Too Young to Have a History? Using Data Analysis Techniques to Reveal Trends and Shifts in the Brief History of Accounting Information Systems

By Badua, Frank A.; Watkins, Ann L. | Accounting Historians Journal, December 2011 | Go to article overview

Too Young to Have a History? Using Data Analysis Techniques to Reveal Trends and Shifts in the Brief History of Accounting Information Systems


Badua, Frank A., Watkins, Ann L., Accounting Historians Journal


Abstract: Using several data-analysis techniques, this paper seeks to construct a brief history of Accounting Information Systems (MS). In an effort to achieve some degree of comprehensiveness, this paper examines both AIS research and pedagogy. It begins by documenting and classifying topical loci of research papers in the Journal of Information Systems. It then compares the pedagogical emphases of AIS courses as identified in past research. By deploying multiple methods of analysis to identify patterns of hegemony or change in the topics of AIS scholarship and teaching, this paper highlights the use of two data-analysis techniques found to be useful in the historical research of accounting. Findings reveal signs of the assimilation of MS scholarship into the wider world of accounting research and strong influences upon AIS pedagogy by oversight bodies and technological innovation.

INTRODUCTION

This paper explores the history of Accounting Information Systems (AIS) research and pedagogy through the use of two data-analysis techniques - content analysis and exploratory data analysis. The objectives of this paper are three fold: 1) to provide some insight into the development of AIS research by documenting the extent to which it has become differentiated from other areas of accounting research over time; 2) to provide a better understanding of the chronological development of AIS by examining the topics that have been emphasized in this area of accounting pedagogy; and 3) to demonstrate the potential for both content analysis and exploratory data analysis as methods of inquiry in accounting history research. Thus, this study examines changes in both AIS research and pedagogy with the additional aim of determining the degree to which AIS research and education are interconnected. This bi-focal objective is partly motivated by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business' (AACSB) assertion that through intellectual contributions such as research, faculty members can remain current in their areas of teaching specialization (AACSB, 2011).

DEFINING AIS

The origin of the history of AIS in large part depends on how AIS is defined. The Greek root of the word "systems" is [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.] which means "components standing together to form a whole." As can be gathered from this classical etymology, AIS has been defined as the union of various functional components interacting to produce information useful to financial statement users and firm managers [Kieso et al., 2007]. This broad definition encompasses traditional manual accounting systems that start with transaction analysis and end with financial statements and would trace AIS back to 8,000 B.C. (See Kee, [1993] for an example of a longitudinal secular review of the interaction between data-processing technology and accounting, ranging from the era of clay tokens and pot-shards to the 20th century digital revolution.)

However, if AIS is defined more narrowly as the joint deployment of traditional accounting processes and computer and telecommunications technology for financial and managerial accounting purposes [Mock, 1999], then its beginning is much more recent. It was in the late 1920s, for example, when the term "systems" in reference to accounting began to crop up in the popular media. Wootton and Kemmerer [2007, p. 93] focus more specifically on technological changes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These changes transformed accounting into a profession "while deskilled, repetitive, task-based bookkeeping became a trade," and "[accountants] became responsible for ... analyzing data and the way information was used" (p. 93). Their paper delineates a point in history where technology played a significant role in the evolution of the accountant's role from bookkeeper to professional. A similar idea is put forth by Abbott [1988, p. 154], which characterizes a profession as "a coherent occupational group with some control of an abstract expertise. …

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