Accounting and everyday life: a case study of accountability through ranking, rating and reviewing in the Australian and Singaporean education sectors

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Copyright: Dhillon, Rina
This thesis examines the role of accounting in everyday life by undertaking case studies of accountability through ranking, rating and reviewing within the Australian and Singaporean education sectors. This thesis is motivated by the incessant demands for accountability and transparency in everyday life, exemplified by the explosion of online facilities for ranking, rating and reviewing everyday decisions and activities. While accounting researchers have recently taken interest in the rise of rankings, ratings and reviews in various domains, we know little about the everyday calculative agencements that are mobilised by ranking, rating and reviewing practices, and the accounting assemblages that underpin such practices. This thesis consists of two qualitative studies that draw on semi-structured interviews with a variety of stakeholders within the Australian and Singaporean education sectors, and a netnographic study of stakeholder participation on various online educational websites. The first study examines accounting assemblages that drive ranking, rating and reviewing practices within the Australian and Singaporean school sectors. By tracing these assemblages, the first study sheds light on the (i) diffusion of centres of calculations; (ii) ‘accounting intimacy’; and (iii) cascading translation of governmentality, that mobilises a chain of accounting and accountability calculations in the form of rankings, ratings and reviews, in everyday life. The second study builds on the first by exploring contemporary developments in the exercise of everyday accountability, with a focus on how the increasing online availability of information about student and school performance has facilitated more participatory and multifaceted form of accountability (which this thesis terms citizen accountability) within the Australian education sector. Specifically, it traces the myriad of accounting calculations (often formalised as rankings, ratings and reviews) that are produced and used by parents, students, teachers, principals, and others in exercising and responding to stylised forms of accountability. In doing so, this study contributes to furthering our knowledge of (i) the distinguishing features and characteristics of citizen accountability; (ii) the strategic and calculative practices performed by stakeholders in the name of citizen accountability; and (iii) the effects and ramifications of the growing exercise of citizen accountability in everyday life.
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Dhillon, Rina
Baxter, Jane
Andon, Paul
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty
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