Adoption and Use of Ontologies in the Utility Sector: A Technological Mediation Perspective

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Standardization is believed to be a driver for adoption and integration of digital practices. Beyond the standardization at the level of technology application lies potential for standardization in the higher-order formalized knowledge bases; the so-called ontologies. Ontologies need to abstract and integrate knowledge from disciplines and industry standards. From a philosophical perspective, ontologies can be seen as social constructs and part of the shared social context in which practitioners work. If they do not contain an adequate representation of a community’s shared reality, they may delimit sector-wide unified digital practices. Following the interpretive approach of technological mediation, the objective of this study is to explain why the development and use of a sector-wide domain ontology in construction are not always as effective and efficient as they could potentially be. Which obstacles hamper the creation of a sector-wide domain ontology and how can these be overcome? We apply the technical mediation perspective to assess how coexisting different standards complicate the development of a shared domain ontology. Additionally, a collaborative end user–based design approach is applied to address ontology development complexities. It is shown that a digital modeling standard mediates a specific view or model of reality by amplifying certain aspects of the world at the expense of other aspects. The heterogeneity of existing standards makes it difficult to develop a shared and sector-wide domain ontology because different utility owners model different representations of the world. A collaborative user-oriented development approach is a means to elicit these differences more adequately, and to develop shared conceptualizations about the domain of the utility sector. The domain ontology serves here as mediator between the different digital standards that capture the distinctive modeled realities of utility owners.
Original languageEnglish
Article number05021016
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of management in engineering
Issue number1
Early online date13 Oct 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


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