Standards are crucial to the way we live—just look around you. A no. 2 pencil, perhaps? That arrived in an 8x8.5x20 shipping container? Standards allow your computer and smart phone to connect seamlessly with others. While it is clear that standards shape the material world we live in, someone decided that they should be that way. In a word, standards have a social life of their own. In Engineering Rules: Global Standard Setting since 1880
(Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019), JoAnne Yates
and Craig N. Murphy
look at the pervasive practice of private, voluntary standard setting as it grew out of a social movement of engineers. From the International Organization for Standards (ISO) to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Yates and Murphy provide an engaging narrative about the people and processes responsible for making the technologies we have today work with one another.
Mikey McGovern is a PhD candidate in Princeton University’s Program in the History of Science. He is writing a dissertation on how people used discrimination statistics to argue about rights in 1970s America, and what this means for histories of bureaucracy, quantification, law, politics, and race.