Representing Performance | Performing Representation : Ontology in accounting practice

Abstract: Social studies of accounting have drawn attention to the dubious role of accounting as a representational link between organizational realities and action. Based on five years immersion with performance management and board work in a theatre company, this thesis inquires into the ontological significance of accounting practices. The study takes a praxiographic approach, which emphasizes action and relocates questions of representation towards the practices in which representations are mobilized. The research questions refer specifically to ontological work related to commensurability and distance in accounting practices. Four papers attend to the manners in which the organizational performance of the theatre company is represented in different situations of managing, governing and reporting. The papers demonstrate and analyse different examples of ontological work involved in achieving (or retracting) representational links. In conclusion, the thesis places the organizing of ontological tensions – especially the tension between singular accounting representations and multiple organizational realities – at the core of accounting representation practices. The thesis thus contributes to practical, theoretical and philosophical discussions on the links between accounting practices, accounts and reality. 

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