This journal was created to reflect the activities of the APIRA 2010 conference. It encompasses the trips to and from, and the activities surrounding the plenary speeches and delegates' presentations. I have edited it a little from time to time since the original posting (just a tweak here and there).

Feel free to comment, and to post your own version of events!

Thanks are due to everyone who took the time to talk with me during the conference, to the delegates who attended the writing workshop and, of course, to James Guthrie for seeing the value in having a writer-in-residence in the first place.
Cheers,
Steve

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It has been a real privilege to be able to write about the APIRA conference and share my views on proceedings. I am sincerely grateful to Prof. James Guthrie and the conference organisers for being so supportive and accommodating, and for making all of this possible.

As a young and emerging scholar, I have benefited so much from the Emerging Scholars Colloquium and the engaging discussions and presentations at the main APIRA Conference. Thank you to every delegate and organiser I have had the pleasure of meeting.

A personal thank you to Prof. James Guthrie, Prof. Lee Parker, Prof. Kerry Jacobs, Fiona Crawford, and Sharron O’Neill and the many organisers at APIRA. Congratulations on a great conference!

I sign off with a humble attempt at a Haiku inspired by Steve Evan’s Writing Workshop:

Academic’s honey
Like bees with pollen,
We come together and share,
The ‘truth’ we have found.

Professor Lee Parker is an extraordinary public speaker. But even he slipped up during his speech at the conference dinner. We were seated at our tables - starters had just been served. As I took a bite into my meal, I almost choked at what I heard next: “I have had the longest relationship with James and Richard– a Ménage à trios of sorts.” Not knowing whether to laugh or cry, or where to look, I listened intently as silence filled the great banquet hall.

Thankfully, he elaborated. He had known Prof. James Guthrie and Prof. Richard Laughlin since they founded the Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal more than twenty years ago. It astounded me. I haven’t had a relationship that long - ever! Perhaps because that’s about as old as I am! But that aside, it is still an amazing feat for three men to be so visionary and so passionate about a single project, and so sincerely committed it, that they would ride the many storms and triumphs with equal measure and still come out smiling.

I didn’t realise how important building networks was till I realised that a network is nothing more than an extended group of friends; people that share a common interest, a common passion, a common purpose, although their views and perspectives may be far from the same. Three professors who have dedicated so much of the time and energy building up something that has added to so much to the landscape of accounting and business research.

Perhaps they had a dignified tear or two in their eyes. But that was only fitting. The embraced genuinely, and after a humble speech by Richard, we applauded the efforts of the people that made the APIRA conference and AAAJ what they are today.

Towards a Theory of Accounting for Lunch (an attempt at academic humour)

Having lunch could be interpreted as social theatre, rich with ideas and transcendent theories. A couple of days ago we had the privilege of lunching in the Great Hall at the University of Sydney.

Although the Great Hall is a massive room, with plenty of space for people to mingle, I could not help but notice how the delegates congregated in their own “cliques” – like when we were back in high school and only did lunch with our own pose.

The Executive Lunch that was served on the second day was meant to change this strange phenomenon. The idea of the lunch was to allow delegates the freedom of not being chained to any particular table. After collecting our “lunch box” from the main foyer of the conference hall we were set free like doves to explore our surroundings. A brilliant idea which I thought would finally help to break up these cliques - to create a new social dynamic! But here is what I observed from a range of different perspectives (we are at an interdisciplinary research conference after all).

Positivistic perspective –
H0: That people congregate to their familiar support groups and structures (flocking effect) even in the face of counteracting forces to do otherwise.

H1: That people will alter their normal tendency to flock, if a conducive social environment is present.

Conclusion: H1 is disproved. Accept Null Hypothesis. (T-tests and correlation coefficients available on request).

Interpretivist perspective –
That based on my particular social standing given the pervading cultural and socio political norms that govern the process of eating lunch, “I” observed that people seemed to group together in their habitual and reinforced social circles.

Critical perspective –
That power structures and social hierarchies constrict social interaction by dehumanising actors and emphasising their roles within the power structure of the academic community.

These theories are still at an early stage of development and have actually all been disproved. Apparently all you have to do break into a clique is smile and say hello!!! But all joking aside, lunch was the best time to network and meet very interesting people. Thank you to everyone I have had the pleasure of having lunch with!

The art of writing is something that I at times take for granted. There are too many things to write; emails, papers, reviews of papers, tests, exams, suggested solutions for these tests and exams…and the list goes on. Writing becomes an objective oriented activity than one where the spark of creativity is allowed to blossom and take shape.

The Writer’s Workshop run by Steve Evans, a very accomplished writer and academic, was a refreshing chance to come back to what I call the expressive roots of our discipline. We were asked to express our research through haiku, song and finally drama! This is not a post modern field exercise but a challenging way of distilling your research into the most important points and then giving it a new, freer and more creative voice.

In her plenary presentation, Prof. Jane Broadbent commented on the need to make our work more accessible. She spoke of the performance based research funding that sculpted the current UK system and gave priority to publishing work with impact. This word IMPACT is something that needs to be reconsidered in light of what she said. Does our work as academics really have impact? Does it reach the masses, or does it remain trapped in the passionate circles of a few? Perhaps if we go back to our roots, where writing is a passion, a means of expression and not just another item on the list of things to do for the day, we can begin to make our academic opinions the moots for discussion in more open public fora.

Thank you very much Steve for a very engaging and enjoyable session. I leave it feeling inspired to write more, and carefully consider who I am writing for and how to reach that audience.

Peter seems to be exploring a particularly rich seam of research with a number of publications in leading journals. He often uses an ANT or performative lenses which to me seems appropriate given the inherant messiness of organisational life. Often when I attend lectures or presentations on papers I hear the same criticism, 'ANT is not a theory', 'ANT by itself is insufficient to explain what has been observed'. Perhaps not, but surely no lenses is without its flaws? Isn't the role of a theory to help us contextualise what we are observing and provide space to develop our thoughts in explaining what we see?

Peter raised the concept of Callon's 'overflow' . It seems to me particularly useful to look at the unanticipated events that flow from the adoption of calculating inscriptions or adoption of risk technologies, since there are always serendipitous happenings which might be overlooked if we do not look for them. For example this afternoon, Christina Boedker is presenting on just such a serendipidous occasion. Firstly, she explains how interpretation of strategy at a local subsidiary of a global multi-national occured at the Australian subsidiary. Overflow is a good term to describe the unanticipated way things changed as a result. Secondly in spending many months at the site, she discovered something that she did not expect to find. She discovered the positive use of emotionality in the numbers. If she had been using a more proscriptive theory would she have uncovered emotionality, even love in the workplace? Or would she have dismissed it as outside her theoretical lenses or worse, not interesting, because few had written about it in an accounting context previously.

Actor Network Theory may have its critics but if it allows for surprise, if it challenges the black-boxed notions of much traditional thinking and explanation then surely it has a legitimate place in a researchers tool's of trade?

John Roberts asked us to consider the accountability in accounting.
Precious little accountability has been on display in the corporate world during the latest global financial crisis. John's comments are timely in raising issues of the challenges of being accountable and asked us to consider an ethos of humilty before we hold others to account for our perceptions of lack of accountability on their part.

It made me consider another aspect to accountability, that of our accountability as accounting researchers. While I acknowledge the argument that the long lead time for journal articles means it is too soon for papers on the global financial crisis, I wonder if that is just a convenient excuse? There are plenty of papers in development here. Surely the greatest financial crisis (so far) this century is deserving of a little attention on our part?

As researchers we are in a privileged position, one where taxpayer funded universities afford us the luxury of thinking for a living. Surely as part of our accountability to them, and to ourselves as a research body, we are obligated to explore recent events and seek to explain what happened and what role accounting, accounting bodies and accounting practitioners played in the crisis and how we may avoid a repetition in future?

To argue that we need lead time to perform good research is understandable, to avoid looking at the crisis because we might not like what we see, is not.