Give me a two-by-two matrix and I will create the market: Rankings, graphic visualisations and sociomateriality
Scholars have described how rankings can be consequential for the shaping of the economy. The prevailing argument is that they wield influence through encouraging ‘mechanisms of reactivity’ amongst market actors. We ask the question as to whether there are additional agential aspects found within rankings that extend ‘social’ accounts. We suggest that ‘sociomateriality’ is also a significant aspect of a ranking’s influence. Through developing the notion of a ‘ranking device’, we examine how the “format and furniture” of a ranking can mediate and constitute a domain. Drawing on a detailed study of a prominent graphical performance measure from within the information technology (IT) arena, we provide evidence to show that IT markets can be as much a product of the affordances and constraints of ranking devices as any other (non-material) aspects of the ranking. The article integrates literature from Accounting research and Science and Technology Studies to contribute to our understanding of how material things and the economy mutually constitute one another. It also offers one of the first empirical accounts of the sociomaterial construction of a graphical ranking.
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