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Rhetoric, repetition, reporting and the “dot.com” era: words, pictures, intangibles

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  • Jane Davison
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    Abstract

    Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to add to theoretical and empirical work on the rhetoric of narratives and pictures in annual reporting by using the lens of repetition to examine the Annual Reviews of British Telecommunications (BT) plc. Design/methodology/approach – The study constructs a conceptual framework of repetition in signifiants (from rhetoric) and signifiés (from philosophy, notably Barthes, Deleuze, Eliade and Jankélévitch). Signifiants are established by reference to rhetorical figures based in repetition: anadiplosis, anaphora, alliteration/rhyme and lists. Signifiés are indicated as conscious rhetorical emphasis, and unconscious reflections of sameness and difference; networks and links; and, of particular interest during the “dot.com” years, exuberance and compulsion; differentiation, ritual and reassurance. The framework is used to analyse BT plc's Annual Reviews from 1996-2001. Findings – The application of the framework is enlightening: repetition is shown to be prevalent in BT plc's Annual Reviews, especially during the “dot.com” years. Repetition emphasises BT plc's intangible assets; less consciously, repetition reflects BT plc's corporate identity and its participation in the “dot.com” era. Research limitations/implications – The paper provides a model which may be applied to the wealth of discretionary narratives and pictures in contemporary annual reporting. It would also benefit from the assessment of readership impact. Practical implications – The analysis is of interest to accounting researchers, practitioners, trainees, auditors and any user of accounting and accountability statements. It illuminates the way in which discretionary words and pictures highlight and supplement accounting information. Originality/value – The paper augments theoretical and empirical work on the significance of narratives and pictures in accounting.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Emerald Group Publishing in its journal Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal.

    Volume (Year): 21 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 6 (August)
    Pages: 791-826

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    Handle: RePEc:eme:aaajpp:v:21:y:2008:i:6:p:791-826

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    Web page: http://www.emeraldinsight.com

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    Postal: Emerald Group Publishing, Howard House, Wagon Lane, Bingley, BD16 1WA, UK
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    Web: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/aaaj.htm

    Related research

    Keywords: Annual reports; Narratives; Rhetoric; Telecommunications; Visual media;

    References

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    1. Preston, Alistair & Oakes, Leslie, 2001. "The Navajo documents: a study of the economic representation and construction of the Navajo," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 39-71, January.
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    10. Walter Masocha & Pauline Weetman, 2007. "Rhetoric in standard setting: the case of the going-concern audit," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 20(1), pages 74-100, January.
    11. Jose L. Arquero & Trevor Hassall & John Joyce & Jose A. Donoso, 2007. "Accounting Students and Communication Apprehension: A Study of Spanish and UK Students," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(2), pages 299-322.
    12. Young, Joni J., 2003. "Constructing, persuading and silencing: the rhetoric of accounting standards," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 28(6), pages 621-638, August.
    13. Mark A. Clatworthy & Michael John Jones, 2006. "Differential patterns of textual characteristics and company performance in the chairman's statement," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 19(4), pages 493-511, July.
    14. Walters, Melissa, 2004. "Alternative accounting thought and the prison-house of metaphor," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 157-187, February.
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    Cited by:
    1. Claire France Picard & Sylvain Durocher & Yves Gendron, 2013. "From Meticulous Professionals To Superheroes Of The Business World: A Historical Portrait Of A Cultural Change In The Field Of Accountancy," Post-Print hal-00993019, HAL.
    2. Davison, Jane, 2014. "Visual rhetoric and the case of intellectual capital," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 20-37.
    3. Davison, Jane, 2010. "[In]visible [in]tangibles: Visual portraits of the business élite," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 165-183, February.

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