Pragmatic agency in technology standards setting: The case of Ethernet
Technology standards refer to the specifications that provide users and vendors with a common platform and ensure compatibility between components of a technological system. These technical “rules of the game” are being increasingly set in standards development organizations (SDOs). In this paper, I ask the question: how do actors operating in these venues address the challenges posed by the anticipatory and collective nature of the specifications they are establishing? Through an in-depth analytic narrative of the Ethernet LAN (local area network) standard, I indicate how actors engage in an ongoing process of extension generation, ratification and incorporation. In imagining alterations to a specification, approving timely modifications and crafting an identity for a rule even as it changes, they manifest “pragmatic agency” in these contexts. In exercising such agency, SDO's substantially increase the functionality of an existing standard as well as boost its long-term competitive viability.
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