Digital technologies and accounting quantification: The emergence of two divergent knowledge templates

Elise Berlinski*, Jeremy Morales*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The opportunities of digital technologies, but also their risks, are shaping organisations and societies. Their influence on the future of accounting is often presented as decisive. In fact, information technologies and accounting are so intertwined that it seems impossible to separate the two. Nevertheless, as practices, they emerge from different knowledge disciplines. We examine the intersection of accounting and information technologies through an ethnographic study conducted in a multinational high-tech company in the process of implementing a new IT system. We pay particular attention to the interactions between accountants and technologists, which we analyse through the concept of knowledge templates. A template based on mobilising formalised knowledge to intervene on the organisation in a systematic way treats technology as a set of solutions for predetermined needs. Conversely, a template that treats technology as an emerging complex imposes modes of coordination based on modularity, traceability, and collaboration. Through sociomaterial interactions, a plurality of templates emerges that influences local practices. This article contributes to the literature by showing that accounting emerges through its entanglement with different bodies of knowledge following potentially divergent knowledge templates. Information technologies therefore pose a challenge to accounting: is it possible to conceive of a modular and radically decentralised accounting? This would be an accounting that accepts the pluralism of representations, orientations, and legitimate organisational discourses. It would be an accounting system with greater emancipatory potential.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102697
Number of pages20
JournalCritical Perspectives on Accounting
Early online date22 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024

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