Article written by DPDF 2008 Critical Studies of Science & Technology Policy Fellow Lee Jared Vinsel, featured in Technology and Culture, Volume 56, No. 4:
Performance standards have played an important part in the regulation of technology for many years, yet they have received little attention from historians. This article presents a three-part framework of analysis for examining the role of regulatory performance standards in technological change. Parts one and two of the framework focus on how regulatory agencies construct and enforce standards for technological risks, or “negative externalities.” The final part addresses the important question of whether and how firms choose to internalize these standards in their design procedures and other organizational routines. The article provides examples from the history of automotive regulation in the United States to illustrate each part of the framework, and it gives some thoughts on how regulatory performance standards fit within the voluminous literature on standardization, including other work on de facto and voluntary consensus standards.