Sacred Excess: Organizational Ignorance in an Age of Toxic Data

Stefan Schwarzkopf*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-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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