Dead reckoning: charting a new (metaphorical) course for accounting

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Purpose: Metaphor is the foundation upon which all scientific disciplines, from basic to applied, construct the mental models used in theory development and organizing research phenomena. The authors posit that a navigational science metaphor might provide a useful framework, or at least an additional “waypoint,” with which to evaluate extant accounting theory and further discourse in accounting research and practice. This study aims to critically examine the base metaphors of accounting theory and practice through the lens of navigational science. Design/methodology/approach: The supreme dominance of the Positive Accounting Theory paradigm (Watts and Zimmerman, 1986) is critically evaluated using a navigational metaphor as a literary device for cognitive estrangement. Findings: The authors suggest that accounting, as both a practical and academic field, might benefit from the multifarious approach of navigational science in the computation of longitude, particularly with regards to the use of external (societal) referents, moving toward a more “heteroglossic” model of accounting (vid. Macintosh and Baker, 2002) as a means of “situating” accounting research and practice with regards to said external referents (cf. Bayou et al., 2011). Originality/value: This work brings together existing streams of literary theory and epistemology in accounting, and views them through the lens of a navigational science metaphor. Cognitive estrangement, a well-established device for reorganizing perplexing problems in any science, is used to reimagine an accounting science as navigational situating.

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Accounting Research Journal