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Accounting, Accountability, Social Media and Big Data: Revolution or Hype?

Conference call for papers from Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

Special Issue of Accounting, Auditing and Accountabilty Journal (and Workshop)

Accounting, Accountability, Social Media and Big Data: Revolution or Hype?

Guest Editors: Michela Arnaboldi, Politecnico di Milano, Cristiano Busco, National University of Ireland Galway, Suresh Cuganesan, University of Sydney, Neil Pollock, University of Edinburgh

The use of new Social Media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and blogs has exploded in the last few years, with most of the population (under 30 years old) using one or more such technology enabled networks in their day-to-day life, at home, on the go, or in the workplace. The key characteristic of social media technology is the possibility to connect with other users worldwide and to access, post and share information on a regular and continuous basis. Millions of users are now connected locally and globally thanks to the rapid spread of these technologies and their ease of use. One effect of the explosion in the take up of social media technologies has been the growth of the so-called “big data” corpora where it is now possible for companies and others to collect, collate and analyse the mass of information that is posted by people on their blogs and social networking sites etc. Such corpora has become widely presented as a new panacea for potentially improving business performance across a wide range of corporate functions (ranging from marketing, innovation, personnel search through to risk management, etc) as the comment below illustrates:

“Digital data is now everywhere—in every sector, in every economy, in every organization and user of digital technology. While this topic might once have concerned only a few data geeks, big data is now relevant for leaders across every sector, and consumers of products and services stand to benefit from its application” (McKinsey, 2011, p.3).

It would be easy to be carried away with the hyperbole that surrounds social media technology, but to ignore its effects would also be remiss. It is expected that social media technologies will afford possibilities not only for users to exchange information but also to others to collect and analyze the data generated by these users online. In this respect we have seen the introduction of various kinds of data analytic tools and rise of new forms of expertise as companies and groups experiment with and trial technology to collect, store and make sense of the information.

Accounting professionals, rather belatedly are only now turning their attention to the potential of social media and big data which are also seen as providing “disruptive” consequences for accounting and finance professions in terms of the competences required and new roles that will be created:

“Technology is once again changing the rules of business. The digital revolution, or ‘big data’ is already changing how some businesses are managed by providing a new means of informing decision making. Companies are using new, powerful tools to combine and analyze unprecedented volumes of data. How can finance professionals work with IT, data scientists and business leaders to create a strategy that extracts value from data more effectively?” (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants website)

In spite of this enthusiasm, however, the actual use of big data for accounting is still in its infancy (Jeacle and Carter, 2011; Scott and Orlikowski, 2012). Doubts exists surrounding the reliability of the information gathered, the methodologies for processing it, the risks from using it, the organizational fit, the reputational risk management and last but not least the value of the information to be extracted.

The purpose of this special issue and research workshop (to be held at Politecnico di Milano, Italy, 23rd and 24th April 2015) is to collect and stimulate debate on how social media and big data might both influence or reconfigure  accounting and, at the same time, be shaped by diverse professionals as a package of instruments and processes  for both internal and external accountability. Social media and big data have already been changing accounting and accountability in several companies, introducing a “social media package”, although this often happens outside accounting departments (commonly through marketing departments). This hybrid developing situation offers the possibility to observe impacts and changes on the intersection between technology, information and accounting:

  • How big data makes possible the calculation of new fluid objects and connection of these to value creation for organisational decision-making and action? One area of investigation is the building of real-time predictive analytics/performance models. Although there are some studies on these issues (e.g Kalampokis, Tambouris, Tarabanis, 2013; Fowler, Pitta, Leventhal, 2013; Nguyen, Phung, D, Adams, B., Venkatesh, 2013), their focus is more technical or sectorial overlooking wider organizational, behavioral and social implications.
  • How social media affect organizations social capital and how this is measured and communicated? Two issues are here intertwined: the conceptualization of intangible capital related to social media data and networks; its translation and visualization in operable measures. This latter has opened an increasing stream of researches focused on visual tools (e.g. Sobkowicz, Kaschesky, Bouchard, 2012; Yang and Dorbin, 2011), without however reflecting on accountability issues has done for example by Cuganesan and Dumay (2009) on intellectual capital.
  • How big data is transforming the relations between accounting and other organisational functions? Several areas of explorations are here comprised: which functions own these processes and how they are interconnected across the organization and with accounting functions? Are there new calculative centres, which may reshape organizational power related to information management
  • How social media big data are changes professions and competences? Practitioner literature is already lively discussing the role of Chief Information Officer against the increasing role of Chief Marketing Officers, this latter taking the lead of social media trend and big data accounting. Accountants seem to be left apart in this debate, the absence of empirical evidence leave many questions unanswered: are there professional “wars” on the appropriation of the “social big data” territory?; is there any role for management accountants and finance professionals, in general, to work with IT, data scientists and business leaders to extracts value from data more effectively? do management accountants and finance professionals play any role in leading or orchestrating the integration, interpretation and usage of these multiple set of data? do management accountants and finance professionals require new expertise and forms of training? do social media “big data” influence and participate to the creation of new and hybrid experts?
  • Big data can be seen as the object itself requiring valuation and accounting. The technical challenges still associated to the translation of big data into value-added information and (data collect and processing) has put big data as object of measurement pressed by consultancy industry. Which is the value of information that can be obtained compared to traditional information? Are companies using traditional frames (e.g. customer satisfaction) to search in this unstructured “corpora” or are they really finding out something new?
  • How big data creates new possibilities for dynamic risk management including reputation risk and continuous assurance (an increasingly popular theme in auditing)? For example looking at issues of fraud detection and forensic accounting. These issues have started to be addressed by specialist literature (legal, ICT) (REF) but there not contribution addressing more widely organizational and accountability issues.

The closing date for submissions to the Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal special issue is 15th July 2015. Papers should use the standard format for submissions to Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal and be submitted through the ScholarOne Manuscripts submissions process ( During the submissions process, when asked to selected an issue for submission, authors should select 'Accounting, Accountability, Social Media and Big Data: Revolution or Hype?' from the drop when menu. The usual double blind review process will be applied.

For further information on the special issue, please contact Michela Arnaboldi - [email protected]


Chang, S., Chen, R. K., Chou, Y. Lin (2012), “Local Sports Sentiment and the Returns and Trading Behavior of Locally Headquartered Stocks: A Firm-Level Analysis”, Journal of Empirical Finance, vol. 19 no. 3

Cuganesan, S. and Dumay, J. (2009), "Reflecting on the production of intellectual capital visualisations", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 22 no. 8, pp. 1161-86

Fischer, E. and Reuber, A. R. (2011), “Social interaction via new social media: (How) can interactions on Twitter affect effectual thinking and behavior?”, Journal of Business Venturing, vol. 26 no.1

Fowler, D., Pitta D. and Leventhal R. C. (2013), "Technological advancements and social challenges for one-to-one marketing", Journal of Consumer Marketing, vol. 30 no.6, p.509-16

Jeacle, I. and Carter, C. (2011), “In TripAdvisor we trust: Rankings, calculative regimes and abstract systems”, Accounting, Organizations and Society, vol. 36

Kalampokis, E., Tambouris, E. and Tarabanis, K. (2013), "Understanding the predictive power of social media", Internet Research, vol. 23 no. 5, pp. 544–559

LaValle, S., Lesser, E., Shockley, R., Hopkins M. S. and Kruschwitz N. (2011), “Big Data, Analytics and the Path From Insights to Value”, MIT Sloan Management Review, vol. 52 no. 2

Leftheriotis, I. and Giannakos, M. (2014), “Using social media for work: Losing your time or improving your work?", Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 31

Li, Y., Wu, C. and Lai, C. (2013), “A social recommender mechanism for e-commerce: Combining similarity, trust, and relationship”, Decision Support Systems, vol. 55 no. 3

Nair, M. (2011) "Understanding and measuring the value of social media", Journal of Corporate Accounting & Finance, vol. 22 no. 3

Nguyen, T, Phung, D, Adams, B. and Venkatesh, S. (2013), "Event extraction using behaviors of sentiment signals and burst structure in social media", Knowledge and Information Systems, vol. 37 no. 2, pp. 279-304

Picazo-Vela, S., Gutiérrez-Martínez, I. and Luna-Reyes, L. F. (2012), "Understanding risks, benefits, and strategic alternatives of social media applications in the public sector", Government Information Quarterly, vol. 29

Roth, P.L., Bobko, P., Van Iddekinge C.H. and Thatcher J. B. (2013), "Social Media in Employee-Selection-Related Decisions: A Research Agenda for Uncharted Territory", Journal of Management, DOI: 10.1177/0149206313503018

Scott S.V. and Orlikowski W. J. (2012), "Reconfiguring relations of accountability: Materialization of social media in the travel sector", Accounting, Organizations and Society, vol. 37, pp. 26–40

Sobkowicz, P., Kaschesky, M. and Bouchard, G. (2012), "Opinion mining in social media: Modeling, simulating, and forecasting political opinions in the web", Government Information Quarterly, vol. 29 no. 4, pp. 470-9

Steenbruggen, J., Borzacchiello, M.T., Nijkamp, P. and Scholten, H. (2013), "Data from telecommunication networks for incident management: An exploratory review on transport safety and security", Transport Policy, vol. 28, July

Yang C. C. and Dorbin Ng T. (2011), "Analyzing and Visualizing Web Opinion Development and Social Interactions With Density-Based Clustering", IEEE transactions on systems, man, and cybernetics—part a: systems and humans, vol. 41 no. 6