First book available from "The MIT Press Infrastructure Series"

This is a great future publishing series for folks interested in infrastructure:

Check it out: Geoffrey C. Bowker and Paul N. Edwards, Associate Series Editors

In recent years, awareness of infrastructures has been building to a remarkable degree in virtually every area. The information infrastructure which subtends the revolutionary new forms of sociability, science, scholarship and business is one example. A second is the state of roads, bridges, dams, and other large, expensive, long-term investments as our national and international infrastructures fall into disrepair. A third is the energy infrastructures, both old (fossil fuels) and new (renewables), that subtend the world economy.

A few centers of important scholarship on infrastructures have emerged, such as large technical systems theory (history of technology), urban infrastructures (urban planning, geography), and information infrastructures (information studies, computer-supported cooperative work). Yet too much of this work has been siloed, focusing only a particular system or scale, and with few exceptions it has remained sequestered within some of the smaller academic fields. Finally, remarkably little work has been done on the comparative study of infrastructures: taking lessons from one field and modifying it for another.

The first book in the series is “Standards: Recipes for Reality”


Recipes for Reality
Lawrence Busch

Standards are the means by which we construct realities. There are established standards for professional accreditation, the environment, consumer products, animal welfare, the acceptable stress for highway bridges, healthcare, education–for almost everything. We are surrounded by a vast array of standards, many of which we take for granted but each of which has been and continues to be the subject of intense negotiation. In this book, Lawrence Busch investigates standards as “recipes for reality.” Standards, he argues, shape not only the physical world around us but also our social lives and even our selves.  

Busch shows how standards are intimately connected to power–that they often serve to empower some and disempower others. He outlines the history of formal standards and describes how modern science came to be associated with the moral-technical project of standardization of both people and things. He examines the use of standards to differentiate and how this affects our perceptions; he discusses the creation of a global system of audits, certifications, and accreditations; and he considers issues of trust, honesty, and risk. After exploring the troubled coexistence of standards and democracy, Busch suggests guidelines for developing fair, equitable, and effective standards. Taking a uniquely integrated and comprehensive view of the subject, Busch shows how standards for people and things are inextricably linked, how standards are always layered (even if often addressed serially), and how standards are simultaneously technical, social, moral, legal, and ontological devices.

About the Author

Lawrence Busch is University Distinguished Professor in the Center for the Study of Standards in Society in the Department of Sociology at Michigan State University and Professor of Standards and Society in the Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics at Lancaster University, U.K.


“Lawrence Busch’s book, Standards: Recipes for Reality, illustrates with vivid clarity the ubiquity and importance of these ‘things’ called standards. Rather than present a dry economic text, or a singular discipline’s focus, Busch has proposed a ‘Unified Field Theory’ for standards—a multidisciplinary view of standardization. For anyone interested in standardization from a policy, technical, or social perspective, this volume is absolutely essential.”
Carl Cargill, Principal Scientist of Standards, Adobe Systems; author of Open Systems Standardization: A Business Approach

“With enviable style and impeccable clarity, Busch shines a bright beam into the anonymous, invisible world of standards to reveal how these commonplace instruments order the messy world we live in. This deeply thoughtful work of political sociology is a must-read for anyone concerned with the hidden dynamics of power in contemporary industrial democracies.”
Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School; author of Designs on Nature

“This book demonstrates that Lawrence Busch is not only an outstanding expert and even connoisseur of the subtle nuances of the world of standards that are used to make and unmake the world; he is also a critical analyst of their political and moral significance. Deeply informed by debates in the social sciences, economics, and even analytical philosophy, the book combines a rigorous examination with a great sense of humor in a journey that leads the reader from Harlequin romances to the auditable firm.”
Laurent Thévenot, Professor, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris