Digitalize and Deny: Pluralistic Collective Ignorance in an Algorithmic Profiling Project

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A digital transformation paradigm marked by optimistic tech determinism pushes contemporary management to constantly consider the usefulness of cutting-edge digital technologies in their organizations. This paper is based on an ethnographic study in a public organization and analyzes an empirical case where a digitalization flagship project was allowed to continue and daily work take place unabated, even though the project encountered fundamental problems and clearly failed to fulfill its promises. It explores how managers, project managers and employees reacted to the numerous problems and failures related to the project in both the development and implementation phases. The paper is situated within the literature on organizational ignorance and denial and advances the concept of ‘pluralistic, collective ignorance’. Inspired by Science and Technology Studies, ‘pluralistic collective ignorance’ is developed as a term to account for the diversity in how organizational members contribute to ignoring a phenomenon and the diversity of actors who contribute to ignoring it. Tech-optimism seems to prevent otherwise reflective actors from asking certain kind of questions about technological solutions. But as it is often undecided whether a digitalization project will succeed in making a positive impact in practice, it remains an open question whether denial should be viewed as supportive or destructive for organizational development.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2021
Number of pages40
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Event37th EGOS Colloquium 2021: Organizing for an Inclusive Society: Meanings, Motivations, and Mechanisms - Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 8 Jul 202110 Jul 2021
Conference number: 37


Conference37th EGOS Colloquium 2021
LocationVrije Universiteit
Internet address

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