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Drexel Community for the Critical History of Standards (CCHoS)

The Community for the Critical History of Standards (CCHoS) offers opportunities for collaborative inquiry into standards as historically contingent practices with significant social, political and ethical implications. CCHoS has grown out of a NIST-funded project based in Drexel University's Department of History, aimed at developing curricula centered on practices of standardization. It continues efforts begun at Drexel's 2015 “Standards in Society Summer Institute” to explore, in depth, the importance of standards across multiple industrial and knowledge sectors, global regions, historical periods and epistemic networks. The standards that have shaped industry, education, health, labor, food, living organisms, landscapes and languages are all of interest to us as instruments of social change. We seek to follow all institutions and people who have bounded their work as “standardizing” and in so doing, to engage with the impossibility of drawing definitive lines between the social and material world.

We welcome all interested observers of standards in society, and hope you will join in CCHoS's ongoing conversations, pose your own research questions to the community or explore and add to the growing bibliography. The Community for the Critical History of Standards functions as a central location where researchers, practitioners and interested individuals can have conversations exploring the very messy world we produce in our attempts to create order through standardizing work. We encourage any and all interested individuals to join in on the conversation on our Slack page, a participatory social media site open to those who register. To register simply send us an email with “Join Standards Talk” in the subject line followed by a brief description of your work and why you would like to join.

Research Questions

In addition to standards-related news and events, calls for papers and funding or archival announcements, our Slack page will provide opportunities for general conversation on standards in history, and more focused discussion centered on a changing list of four research questions. These may range widely from nitty-gritty methodological questions, to broad philosophical inquiries into the nature of materiality and existence (or the absence of such constructs). Below you will see the first three research questions already being discussed on the site. We encourage you to pose a question of your own that could benefit from the input of our engaged community. We will regularly select several submitted questions to be a center of discussion.

  1. What do we have to ask about standards to detect how they reproduce violence, and are there ways to design standards so that they alleviate violence?
  2. What is the historical value of distinguishing among standards, style, type, resemblance, uniformity and other enactments of similarity?
  3. Many of our projects in the history of standards currently look at taxonomies, bureaucracies, and other social instrumentalities of violence. Do you see potential in your current work, on any era or setting, to speak to newly legitimized authoritarianism? Do you feel a need or desire to change your historical project, or to move towards non-academic forms of discourse and political action all together? How do or don't our projects address the issues that have become apparent in recent global trends towards protectionism, nationalism, and racism, including the events of November 8th?
  4. To Come! (Send us your research questions.)