Individual Submission Summary

Direct link:

Escaping Numbers? Intimate Accounting, Informed Publics and the Productions of Authority and Non-Authority

Thu, August 30, 11:00am to 12:30pm, ICC, E5.2


Recent decades have seen a significant rise in the use of numeric evidence in education policy and governance. Using the case of the Education Revolution in Australia, and based on the analysis of policy documents, ministerial briefings and media reports, this paper explores the processes by which both ‘distant accounting’ and ‘intimate accounting’ were made possible by new national assessments and a public website containing comparative information about schools’ performance on these assessments. Building on Asdal’s (2011) concepts of intimate actions in accounting, the paper elaborates how Australian regulatory authorities created new intimacies by compelling schools to reveal intimate details publicly and brought new alliances of intimacy into being. Parents came to be seen as deserving of such information, and as capable of using such information appropriately. The resulting ‘informed publics’ participated significantly in challenging the authority of numbers by subverting the efforts of quantification and refusing the numbers that were nevertheless produced. Tracing the story of the Education Revolution affords an opportunity to elaborate the processes of ‘accounting intimacy’ suggested by Asdal and to examine the relationship between ‘the production of non-authority,’ the production of non-calculation suggested by Callon and Law (2005), and the concept of ‘informed publics’ conceptualised by Callon et al (2009). The paper proposes that ‘distant’ and ‘intimate’ forms of accounting are not mutually exclusive, but can operate simultaneously and even reinforce each other, and it describes how this was achieved in the Education Revolution.