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Standards have two major functionalities: for one, they coordinate and – depending on their stickiness due to network effects – regulate human behavior. For another, they function as signaling devices. Which of the two functionalities is dominant and how these two are interrelated are of course empirical questions. In the case of certain private labelling standards, for example,  a broad bundle of rules and minimum standards are condensed into one label or brand, whose premium value in turn shall attract both (additional) producers and consumers to adhere to the standard (see also “FCE goes Fair Trade“).

In the case of Creative Commons‘s alternative copyright licensing standards, James Boyle explicitly referred to this important (albeit unintended) signaling role of licensing standards on a discussion panel at Harvard’s Berkman Center (after 42:50):

“What we didn`t understand was the most important thing about the licence was not that they were licences, it was that they created space, a focal point around which people would make communities.”

Markus Lang, research student in our research group not only pointed me to this quotation of James Boyle but also put it in the broader context of Julia Black’s (2002, jstor) notion of “regulatory conversations”. In applying a discourse theoretical perspective on both public and private regulation, she delineates how coordination of practices is achieved via communicative interactions. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
June 2023

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All texts on governance across borders are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany License.