Working within the shadow: What do we do with 'not-yet' data?

Angelo Benozzo, Silvia Gherardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the possibilities opened up by those messy, unclear and indeterminate data in research situations that may be described as being in the shadow and may as such remain in a state of vagueness and indeterminacy.

Design/methodology/approach: The paper draws on the extant literature on shadow organizing and post-qualitative methodologies. It focuses attention on not-yet (or shadow data) in order to ponder over what researchers do to data when they are not (yet) black-boxed as such. At the same time, it investigates what it is that not-yet data do to researchers.

Findings: Four types of ‘not-yet’ data – illegible, wondrous and disorienting, hesitant, and worn out – are presented and discussed. Illegible data is when a researcher is in the position of not knowing how to interpret what is in front of her/him. A second illustration is constructed around wonder, and poses the question of the feelings of surprise and disorientation that arise when facing uncanny realities. In a third situation, not-yet data is narrated as hesitation, when a participant feels conflicting desires and the researchers hesitates in interpreting. The fourth illustration depicts not-yet data as data that have been corrupted, that vanish after time or are worn out.

Practical implications: Not-yet data belong to researchers practice but can also be found in other professional practices which are concerned with the indeterminacy of shadowy situations. It is argued that situations like these constitute opportunities for learning and for the moral and professional development, so long as indeterminacy is kept open and a process of ‘slowing down’ both action and interpretation is nurtured.

Originality/value: This paper is of value for taking the metaphor of shadow organizing further. Moreover, it represents a rare attempt to bring the vast debate on post-qualitative research/methodologies into management studies, which with very few exceptions seems to have been ignored by organization studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-383
Number of pages13
JournalQualitative Research in Organizations and Management
Issue number4
Early online date25 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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