Den visuella bilden av organisationen : Perspektiv på visualitet i accounting
Sammanfattning: Organisations play a crucial role as actors that shape material action and societal discourse; therefore, it is important to understand the ways in which they gain legitimacy and how they shape society. The power of accounting representations to construct the accounting object – the organisation – is therefore a key concern in the accounting literature. Accounting is widely treated as a numbers-based ‘language of business’ through which ‘paper world’ representations shape outcomes in the material world. At present, visuality (the presence of visual images and visual thinking) is gaining influence as a means to represent organisations and construct accounting objects visually. As visuality continues to expand into the realm of accounting, questions emerge about its role and the possibilities of combining the two ‘languages’ during a time when management research is facing a “visual turn”.The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the nature of visuality in accounting. The dissertation is based on five essays that contribute to the visual turn through semiotic analysis of visual texts and qualitative case studies. Paper I explores how business model diagrams – an example of a corporate self-representation – can be designed, and proposes a typology of four main logics for illustrating value creation: classification, circularity, processes and transactions. Paper II describes the development of visuals use in the annual report, finding that visuals are used in greater numbers overall, and that diagrams are a relatively new visual resource in financial reporting. The paper also outlines the trend of a materiality, that is, that visuals increasingly refer to a non-specific and symbol-based idea of the organisation. In Paper III, internal and external representations of a business model are compared, and I conclude that self-representations can be based on parallel but conflicting interpretations of an idea. Paper IV proposes a new visual method for analysing combinations of graphs and texts, and shows that the ‘rhythm’ of graph use in the annual report increasingly integrates visuality in accounting narratives so that accounting and visuality overlap. Finally, Paper V explores challenges and opportunities of a digitalisation of visual artefacts based on the experiences of three organisations that used visual management before the transition.The theoretical contribution of this dissertation is framed in terms of two perspectives. First, a developmental perspective highlights that the nature of visuality has become more prominent in accounting settings, and that the nature of visuality has changed from materiality-based to a material practices that favour conceptual visualisations like diagrams and visual symbols. Second, visuality is explored from an ‘overlaps’ perspective. Three explanations for the role of visuality in accounting are synthesised from the literature: separation, convergence and multilingualism. The contribution is to conceptualise these ‘overlap models’ and thereby deepen the understanding of the role played by visuality in accounting. I also propose a fourth model – bridging – to extend the range of explanations for the meaning of a visual form of accounting.Based on the findings that visuality is more prominent and that the role of visuality is changing, it is proposed visual literacy is an important skill for practitioners who use visual images in accounting. The dissertation presents two frameworks that can contribute to visual literacy. The ‘transformationality framework’ shows how to analyse underlying ideas in corporate diagrams, and the ‘rhythm framework’ illustrates how to shape, use and analyse accounting texts in terms of how combinations of visuals form different rhythms in the annual report.
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