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Issue No.03 - July-Sept. (2012 vol.34)
pp: 80
Andrew L. Russell , Stevens Institute of Technology
ABSTRACT
From a technical point of view, standards make it possible to combine a variety of components into a functional system or network. From a strategic point of view, stories about standards are necessarily about power and control—they always either reify or change existing conditions and are always conscious attempts to shape the future in specific ways. Historians of computing also should think about the process of standardization in terms that are more common for cultural theorists and about conceptualize standardization as a process of critique. In some cases, engineers offered explicit critiques in published works, conference presentations, and statements to the press—candid commentary on existing market, regulatory, and technical controversies. In other cases, engineers challenged the status quo implicitly, not by dwelling on existing conditions but by building new standards, network architectures, and institutions. Attention to both explicit and implicit forms of critique can help historians to situate innovations in computer networking more deeply in the social worlds that created and used them.
INDEX TERMS
Standards, History, Standards organizations, CCITT, history of computing, standards development, Michel Foucault, Gerald Raunig, data networking, IBM, telecommunication standards, International Telegraph and Telephone Consultative Committee
CITATION
Andrew L. Russell, "Standards, Networks, and Critique", IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol.34, no. 3, pp. 80, July-Sept. 2012, doi:10.1109/MAHC.2012.46
REFERENCES
1. M. Foucault, "What Is Critique?" The Political, D. Ingram ed., Blackwell, 1978.
2. G. Raunig,, "What Is Critique? Suspension and Recomposition in Textual and Social Machines," Apr. 2008; http://eipcp.net/transversal/0808/raunig en.
3. Discourses of openness predate the computer networks of the 1970s, notably in the American Open Door policy at the turn of the 20th century and in organizational theories of "open systems" in the 1950s and 1960s. See A.L. Russell, An Open World: History, Ideology, and Network Standards, to be published in 2013.
4. J. Abbate, Inventing the Internet, MIT Press, 1999; R. Dépres, "X.25 Virtual Circuits— Transpac in France—Pre-Internet Data Networking," IEEE Comm. Magazine, Nov., 2010, pp. 40–46; A. McKenzie, "INWG and the Conception of the Internet: An Eyewitness Account," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, vol. 33, no. 1, 2011, pp. 66–71.
5. L. Pouzin, "The Network Business—Monopolies and Entrepreneurs," INWG Legal/Political Note 6, Alexander McKenzie Collection of Computer Networking Development Records, CBI 123, Charles Babbage Inst., Univ. of Minnesota, n.d., 1976.
6. L. Pouzin personal correspondence with A.L. Russell2 Apr. 2012.
7. J. Houldsworth, "Standards for Open Network Operation," Computer Comm., vol. 1, no. 1, 1978, pp. 5–12.
8. C.W. Bachman, "Domestic and International Standards Activities for Distributed Systems," Charles W. Bachman Papers, 1951–2007, CBI 125, Charles Babbage Inst., Univ. of Minnesota, 28 Sept. 1978.
9. W.B. Carlson,, "The Telephone as Political Instrument: Gardiner Hubbard and the Formation of the Middle Class in America," Technologies of Power: Essays in Honor of Thomas Parke Hughes and Agatha Chipley Hughes, M. Allen, and G. Hecht eds., MIT Press, 2001.
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