In TripAdvisor we trust: Rankings, calculative regimes and abstract systems
A proliferation of rankings and league tables increasingly permeate everyday life. An objective of this paper is to explain the profusion of such rankings, in particular on-line user review rankings, in contemporary society and what this means for our understanding of the role of accounting. The online travel website TripAdvisor and its hotel ranking system is a prominent example of this new phenomenon. The site increasingly appears to play the role of trusted intermediary for the ‘independent traveller’ who spurns the services of the traditional travel agent in favour of making their own holiday arrangements. In this paper, we undertake netnographic research to consider the way in which TripAdvisor rankings engender trust. Drawing on the site’s own operational features together with an analysis of the traveller commentaries hosted within the site, we argue that the case of TripAdvisor is a powerful illustration of an internet mediated abstract system (Giddens, 1990, 1991) that draws on calculative practices to construct trust. In addition, we speculate as to the implications of the proliferation of such internet mediated expert systems, both on the accounting profession, and on future accounting research.
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