IW002
Standards and the quest for technocratic certainty

Convenors:
Renita Thedvall (Stockholm University)
Daniel Seabra Lopes (CSG-ISEG/University of Lisbon)
Chair:
Lopes/Thedvall
Discussant:
Steven Sampson, Lund University
Location:
R13 (in V)
Start time:
12 July, 2012 at 11:30
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

Standards are widespread rules that act as guarantors of certainty, by ensuring that a good part of the world we live in remains stable, compatible, predictable, even automated. This session intends to shed light on the ambiguities surrounding the construction, adoption and operation of standards.

Long abstract:

Standards are rules for the organisation of time, space, people, objects, institutions, policies and ideas, whose influence affects different communities of practice and social environments. They are ubiquitous and are seen as guarantors of certainty, by ensuring that a good part of the world we live in remains stable, compatible, measurable, predictable, even automated. The agency of standards, however, is never complete or unproblematic. This session intends to shed light on the ambiguities of standards. Corporations, banks, state bureaucracies, and transnational organisations, such as the European Union (EU) or Fairtrade International, all engage in the standardisation of people, objects, policies and ideas according to common indicators, codes, forms, labels and the like. Standardising is about having control over processes and making members (whether individuals, states or corporations) readily auditable and accountable for their actions. Processes of developing standards are often guided by negotiations on what categories should be included in the standards. When standards are established these negotiations are often forgotten. Yet, the standards continue to influence and organise the terms and the scope of discussions, ideas and practices in our everyday life as if they were stable and politically neutral. This workshop invites a wide range of papers that shed light on standardisation processes: Who are the standardisers? How are standards adopted by their users? How do standards function in practice? What type of images they produce and which organisational processes they set in motion? How does power enter into standards? What kind of power is embedded in standards?