SFB 1187 ›Medien der Kooperation‹ an der Universität Siegen

A02 - The Culture of Telecommunication Standardisation in the Tensions of the Digital and Neoliberal ‘Double Revolution’



Principal Investigators:

PD Dr. Christian Henrich-Franke 


Manuel Müller

Matthias Röhr

Research Assistants:

Cristina Vazzano

Filiz Livan


This project examines the interdependencies between technical development and institutional change in the period of the digital and neoliberal ‘double revolution’ around the 1980s. In the second funding period individual companies from the European IT industry (midrange computing) like Philips, Nixdorf, Olivetti or Siemag and their individual protagonists are taken into account in order to understand the interrelations between technical standardisation and market liberalisation alongside the analogue/digital threshold. Remarkably, these producers of hardware and software technologies, which had taken a continuous development of technology, media and data practices since mechanical typewriters, vanished from the markets in the 1980s. This project starts from the assumption that the standardisation culture, due to its normative categories of thinking, standardising and regulating, shaped the digitisation of European telecommunication networks and impacted midrange computing. Path dependencies had a negative effect on the production of hardware and software, even though, European producers of midrange computers remained innovative and competitive for a long time. The thesis, that Europeans were no longer innovative in the IT industry, will be questioned in the project.






This article seeks to explore continuities in the governance of cross-border infrastructures from the interwar to the post-war period. It argues that transnational expert communities and cultures of standardisation emerged, which the infrastructure experts were keen to protect and persist. The article compares transport and communication to isolate common patterns and differences.

Henrich-Franke, C. (2018). Comparing Cultures of Expert Regulation: Governing Cross-Border Infrastructures. Contemporary European History27(2), 280–300.





Henrich-Franke, C. (2020). EC competition law and the idea of “open networks” (1950s–1980s). Internet Histories, 4(2), 125–141. https://doi.org/10.1080/24701475.2020.1743045



Elsner, L., Henrich-Franke, C., Neutsch, C., & Thiemeyer, G. (2019). Infrastrukturelle Grundlagen des europäischen Wirtschaftsraums: Akteure der Integration – Akteure der Desintegration. In G. Schulz & M. Spoerer (Eds.), Integration und Desintegration Europas (pp. 73–98). Franz Steiner Verlag.
Henrich-Franke, C. (2019). Computer Networks on Copper Cables. Revue Histoire et Informatique/ Zeitschrift Geschichte Und Informatik, 1, 65–78. http://blog.ahc-ch.ch/publikationen/bd-21-2019-computer-network-histories/
Henrich-Franke, C. (2019). Historical infrastructure research – a (sub-)discipline in the making? In M. Korn, W. Reißmann, T. Röhl, & D. Sittler (Eds.), Infrastructuring Publics (pp. 49–68). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-20725-0_3
Henrich-Franke, C. (2019). Globale Welt 1970-2015. Kohlhammer. https://www.kohlhammer.de/wms/instances/KOB/appDE/Globale-Welt-1970-2015-978-3-17-033250-8
Henrich-Franke, C. (2019). ‘The Mickey Mouse Telephone’ – An icon of turning tides in the relationship between the state, the economy and society in 1980s Germany. In Working Paper Series (pp. 1–14). https://doi.org/10.25819/ubsi/613
Henrich-Franke, C., & Laborie, L. (2019). Technology taking over diplomacy? The ‘Comité consultatif international (for) Fernschreiben’ (CCIF) and its relationship to the ITU in the early history of telephone standardization, 1923 – 1947. In G. Balbi & A. Fickers (Eds.), History of the International Telecommunication Union (pp. 193–216). https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110669701-010



Henrich-Franke, C. (2018). Comparing Cultures of Expert Regulation: Governing Cross-Border Infrastructures. Contemporary European History, 27(2), 280–300. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1017/S0960777318000139
Henrich-Franke, C. (2018). Engineering Expertise and the Regulation of International Telecommunications in Europe from the 1950s to the 1970s. In A. Schneiker, C. Henrich-Franke, R. Kaiser, & C. Lahusen (Eds.), Transnational Expertise. Nomos-Verlag. https://doi.org/10.5771/9783845291277-75
Henrich-Franke, C., & Laborie, L. (2018). European Union for and by Communication Networks: Continuities and Discontinuities during the Second World War. Comparativ, 28(1), 82–100. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.26014/j.comp.2018.01.05
Röhr, M. (2018). Gebremste Vernetzung. Digitale Kommunikation in der Bundesrepublik der 1970/80er Jahre. In F. Bösch (Ed.), Wege in die digitale Gesellschaft. Computernutzung in der Bundesrepublik 1955-1990 (pp. 252–273).



Henrich-Franke, C. (2017). And Postal Services? ... The Universal Postal Union and the Digitalization of Communication. Media in Action, 1, 131–145. https://www001.zimt.uni-siegen.de/ojs/index.php/mia/article/view/3/1
Henrich-Franke, C. (2017). ‘Epistemic Communities’ of Radio Regulators: Gametes of a Europeanization of National Foreign Radio Policies. In G. Clemens (Ed.), The Quest for Europeanization (pp. 237–248). Steiner.



Ambrosius, G., & Henrich-Franke, C. (2016). Integration of Infrastructures in Europe in Historical Comparison. Springer International Publishing. https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319224664