Big data in the margins of accounting. The mediating role of calculative practices in a digital environment

Thesis event information

Date and time of the thesis defence

Place of the thesis defence

Linnanmaa campus, lecture hall TA105

Topic of the dissertation

Big data in the margins of accounting. The mediating role of calculative practices in a digital environment

Doctoral candidate

MSc Erkki Lassila

Faculty and unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Oulu Business School, University of Oulu Graduate School, Oulu Business School, Economics, Accounting and Finance unit

Subject of study



Professor Albrecht Becker, University of Innsbruck


Professor Janne Järvinen, Oulu Business School, University of Oulu

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Big data in the margins of accounting

This dissertation concerns the implications of the digitalization and related big data technologies for management accounting. It increases understanding of how these new means of quantification and calculation are intertwined with the management accounting expertise that has traditionally generated and linked calculable spaces and calculable selves for liberal programs of government. By highlighting the performative characteristics of digital space, the dissertation provides a fresh way to approach “the digital” from the management accounting perspective.

An increasing amount of literature has examined the disruptive digital transformation. However, there is still very little empirical and critically tuned research on the potential implications of this transformation for management accounting in its organizational and social contexts. This dissertation adopts an interdisciplinary perspective on accounting and problematizes the simplistic technical view of digitalization and big data technologies by taking a more holistic approach to the subject.

This dissertation is composed of three interrelated essays, which together bring forward the mediating and transformative role of calculative practices of accounting in the digital environment. The empirical findings show, first, how data analytics acts as a performative engine that generates coordination and control in creative digital development organizations. Second, the findings show how the governing of individuals’ everyday lives takes place in “free” digital application markets. Third, the findings show how specific characteristics that can be attributed to the digital calculable space have implications for the calculative expertise of management accounting.

This dissertation argues that the “uniqueness” of big data technologies comes mainly from their potential to economize and govern new territories of individuals’ private domains. However, it seems that these calculative technologies are, at least at present, still located in the margins of accounting.
Last updated: 23.1.2024