The IEEE Annals of the History of Computing recently published "Standards, Networks, and Critique," an article by Professor Andrew Russell (Assistant Professor of History and Director of the College of Arts and Letters' Program in Science and Technology Studies). In the article, Russell explains that technical standards - especially standards designed for new networks - have immense strategic and political implications. Therefore, standards should be seen not only as technical designs but also as social and political critiques, or "components of broader visions that respond to the past and present and that seek to redistribute power and control in the future."
The article, which reviews examples of standardization projects that proposed and built alternatives that were intended to advance particular cultural, ideological, and economic interests, concludes with a question: "Do other examples of innovation fit this pattern?"
The article is drawn from Prof. Russell's study of standardization in computer and communication networks, a book titled An Open World: History, Ideology, and Network Standards which will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2013.
The article is available for free via the IEEE Xplore library: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/tocresult.jsp?isnumber=6320557.