Against Standardization

I’ve spent almost a week arguing in favor of standardization, and I want to end by arguing against it. All of the arguments I’ve made in favor still hold, it’s just that there are times when they’re not valid. Those times all share a specific trait: things are unsettled. What things? It depends on what …

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Standardization, Part 5

Various shifts in society – arguably the development of technical counterparts to the modern bureaucratic state – started around 1900 and had huge effects on the world of engineering and construction. One of those changes was the licensing of engineers to create a standard (there’s that word again) for judging minimum competence. In 1907, Wyoming …

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Standardization, Part 3

Industrial process are inherently standardized. Once you start producing anything on a large scale and with some degree of mechanization, you’re producing it repetitively and therefore in a standard form. But there’s standardization and standardization. It’s worth comparing the first two purely-industrial building materials to be used in the US: cast and wrought iron. Repetition …

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Standardization, Part 2

The engineering concept of standardization plays a part in American history as taught in high school. Early in US history, say in 1800, the country had little industrial capacity and relied heavily on trade with Europe for advanced manufactured items. By 1900, the US had become an industrial powerhouse; the 1876 Centennial Fair in Philadelphia …

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