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Objectivity or different levels of subjectivity: A sociomaterial study on the measurement of the quality of the indoor air

List of Authors: Terhi Chakhovich, Oana Apostol
Place: Groningen, Netherlands
Publication year: 2017
Book title *: Researching Management Accounting and Control: Reflections on its impact and implications for the future


Objectivity has often been
seen as an important target to aim for in accounting research as well as in
society more generally. This study shows how objectivity as related to
measurement can be rhetorically used against the experiences of humans,
resulting in serious consequences. We thus question the desirable
characteristics of objectivity as tied to measurement. The setting is that of indoor
air problems which have recently heavily escalated in the Nordic countries; we
focus on a public institution in which people’s subjective experiences about
the quality of indoor air appear to conflict with the “objective” measurements
by technical instruments. We take a sociomaterial view on this, recognizing
both social (human) and material (measurement instruments, measures) issues
intermingled. Measurement is shown as a calculative practice that can have a
twofold meaning: objective measurement and subjective experience. It is shown
here that the subjective experience is “real” in this setting and that
objectivity seems impossible to achieve and thus realize; although the formal
view in the organization is exactly the opposite: “reality” is seen exclusively
as objective measurements while any subjective experiences are not seen as part
of “reality”. This contradiction forces organizational members to choose
between two realities: “objectivity”, i.e. formal, technical results, and
“humanity”, i.e., people’s subjective experiences. We show how objectivity can
be replaced with four different levels of subjectivity that have a much more
real meaning than the artificial construct of objectivity.

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Last updated on 2019-29-01 at 16:49