Exploring Complexity in Accounting: Aesthetics, Design and Space

Achilli, Giulia (2019) Exploring Complexity in Accounting: Aesthetics, Design and Space. Tesi di Dottorato, Luiss Guido Carli, Department of Business and Management > PhD Program in Management (english language), tutor: Giovanni Fiori and Cristiano Busco, p. 181. [Doctoral Thesis]

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This thesis explores the notion of complexity as related to accounting by relying upon aesthetic modes of inquiry. Prior studies have presented a variety of approaches to complexity in accounting, rendering the literature rich but puzzled. A number of scholars have explored the role of accounting in managing the complexity arising from the multiple overlapping and conflicting logics that come across the organization. Further studies have explored complexity as a feature of accounting and reporting design, which can obfuscate performance or reveal corporate aspirations. We argue that aesthetic approaches to ‘accounting for complexity’ and ‘complexity in accounting’ can reconcile the diverse findings, while providing innovative venues for research. The first chapter of this thesis aims to provide a critical review of prior studies on complexity in accounting and to systematize the diverse findings that these studies have offered, while outlining patterns for further accounting research on complexity. In the second chapter, we explore aesthetic complexity in the design of corporate reports by adopting a Baroque interpretive lens. The Baroque is known as the art of complexity, bold ornamentation, juxtaposition, as well as the grotesque, extravagance, flamboyance, and illusion. We draw on the experience of Plectra, a large European bank operating in more than 15 countries, to analyze the aesthetic features of its Integrated Report. We rely upon an ‘aesthetic inquiry’ into accounting to explore the emotional responses of the designers of the Integrated Report (i.e. the sustainability managers within Plectra), as they engage with the aesthetic features of the report in the attempt to represent ‘sustainable value’. This chapter demonstrates that aesthetic complexity in reporting design engages with the subjective/emotional sphere of its designers inside the organization, as they attempt to fill the conceptual ‘voids’ left in the meaning of ‘sustainable value’ and celebrate it. This attempt leads to an ongoing search for innovation in reporting design, while perpetuating the illusion of avoiding the void. We show that complexity in reporting design may provide its designers with a means for celebration, heroism, illusion, and consolation, while reassuring them from the horror vacui, i.e. the fear for ‘sustainable value’ to remain empty, and for sustainability managers to ‘disappear’. The third chapter explores the role of accounting in the management of complexity, as complexity is socially and spatially produced, and as it is augmented by aesthetic and transcendent aspects. By drawing upon archival sources concerning the project of construction of the baroque altar of St. Ignatius (1695 - 1699) in the Church of Gesù in Rome, Italy, we demonstrate how accounting provided a means for avoiding the lived space to jeopardize the conceived space of the project thereby enabling transcendent and aesthetic aspects to engage with other logics in the making of the altar. Such engagement ‘took on body’ in the altar, allowing a complex bundle of power and ideology to ‘materialize’.


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Item Type: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Research documents and activity classification: LUISS PhD Thesis
Divisions: Department of Business and Management > PhD Program in Management (english language)
Thesis Advisor: Fiori, Giovanni and Busco, Cristiano
Additional Information: Dottorato di Ricerca in Management (XXX ciclo), Luiss Guido Carli, Roma, 2019. Relatori: Prof. Giovanni Fiori, Prof. Cristiano Busco.
MIUR Scientific Area: Area 13 - Economics and Statistics > SECS-P/07 Business Administration
Deposited by: Maria Teresa Nisticò
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2019 08:37
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2019 08:38
URI: http://eprints.luiss.it/id/eprint/1657


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