Working within the shadow: what do we do with “not-yet” data?

Angelo Benozzo (Department of Human and Social Sciences, University of Valle D’Aosta, Aosta, Italy)
Silvia Gherardi (Department of Sociology, University of Trento, Trento, Italy)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Publication date: 25 July 2019



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.


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.


Four types of “not-yet” data – illegible, wondrous and disorienting, hesitant and worn out – are presented and discussed. Data are illegible 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 are 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.


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.



The first version of the paper was presented at the 9th EARLI SIG 14 Conference in Geneva, September 12-14, 2018, at the invited symposium “Shadow Organizing: Interaction, Learning, and Professional Development”. The authors wish to thank all the participants of the symposium for their comments and the stimulus received and the authors specially thank Laurent Filletaz and Stephen Billet for their kind invitation and for their friendly support in organizing the event. The authors would also like to thank Neil Carey for his supportive and provocative comments on the first draft of the 4th variation of not-yet data presented in the symposium “Data” at the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry at Urbana-Champaign (University of Illinois), May 16-19, 2018.


Benozzo, A. and Gherardi, S. (2019), "Working within the shadow: what do we do with “not-yet” data?", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 15 No. 2, pp. 145-159.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below

You may be able to access this content by logging in via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.
If you think you should have access to this content, click the button to contact our support team.