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From psoriasis to a number and back

Frandsen, Ann-Christine (2009) 'From psoriasis to a number and back.' Information and Organization, 19 (2). pp. 103-128. ISSN 1471-7727

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Abstract

This paper will argue that accounting can be understood as a special kind of Latourian Actor – a ‘space/time/value machine’ [Frandsen, A. -C. (2004). Rum, tid och pengar – En studie om redovisning i praktiken. Doctoral Thesis, Göteborg: BAS]. It starts conceptually by seeing accounting and its references as a ‘chain of translations’ [Latour, B. (1998). Artefaktens återkomst. Stockholm: Knowledge and Society; Latour, B. (1999). Pandora’s hope. Essays on the reality of science studies. Cambridge: Harvard University Press]. Empirically it follows a puzzling set of such references, from a psoriasis clinic where accounting is unfamiliar – so part of what [Tuan, Y. -F. (2001). Space and place, 8th ed. London: University of Minnesota Press] would call a ‘space’ – to a central finance function where it is taken for granted embodied knowledge, and so part of ‘place’, and then back, to observe how these references become integrated into medical everyday work and its embodied ways of knowing, establishing the clinic as an accounting ‘place’ for those who work there.. It then argues that as these references become more taken for granted, accounting acts as a special Actor because of the way it circulates inside and outside both human and non-human ‘actants’, as a machine which always names and counts, so constituting space, time and valuing through its flexible ‘named numbers’.. It tracks how accounting moves to becoming familiar and expands its reach through four categories: ‘the character of the associations’, ‘the integration of associations and the delimitation of movement’, ‘order and its relation to change; and ‘the production of other spaces’. This illuminates how accounting draws actants into its chains or circuits of value, thus extending its ability to construct both facts and acts. Here the paper supplements the actor-network approach with ideas drawn from the work of Hoskin and colleagues [e.g. Ezzamel, M., & Hoskin, K. (2002). Retheorizing the relationship between accounting, writing and money with evidence from Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 13, 333–367; Hoskin, K. (1981). The history of education and the history of writing, Unpublished paper. Department of Education, University of Warwick; Hoskin, K., & Macve, R., (1986). Accounting and the examination: A genealogy of disciplinary power. Accounting, Organisation and Society, 11, 105–136] which see accounting as a visible sign system naming and counting from before the invention of writing, and so having a special priority in settings concerned with coordinating action in space and across time. In modern managerial worklife settings, its named numbers circulate as paper and electronic texts which are strategically central to both financial and non-financial coordination of resources and actants. This helps clarify why accounting should be such a special Actor, as well as how it functions as machine.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Chain of translations; Accounting in practice; Space; Place; Time; Money value; Associations; Named numbers; Taken-for-grantedness; Space/time/value machine
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HF Commerce > HF5601 Accounting
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School
Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School > Essex Accounting Centre
Depositing User: Jo Wiltshire
Date Deposited: 29 Aug 2013 12:30
Last Modified: 12 Nov 2015 17:04
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/5262

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