “standard studies” is advocated as a new academic discipline to comprehensively analyze the problems of standardization and standards from a broader perspective, transcending predominantly technological concerns. Finally, the need to invest in standards research and education is highlighted.
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Evolution Of International Standardization

The First Wave Driven by Technology

To date, standards have not been taken up for an academic discipline. Since the development of standards as industrial infrastructure requires the accumulation of considerable data and expert knowledge, it has been entrusted to professional engineers in a business corporation. This is proved by the historical evolution of international standardization. In 1865, an organization concerned with the technology of sending a signal, invented by Samuel F.B. Morse, was launched, a body that has now been succeeded by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). One of the important tasks today is the allocation of frequencies for mobile phones and the preparation of international agreements published as recommendations. The next international organization was established in 1906 by Lord Kelvin as the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to deal with the electrical technology invented at the time. The third one was set up in 1926, with the focus on mechanical technology, which is the predecessor of the present International Standardization Organization (ISO). Finally in 1987, the Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1) was created, together with the IEC and the ISO, in the field of information technology especially related to computer software. The start of these four organizations, each of which corresponds to the then emerging key technologies; namely, communication, electrical, mechanical and information technologies, seems to characterize the technology-led first wave in the history of standards development. As a general rule, the diffusion of a key technology embodied in new products and services calls for such specifications to make them fit for use and acceptable to the times and society. In this sense, the first wave is derived from the adaptation of technological innovation to market or social needs.

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