Online user reviews have increasingly become a popular means by which the lay person can both procure advice and offer personal opinions. Amazon, the electronic retail giant, is a prominent example of a site which hosts such user generated content; the opinions of its repository of reviewers have become an important source of assurance provision. The purpose of this paper is to suggest that Amazon provides an example of how audit logics have entered new spaces. In Amazon, the author witnesses the construction of auditability in the virtual world. This may explain the popularity and authority seemingly enjoyed by user reviews.
The paper uses the methodological approach of netnography (Kozinets, 2002). This new methodology has emerged in order to undertake ethnographic research within virtual communities. Applying this methodology to the case of Amazon involved becoming familiar with the operational features of the site and analysing its textual discourse.
The paper identifies in Amazon, Power’s (1996) three examples of how auditability is invoked: through rhetorics of measurability, auditable systems of control, and reliance on experts. The paper therefore argues that online user reviews are reflective of the extension of audit society into the virtual world.
The paper explores the possibilities of the virtual world for accounting research, a world which is an increasingly prominent feature of popular culture. In addition, the paper responds to recent calls to examine the processes of assurance provision beyond the traditional domain of financial audit.
Jeacle, I. (2017), "Constructing audit society in the virtual world: the case of the online reviewer", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 18-37. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-12-2013-1540Download as .RIS
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