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Framing numbers “at a distance”: intangible performance reporting in a theater

Andreas Sundström (Stockholm University School of Business, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden)

Journal of Human Resource Costing & Accounting

ISSN: 1401-338X

Article publication date: 1 November 2011




The purpose of this paper is to explore how the framing of numbers may be related to the distance between the information provider and information users.


The design of the paper is a case study, in an organizational situation where there are perceived problems in producing stable inscriptions for reporting to users at a distance. The study focuses on the top management level in a small‐sized publicly‐funded theater. The qualitative research design incorporates interviews, observations and document analysis.


The paper illustrates how knowledge and understanding of the circumstances of measurement form a substantial part of what constitutes “distance” between an accounting user and the referred context. It is argued that the framing of numbers may be utilized as a means to control action at a distance. The findings also imply that the use of measurements regarding intangibles may be perceived as useful for purposes beyond internal management.


The paper contributes in two ways to prior research on accountability relations and accounting as an enabler of action at a distance: it elaborates on what constitutes a distance, and it also adds an emphasis on reciprocal behavior by the provider of information in an accountability relation.



Sundström, A. (2011), "Framing numbers “at a distance”: intangible performance reporting in a theater", Journal of Human Resource Costing & Accounting, Vol. 15 No. 4, pp. 260-278.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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