Don Norman: Designing For People

Nielsen Norman Group

Standards and their stories

Lampland, M., & Star, S. L. (2009). Standards and their stories: how quantifying, classifying, and formalizing practices shape everyday life. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

I sat down to read the book, read the first page, and paused while my face broke into a smile and a comfortable warm feeling came over my body. Yup, this was going to be a great book. Further reading confirmed the impression. Standards rule our lives. Yeah, standards, that dull, frustrating, topic studied by "The Society of People Interested in Boring Things." But this book proves that far from being dull, the stories behind standards are interesting, insightful, and revealing of the workings of bureaucracy.

Standards are essential for different stuff made by different companies in different countries to work well together. Whether it is bananas or chocolate, application forms for terrorist training, or the sizes of people's rear ends (critical for airline seats), standards are essential part of life today (all these are covered in the book). This engaging book serves several purposes. It explains much of the history, rationale, and politics of standards. It shows why they have huge social impact, far beyond what most of us realize, often far beyond what was intended. And best of all, it is fun to read.

Link to book at Amazon.com

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