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Every day I keep adding open tabs to my browser with interesting articles on issues related to governance across borders, hoping to find the time to blog about them; only rarely, I actually manage to do so. This is why I am starting the new year with a new series called “Tagged Tabs”. To remove at least some of the open tabs in my browser I will (un)regularly present a list of commented links to interesting articles elsewhere.

(leonhard)

When the chief of Microsoft Germany, Achim Berg, predicted in an interview in the “Berliner Zeitung” that “the free-of-cost-culture on the Internet draws to a close” last Saturday, this happened not only weeks after Microsoft had started its own, free-of-charge search engine “bing” but also only days before Google’s announcement of “Chrome OS”: A new open source operating system on top of a Linux kernel and delivered, of course, for free. On the Official Google Blog Chrome OS was announced as follows:

“[T]he operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web. So today, we’re announcing a new project […] — the Google Chrome Operating System. It’s our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be. Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we’re already talking to partners about the project, and we’ll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.”

Is this re-opening the operating system wars of the 1980s? Is this the beginning of serious open source competition for Microsoft’s proprietary business model? In other words, are we witnessing a paradigmatic battle of open versus proprietary innovation regimes with Google and Microsoft as its most prominent antipodes? I am not so sure. But maybe the Pirate Party’s sole member in the European Parliament, Christian Engström, was right in his interesting op-ed in the Financial Times yesterday:

“The world is at a crossroads. The internet and new information technologies are so powerful that no matter what we do, society will change. But the direction has not been decided.”

(leonhard)

Together with our recent guest blogger Sebastian Botzem from the Social Science Research Center in Berlin I prepared a piece for this year’s EGOS Colloquium, which is taking place in wonderful Barcelona. In the sub-theme titled “The social dynamics of standardization” we are presenting our paper “The Rule of Standards: Codifying Power in the Transnational Arena” (PDF), in which we try a relatively unorthodox comparison: We contrast the case of Microsoft Windows as a technological market standard with non-technological and negotiated accounting standards in the realm of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB).

Not least to our own surprise, both examples of standardization show many similarities that allow drawing conclusions for transnational governance by standard setting in general. Among these are the following:

  • Due to coordination effects, in both cases an increase in the total number of adopters paves the way for – though not guaranteeing – one dominating standard.
  • While having been developed differently (market competition vs. political negotiation), in both cases growing standard diffusion reduced the need for participatory or inclusive modes of standard-setting (see the figure below).
  • Finally and again observable in both cases, growing adoption can trigger what we call the dialectics of power in standardization: The successful establishment of a standard redistributes benefits and power among affected actors and feeds back into the standard formation process.

Comparing Standardization Processes

But aside from these conclusions, the paper may also illustrate why gathering seemingly very different empirical fields under the common umbrella of “governance across borders” in this blog might make sense after all.

(leonhard)

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
May 2019
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