Visual Artifacts as Tools for Analysis and Theorizing
The Production of Managerial Knowledge and Organizational Theory: New Approaches to Writing, Producing and Consuming Theory
ISBN: 978-1-78769-184-1, eISBN: 978-1-78769-183-4
Publication date: 11 April 2019
In this chapter, the authors discuss how visual artifacts may support the analysis and interpretation of qualitative data in organization studies. They draws on their own experience as well as other scholars’ published work to explore the distinctive affordances of visual forms. In particular, the authors identify four roles – namely “mapping,” “analyzing,” “conceptualizing,” and “communicating” – that visual artifacts play to help us move from raw qualitative data to a compelling conceptual product.
Specifically, the use of visuals for “mapping” involves directly coding data into visual forms such as cognitive maps, flow charts or relational diagrams, an approach that may offer a useful complement to traditional verbal coding. Using visuals for “analyzing” implies either comparing, aggregating or decomposing previously constructed visual maps, or drawing directly on verbal data to develop visuals such as analytical flow charts, process replication maps, and trend charts. Using visuals for “conceptualizing” involves rising above the data to develop more abstract representations of concepts and relationships, while maintaining recognizable connections to empirical phenomena. While conceptual models can take a wide variety of forms, the authors illustrate, in particular, the use of visuals to represent linear, dialectic and multi-level process theories. Finally, the authors consider the importance of visualizations for “communicating” insights as well as for developing them, and the inextricable linkages between the two.
The authors conclude by discussing some of the strengths and weaknesses of visualization and by considering how new technologies may offer further possibilities for useful and insightful visual representations of qualitative data that can enhance theory-building.
Langley, A. and Ravasi, D. (2019), "Visual Artifacts as Tools for Analysis and Theorizing", Zilber, T.B., Amis, J.M. and Mair, J. (Ed.) The Production of Managerial Knowledge and Organizational Theory: New Approaches to Writing, Producing and Consuming Theory (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 59), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 173-199. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0733-558X20190000059010
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