Taking the ontological and materialist turns: agential realism, representation theory, and accounting information systems

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    Karen Barad's (2007) agential realism conceives the world as intra-acting agencies that take definite form only when an agential cut is made. In the information systems discipline, her theory underpins much of the work that goes under the rubric of sociomateriality. Importantly, her work challenges the validity of theories about the world based on representationalism and so-called Cartesian dualism. At least some scholars who subscribe to sociomateriality argue that one consequence of Barad's theory is that information systems theories such as representation theory stand on shaky grounds. I subject this proposition to scrutiny. I begin by summarizing the major tenets of representation theory and agential realism. Next, I use agential realism to provide an account of phenomena that are associated with an accounting information systems case study. I then evaluate the account, particularly from the perspective of what novel, innovative insights occur by using an agential realism lens. Compared to existing theories such as actor-network theory and general systems theory, I conclude that little new is learned. Moreover, I argue that representation theory provides an alternative, robust account of the case-study phenomena. I also consider the question of whether agential realism potentially provides accounting information systems scholars with a means of identifying the core of their field and constructing theories about any core they might identify.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number100485
    Number of pages10
    JournalInternational Journal of Accounting Information Systems
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


    • Accounting information systems
    • Actor-network theory
    • Agential realism
    • General systems theory
    • Representation theory
    • Sociomateriality

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