The quest to make sense of information: A research commentary
2011 (English)Conference paper (Refereed)
Debates on the so-called issue of ‘Big Data’, especially those in the business press, tend to over-emphasize potential benefits focusing almost exclusively on the promise of turning data and information into actionable knowledge. Accordingly, operating in information-rich environments provides firms opportunities to engage in analytic processes drawing on data and information to gain new intelligence (knowledge). New intelligence is the supposed end product of such processes that include among other things the identification of patterns, the creation of scenarios, the testing of models, prediction making and the prescription of actions. Such descriptions, as straightforward as they may sound, do not parallel reality, which is far more complex and difficult, and above all dependent on aspects that tend to escape the attention of many debaters.
Yet, although a ‘neologism’, the issue of ‘Big Data’ is part of larger debate on firms’ efforts to make sense of information. As such it connects to more diachronic issues in research such as for instance decision making, information system support and knowledge management. But the debate needs to be balanced; potentials need to be investigated in light of their challenges.
In this commentary paper we seek to add to the debate on ‘Big Data’ and on firms’ quest for making sense of data and information. We do so by attempting to explicate the challenges associates with such endeavors. Our main arguments are that although ‘Big Data’ may hold potential to support firms’ information sense-making processes, firms’ methodological and epistemological directives condition this potential. The former concerns the level of scientification, i.e. how much firms are relying on and accommodating for the use of scientific methodologies and knowledge to produce, make sense of and use information in a highly disciplined, systematized, structured and experimental manner. The latter relates to who is given interpretation priority in the analytic process effectively forming that which the firm is to act on, namely knowledge. Based on these findings we propose a set of areas for further research on subject matter.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
big data, information technology, knowledge, scientification, interpretation
Research subject Business Studies
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-157867OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-157867DiVA: diva2:436635
Nordic Academy of Management conference 2011, Stockholm, August 20-24.