Sacred Excess: Organizational Ignorance in an Age of Toxic Data

Stefan Schwarzkopf*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReviewResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

Actors in data-intensive industries at times deliberately induce and reproduce organizational ignorance by engaging in over-production of data. This observation leads the paper to make two claims. First, members of these industries fetishize data excess not in order to reduce, but in order to reproduce and stabilize organizational ignorance. Second, in this process of fetishization, organizational ignorance gives rise to forms of collective effervescence similar to that found in totemistic religions. This effervescence allows organizational actors to draw defining lines around that which is marked as awe-inspiring, dangerous and off-limits, namely the sacred. In reviewing organizational ignorance from the perspective of the sacred, this paper proposes that, paradoxically, contemporary forms of data creation allow companies and industries to organize themselves around ignorance as opposed to the promise of knowledge and insight. The paper uses this theoretical proposal in order to outline the contours of an alternative ontology of organizational ignorance, one that understands this phenomenon in terms of excessive presence of data and information.
Original languageEnglish
JournalOrganization Studies
Volume41
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)197-217
Number of pages21
ISSN0170-8406
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Published online: January 28, 2019

Keywords

  • Data
  • Excess
  • Ignorance
  • Paradox
  • Sacred

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