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Practices and Responsibility of Accounting: Examining the politics of data codification

Hild, A. (2004) Practices and Responsibility of Accounting: Examining the politics of data codification. In: Anselmi, L., Capocchi, A., Knox, H., O'Doherty, D., Vurdubakis, T. and Westrup, C., (eds.) Information, Knowledge and Management: Re-assessing the role of ICTs in public and private organizations. Conference organised by Rome Superior School of Public Administration, 3-5 March 2004, Bologna, Italy. Manchester School of Management , Manchester . ISBN 186115125X


The oscillation between action as determined and action as determining has been a prominent debate and one which many theorists have tried to overcome within their work. For example, rather than reducing action merely to an individual agent or member of a collective, or to the effect of the structure or system, action is viewed as performance of the specific collective, in which cognitive capacities of humans could migrate to objects (Gomart & Hennion, 1999). This places an emphasis on the process of mediation and the way in which object-mediators --rendered as prolongations of actions already initiated elsewhere within a network of relations-- do not merely relay and repeat actions, but also transform them in different and sometimes surprising ways. Such a view allows for a focus of that which occurs rather then who acts. It points to organisational events, which are neither limited to their origins and determinants, nor to their effects. Assumedly this is the case and agency is distributed throughout locally produced networks of relations, how can than accounts of organisations be provided which are able to comment on the issue of responsibility/accountability within specific situations? Moreover, how does one event relate to another and what role do information technologies have in this? Based on an ethnographic style of investigation of a local health care providing organisation that has been adapting to national policy changes, it is argued that accounts of its own performance are related to other events (e.g. regrouping of diseases and catchment areas) that rely on codification and classifications which in turn are inscribed in information technology used for monitoring its performance. The introduction of a new classification system, then, leads to a form of disorganisation, where it is impossible to directly relate previous events to each other or to present situations. This notable absence of a time dimension appears to be an organisational strategy that is deployed in order to deal with the flux that occurs along with the perpetual changes at a policy level. Becoming organisation, in this sense, is not characterised by a sequence of events that could speak for themselves, but by a momentarily organisational existence through the representation of subdivisional events. This, it is argued, has problematic implications for the practices and responsibility of accounting, as the absence of a time dimension does not allow for the proliferation, juxtaposition, and disjunction of events. The resulting impossibility of documenting sequences of organisational changes, due to other occurring events within a network, points to the way in which competing truths undermine, support each other within complex networks of relations and raises the question of the possibility of providing credible and principled accounts of an organisation.

Item Type: Proceedings Paper
Institution: The University of Leeds
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Medicine and Health (Leeds) > School of Medicine (Leeds) > Leeds Institute of Health Sciences (Leeds)
Depositing User: Andreas Hild
Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2009 09:06
Last Modified: 15 Sep 2014 01:35
Status: Published
Publisher: Manchester School of Management
Refereed: Yes
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/9284

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