Chapter 10: Trust, Codification and Epistemic Communities: Implementing an Expert System in the French Steel Industry
10 Trust, codiﬁcation and epistemic communities: implementing an expert system in the French steel industry Richard Arena, Nathalie Lazaric and Edward Lorenz Introduction The aim of this chapter is to examine the relation between trust and knowledge codiﬁcation in the context of the implementation of an expert system in the French steel company, Usinor. The Sachem (Système d’Aide à la Conduite des Hauts Furneaux en Marche) expert system project, which was designed to improve blast furnace control, was initiated by Usinor in the 1980s as part of a larger programme of knowledge codiﬁcation and centralization. One of the objectives was to preserve knowledge and practices the company felt might face extinction during a period of massive layoﬀs that threatened to disrupt the traditional knowledge transfer patterns which had hitherto been carried out primarily via an apprenticeship system.1 At ﬁrst glance, trust might seem largely irrelevant to the development of an expert system. Such systems, after all, involve the use of information technology by ‘knowledge engineers’ to transform largely tacit ‘know-how’ into a codiﬁed format that can subsequently be used as an aid in decision-making. The technical nature of such projects might suggest that they are largely neutral relative to problems of opportunism and trust. We shall argue that trust was central to implementation of an expert system in the steel industry for three principal reasons that the project shared with most major eﬀorts to codify and centralize knowledge in organizational settings: uncertain impact on...
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