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Journal Article

Promoting Legitimacy in Technical Standardization


Werle,  Raymund
Wissenschaft, Technik und Innovationssysteme, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;

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Werle, R., & Iversen, E. J. (2006). Promoting Legitimacy in Technical Standardization. Science, Technology & Innovation Studies, 2(1), 19-39.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0012-4BC1-5
In this article we examine the legitimacy of committee standardization as an alternative to pure market processes of technical standardization of information and communication technology (ICT). We argue that not only mandatory (regulative) but also voluntary (coordinative) standards require some kind of democratic legitimacy. While the question of how to achieve this legitimacy has become central to today's changing world of standards, this situation is not adequately reflected in how the mounting legitimacy-deficit is treated. We note here that there remains a tendency to think of the legitimacy-deficit primarily in terms of "input legitimacy" criteria. At the same time we observe a tendency for standardization organizations (SDO) to orient efforts towards achieving "output legitimacy" by developing standards that are regarded by diverse groups of (legitimizing) stakeholders as constituting "good standards". This article therefore applies the distinction between input and output legitimacy to the rapidly evolving standardization landscape, arguing that it is necessary to expand the analysis of the legitimacy-deficit in the formal bodies responsible for ICT standards. We address what democratic legitimacy means in terms of standards and standardization, discuss why it is particularly important here, and explore how it has been addressed. Current examples indicate that in order to arrive at "good" standards SDO extend and redefine the cognitive and normative frame of standardization. This frame change helps to include nontechnical and non-commercial interests and values without directly involving the growing variety of stakeholders and civil society advocates in the process.