Sub-theme 29: Counting the Unimaginable: Calculative Practices for Human Ambitions --> HYBRID!

Elena Giovannoni
Royal Holloway University of London, United Kingdom, & University of Siena, Italy
Jan Mouritsen
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Matteo Ronzani
University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

The study of calculative practices and their effects within organizations, institutions, and society is increasingly central to organizational scholarship (e.g., Mazmanian & Beckman, 2017; Arjaliès & Bansal, 2018; Alaimo & Kallinikos, 2021). The growing interest in the study of calculative practices is shifting away from older debates on how these practices perpetuate myths of rationality, transparency, representation, and control (e.g., Porter, 1996), and it is leading towards the more far-reaching and yet elusive effects of technologies of calculations, such as their capacity to prompt aesthetic judgment, seduction, playfulness, and imagination (e.g., Chapman et al., 2021; Quattrone et al., 2021; Saifer & Dacin, 2022).
As calculative practices span beyond traditional organizational boundaries, they can sustain new digitally-enabled organizational forms and platforms (Kornberger et al., 2017; Ratner & Plotnikof, 2022) that permeate our daily lives and our social imaginary. Through the aid of interactive digital technologies and ranking devices (Begkos & Antonopoulou, 2020; Bandola-Gill et al., 2021), pervasive algorithmic categories (Alaimo & Kallinikos, 2021), and multimodal interfaces (Ronzani & Gatzweiler, 2022), calculative practices are creating new ‘images’ of organizing. Such ‘images’ are not just representations of what is materially present, but also of what is invisible, hidden, what has not yet happened, as well as what is desired, aspired to, feared, and envisioned. We are interested in exploring the roles of calculations in the making of ‘images’ and ‘visions’ of possible futures (Beckert, 2021), in creating generative absences (Giovannoni & Quattrone, 2018), in manufacturing illusions of empowerment and inclusion (Bandola-Gill et al., 2021), in revealing the incalculability – rather than the predictability – of phenomena (Campbell et al., 2019), thereby aiding (or hindering) the fulfilment of grand human aspirations, global challenges, visionary projects, and scientific discoveries.
We welcome submissions that investigate how calculative technologies and practices (e.g., AI, Big Data, ERPs, Blockchains, metrics, Sustainable Development indicators, ratings and rankings, etc.) that permeate many aspects of social and organizational life (e.g., digital platforms, social media, the metaverse, etc.) affect imagination and conceptualizations of the future. We welcome studies of calculative infrastructures as (but not only):

  • producing organizing effects through their visual, aesthetic and multimodal properties, as well as through their incompleteness, lacks, and gaps;

  • providing perceptions (or illusions) of calculability (and incalculability) of global challenges and phenomena;

  • generating ‘dreams,’ visions of the future, and ambitions towards visionary (and potentially dystopian) discovery projects;

  • affecting our social imaginary, the values, institutions, and symbols through which people and organizations imagine the society in which they are embedded;

  • hiding, deceiving, but also engaging, seducing, and enchanting through illusion and gamification, such as in digitalized organizations, social media platforms, virtual marketplaces, and trading platforms.

We welcome studies addressing the following questions (but not only):

  • How do quantifications and calculative technologies shape the ways in which we imagine our future?

  • How are human ambitions, scientific discoveries, and visionary projects inspired, sustained, and controlled (or frustrated) by calculative technologies?

  • Can we draw upon calculative infrastructures to imagine and act on inherently incalculable and intractable global challenges and phenomena? If so, how?

  • What is the role of digital infrastructures and calculative technologies in shaping our social imaginary of organizational and economic life?

In this sub-theme, we are interested in submissions from different disciplinary perspectives and methodological traditions that address and extend the points above, exploring the making of ‘images’ and imagination as one of the modes through which calculations deploy their ir-/rationality and generate organizing effects.


  • Alaimo, C., & Kallinikos, J. (2021): “Managing by data: Algorithmic categories and organizing.” Organization Studies, 42 (9), 1385–1407.
  • Arjaliès, D.-L., & Bansal, P. (2018): “Beyond numbers: How investment managers accommodate societal issues in financial decisions.” Organization Studies, 39 (5–6), 691–719.
  • Bandola-Gill, J., Grek, S., & Ronzani, M. (2021): “Beyond winners and losers: Ranking visualizations as alignment devices in global public policy.” Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 74, 27–52.
  • Beckert, J. (2021): “The Firm as an Engine of Imagination: Organizational prospection and the making of economic futures.” Organization Theory,
  • Begkos, C., & Antonopoulou, K. (2020): “Measuring the unknown: Evaluative practices and performance indicators for digital platforms.” Accounting. Auditing & Accountability Journal, 33 (3), 588–619.
  • Campbell, N., McHugh, G., & Ennis, PJ. (2019): “Climate change is not a problem: Speculative realism at the end of organization.” Organization Studies, 40 (5), 725–744.
  • Chapman, C., Chua, W.F., & Fiedler, T. (2021): “Seduction as control: Gamification at Foursquare.” Management Accounting Research, 53, 1–14.
  • Giovannoni, E., & Quattrone, P. (2018): “The materiality of absence: Organizing and the case of the incomplete cathedral.” Organization Studies, 39 (7), 849–871.
  • Kornberger, K., Pflueger, D., & Mouritsen, J. (2017): “Evaluative infrastructures: Accounting for platform organization.” Accounting, Organizations and Society, 60, 79–95.
  • Mazmanian, M., & Beckman, C.M. (2018): “’Making’ your numbers: Engendering organizational control through a ritual of quantification.” Organization Science, 29 (3), 357–379.
  • Porter, T.M. (1996): Trust in Numbers. The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Quattrone, P., Ronzani, M., Jancsary, D., & Höllerer, M.A. (2021): “Beyond the visible, the material and the performative: Shifting perspectives on the visual in Organization Studies.” Organization Studies, 42 (8), 1197–1218.
  • Ratner, H., & Plotnikof, M. (2022): “Technology and Dis/Organization: Digital data infrastructures as partial connections.” Organization Studies. 43 (7), 1049–1067.
  • Ronzani, M., & Gatzweiler, M.K. (2022): “The lure of the visual: Multimodality, simplification, and performance measurement visualizations in a megaproject.” Accounting, Organizations and Society, 97, 1–19.
  • Saifer, A., & Dacin, M.T. (2022): “Data and Organization Studies: Aesthetics, emotions, discourse and our everyday encounters with data.” Organization Studies, 43 (4), 623–636.
  • Thompson, N.A., & Byrne, O. (2022): “Imagining futures: Theorizing the practical knowledge of future-making.” Organization Studies, 43 (2), 247–268.
Elena Giovannoni is Professor of Accounting at Royal Holloway University of London, UK, where she is the director of the Centre for Critical and Historical Research on Organisation and Society (CHRONOS). She also holds a position as researcher at the University of Siena, Italy. Elena’s research interests focus on calculative practices in their spatial, historical and organizing context, bridging critical and historical perspectives on accounting, organizing and material practices.
Jan Mouritsen is Professor of Management Control at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. He is interested in meetings between accounting, technology, knowledge, innovation, information technology, artificial intelligence and organisational decision making. Jan’s work is interdisciplinary and focuses on the roles and consequences of calculative practices in and between organisations and society.
Matteo Ronzani is Lecturer in Management Accounting at Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, UK. His research is situated at the intersection of organization theory, interdisciplinary accounting, and the sociology of quantification. Matteo studies the effects of performance measurement practices and technologies of calculation in organizations and society, focusing primarily on data visualizations, multimodal communication, and gamification.