Technological mediation, mediating morality and moral imaginaries of design: performance measurement systems in the pharmaceutical industry

Chiara Bottausci*, Keith Robson, Claire Dambrin

*Corresponding author for this work

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

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Abstract

In this paper, we seek to understand the ethics of accounting technology design. We commence by working with the concept of technological mediation, which is theorizing how technologies steer actions by evoking given behaviours and by contributing to perceptions and interpretations of reality that form the basis for choices and decisions to act. As such, this relation between people and technologies has important ethical consequences since it implies that technologies contribute actively to how humans do ethics. In this paper, we draw upon a postphenomenological approach (Ihde; Verbeek) to study and to theorise the moral mediations brought about by accounting technology, by examining how, in its design, technology can actively mediate the moral choices and guide the moral actions human beings make. Our central research question is ‘how is morality mediated in the design of accounting technologies?‘. This question is explored through an ethnographic study of the design of a new Performance Measurement and Compensation System in the Italian division of a multi-national pharmaceutical company. We offer two main contributions towards answering this question. First, by working within the theory of technological mediation, we develop the concept of a ‘moral imaginary’ as an approach to understanding designing the morality of things. Second, we elaborate a process model to theorise how moral mediations unfold in the design of accounting technology. From our conceptual motivation and the theoretical elaboration it inspired, we illuminate how the design of accounting technologies, in this case a PMS system, is a form of ‘engineering ethics’ through techno-moral mediation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101535
Number of pages26
JournalAccounting, Organizations and Society
Volume112
Early online date4 Jan 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Earlier drafts of this paper were presented at the Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Accounting Conference, Edinburgh, July 2018; EIASM New Directions in Management Accounting Conference, Brussels, December 2018; Management Accounting Section Mid-Year Conference, Scottsdale, January 2019. The authors are also grateful to participants for their comments at seminars held at Warwick Business School, March 2019; University of Southampton, March 2019; Concordia University, April 2019; and Cardiff University, April 2022. Thanks also to David Crvelin, Angelo Ditillo, Elena Giovannoni, Daniel Martinez, Afshin Mehrpouya, Yuval Millo, Jan Mouritsen, and Dane Pflueger for their comments and suggestions. This research is supported by a public grant overseen by the French National Research Agency (ANR) , as part of the “ Investissements d’Avenir ” program ( ANR-11-IDEX-0003 /LabEx Ecodec/ ANR-11-LABX-0047 ).

Funding Information:
Earlier drafts of this paper were presented at the Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Accounting Conference, Edinburgh, July 2018; EIASM New Directions in Management Accounting Conference, Brussels, December 2018; Management Accounting Section Mid-Year Conference, Scottsdale, January 2019. The authors are also grateful to participants for their comments at seminars held at Warwick Business School, March 2019; University of Southampton, March 2019; Concordia University, April 2019; and Cardiff University, April 2022. Thanks also to David Crvelin, Angelo Ditillo, Elena Giovannoni, Daniel Martinez, Afshin Mehrpouya, Yuval Millo, Jan Mouritsen, and Dane Pflueger for their comments and suggestions. This research is supported by a public grant overseen by the French National Research Agency (ANR), as part of the “Investissements d'Avenir” program (ANR-11-IDEX-0003/LabEx Ecodec/ANR-11-LABX-0047).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors

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