Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine Barthes' influence on, and potential for, accounting communication research; and to apply Barthes' principles to visual images of professional accountancy. Design/methodology/approach – The study seeks to provide: a synthesis of prior accounting research that has drawn on Barthes' work, followed by an overview of Barthes' work in both its rational, structuralist, phase, and its more sentimental, post‐structuralist, phase, that identifies strands of interest to accounting communication; and Barthesian semiotic interpretations of visual images of accountancy portrayed in the annual report front covers of a major UK accounting firm through their linguistics (anchorage and relay), denotation and connotation. Findings – Barthes' work has been surprisingly little used in accounting; a number of aspects of Barthes's work could be more fruitfully exploited, especially those from his later post‐structuralist phase; a Barthesian approach assists in reading the dual portrayal of accountancy as both an art and a science, and as business‐aware as well as traditionally professional. Research limitations/implications – The theoretical section is limited to a broad overview of Barthes' very extensive work; the empirical section provides a detailed analysis of one organization. It would be useful to extend the research to more extended analyses based on Barthes' prolific work, and to many aspects of accounting communication. Practical implications – The analysis may be of interest to all accounting researchers, practitioners, trainees and auditors, since communication is central to accounting. Originality/value – The paper adds to theoretical work in accounting communication, to the empirical literature on the interpretation of verbal and visual signs in accounting and accountability statements, and to understanding of the external images of professional accountancy.
Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal – Emerald Publishing
Published: Feb 15, 2011
Keywords: Communication; Narratives; Visual media; Accountancy
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