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Actor Network Theory Essay

2871 words - 12 pages

“Discuss the contribution of Actor-Network Theory to our understanding of management accounting and control in organisations that have adopted ERPS technologies.”

Over the past decade, management accounting has seen an extraordinary rise in technology driven innovations, whereby Hyvonen (2008) explains how this has contributed to the emergence of virtual organisations. The power of ICT plays a pivotal role in many organisations, through providing a basis for managing efficient operations and formulating corporate strategy. Moreover, Bhimani et al (2008) explains how ICT provides the opportunity to alleviate the problems associated with information flows in organisations with fragmented ...view middle of the document...

Moreover, Actor-Network Theory explains how these actor networks function as a whole, whilst providing users with an understanding of the unambiguous strategies that are used to map these technological and social elements together.

Whilst the origins of Actor-Network Theory are in sociology of science and technology, its characteristics provide the opportunity to take a new and innovative approach to analysing a range of fields. Hyvonen (2008) explains how Actor-Network Theory attempts to rediscover the connections that have been lost as a result of modernistic thinking, whereby the epistemology of modernism segregated society and technology. Moreover, Latour (1999) further explains that as Actor-Network Theory posits, the world is neither purely social nor purely technical but always a mix of both. It is this reasoning which makes Actor-Network Theory particularly useful for understanding the relationships and complexities between management accounting and control and ERP systems in organisations. This essay will therefore explore the contribution of Actor-Network Theory to our understanding of management accounting in organisations that have adopted ERPS technologies.
In order to gain an understanding of how Actor-Network Theory contributes to our understanding of management accounting and control in organisations, it is important to consider the two extreme end points of a continuum of alternatives which were explained by Hanseth (1998). Technological determinism holds that the development of technology is solely responsible for its actions, whereas social determinism holds that society and its actors develop and use the technology, thus implying that technology itself is not a driving factor. Actor-Network Theory addresses this issue by allowing the symmetrical treatment of both human and non-human actors, who are heterogeneous actants mutually interconnected to form actor networks (Nagm, F & Cecez-Kecmanovic, D 2008, Cited in Callon 1996; Latour 1986). Actor-Network Theory therefore considers all actants in a network, whether they are people, technologies, or documents, and can thus provide an effective platform to deal with this complexity (Quattrone & Hopper 2005, Cited in Latour 1999). In addition, Actor-Network Theory incorporates the principle of generalised symmetry which explains how human and non-hum actors that are integrated into a network should be assigned equal amounts of agency (Doolin & Lowe, 2002).

Chapman (2005) provides support for this notion of Actor-Network Theory, by adopting a Latourian approach to explore the implications of ERP systems for accounting and organisational control. Chapman concludes that ERP systems take their form through the decisions and resources of previous actors, subject to future decisions and resources that may transfigure them beyond recognition. Moreover, Chapman explains that by describing an ERP system as an actor that might seek allies to further its own ends, it considers the ways...

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