The Role of Standards in the Development of New Informational Infrastructure

The Role of Standards in the Development of New Informational Infrastructure

Vladislav V. Fomin (Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania) and Marja Matinmikko (VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, Finland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6098-4.ch006


In this chapter, the authors inch towards better understanding of the notion of informational infrastructure and the role of standards in the development of infrastructures in the new information age. Specifically, the authors consider the standardization process as pertaining to informational infrastructure development. They focus on two particular aspects of standardization: temporal dynamics and the social organization. Using Bauman's concept of liquid modernity, the authors argue that standards often become hybrids of solid and liquid modernities linking together different scales of time, space, and social organization. To better illustrate theoretical concepts, they draw on practical examples from the development of informational standards, infrastructures, and services, particularly from the domain of Cognitive Radio Systems (CRS), a new generation of “paradigm changing” communication technologies and services. The aim of this chapter is to offer the scholars of standards and innovation a fresh, non-mainstream perspective on the social and temporal dynamics of standardization and infrastructure development processes, to bring forth new understandings of the complexity of relationships between business, technology, and regulatory domains in the formation of informational infrastructure.
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Today the political rhetoric of the European Union (EU) is focused on the transformation from service/industrial to Information Society – the concept emphasizing the role of national and global information infrastructures in the economic development of the state (Castells, 1996). Guided by the vision as laid out in European Commission’s (EC) programme “eEurope”, European societies and economies are accelerating the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in a hope to be able to fully exploit the potential of the new informational economy, which is expected to bring not less than a “tremendous potential for growth, employment and inclusion” (Council of the European Union 1999, 4).

More recently, the EC has developed its growth strategy “Europe 2020” for the coming decade aiming to make the EU a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy. Within Europe 2020 strategy, the Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE) launched in 2010 aims to reboot Europe’s economy and help Europe’s citizens and businesses to get the most out of digital technologies (European Commission 2012).

Similar to the processes of interconnecting roads and railways, bolts and nuts in the formation of the industrial economies, building informational economy requires networking of myriad of disparate information systems and resources on different levels of social organizing. Inter-operating informational resources and systems, making a “workable whole” out of disparate local implementations, brings about new requirements and dynamics unknown in the construction of industrial age infrastructure – the instantaneity of production and delivery of services, the inter-modality of different infrastructures (such as e.g., cellular mobile, the Internet, TV, radio, GPS) (Edwards 1998), consistency of informational resources (Gill and Miller 2002), a host of security-, safety- and privacy-related issues – just few to mention.

With new unthinkable levels of complexity in assuring interoperability of informational tools and resources, scholars of standardization and infrastructure development are operating with theories on standards competition and interoperability based on the knowledge of pre-informational age, and the validity of the extant theories is tried and often refuted as new cases of informational age are studied. To take few examples, competition of Open Document Format (ODF) and Microsoft’s Office Open XML (OOXML) file formats is not like typical standards contests as we know from the literature – VHS vs. Beta, Mac vs. Windows, BluRay vs. HD DVD (West and Fomin 2011). And the development and introduction of a new audio-visual codec standard, needed to enable delivery of audio-visual content over the Internet, TV, and mobile services, does not follow the “common wisdom” of dominant design theory (Shapiro and Varian 1999; Fomin, Su, and Gao 2011).

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