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Strands of literature in science studies
and in accounting 1/2
• Long history of the stance
that knowledge is not
universal but is attached
locally to places
• - "economic laws and the
forms of calculation
through which they are
realised are not universal
but specific" - Power
(1996 p19 )
The inscription device
• - Latour & Woolgar (1979,
2013): any device that turns a
material substance, that it
has a direction relationship
with, into a usable diagram
on the basis of which articles
are written (pp 51-52).
• It provides inscriptions which
transform arguments into
apparatus (p 66)
Strands of literature in science studies
and in accounting 2/2
The power of valuation
The growth of valuation tools
reflects the growth of the audit
•A wide range of organisations are
being remodelled by the rapid
spread of quantified, or ostensibly
quantified, benchmarking and
evaluation tools (Espeland &
Stevens 2008, Lascoumes & Le
Galès 2005, Power 1997)
The sociology of reviews
Blank (2007) finds that reviews
come in two forms:
•Connoisseurial reviews turn
the qualitative sense of an
expert reviewer into an
objective reality (p35)
•Procedural reviews transform a
comparative testing process
How does something which started as
an afterthought become the most
influential business research?
• The MQ has its origins in Gartner's early commitment
to visualisations as a way of social learning
– Friday morning research meetings: thrown up some
imprecise, pictorial way to show market trends
– 'Stalking horses' - Like the faked animals use to draw out
HOW DID GARTNER’S SOCIAL
LEARNING SHIFT FROM 1987
My question 1/2
• To: Research Staff
From: Gideon l. Gartner
Subject: Stalking Horses
Since Stalking Horses (or Straw Men) are (or should be) part of our
research culture, the attached note by Bruce is very apt. When a concept
or issue is elusive (as virtually all information technology issues are), we
sneak up with a Stalking Horse to help get closer to the problem.
Specifically, we "throw" a table or diagram or graph onto a piece of paper,
and initiate a colloquy with our peers. We iterate about with data or labels
or values, until we have a reasonable consensus. Our data bank is then
enriched with the newfound Gartner position.
In prior documentation, I defined Stalking Horse as "a graphic or tabular
quantification of some idea or concept which then serves as a basis for
further study, inquiry, discussion, and hopefully eventually results in a
But Bruce's description is more colorful. PLEASE MAXIMIZE YOUR USE
OF STALKING HORSES.
Putting the literature to work
• How has the MQ has
become mobile and
free of its place?
• While the MQ
has it become
something like an
• What path does a
tool take to take this
place in a market?
• Can review tools
not just in a division
of labour but a shift
to Procedural ?
Codification and commodification
At first, these diagrams were produced
painstakingly and manually, for internal
•As presentation to client conference grew
in importance, they started to be
•In the 1980s, that required extensive craft
work both by analysts and then by
typesetters and designers manually gluing
each element of the chart
•In the 1990s, desktop publishing
produced methods in which producing one
particular format, later known as the
Magic Quadrant, no long required such
high levels of expertise.
• In the 2000s,
the methodologies of the
different MQs was harmonised,
placing more of the burden of
data gathering on the vendors
ranked in the MQs, and making
the MQs more like products and
thus able to rapidly multiply in
• Currently, a new service from
Gartner call Peer Insights is
expected to be integrated into the
MQs, involving Gartner's clients in
producing the data used in MQs
No-one talks about genesis
• No-one told the
story of how some
takes over the
• What is the
genealogy of how
In the case the MQs we are able to
•See the impact
of technological advancements
•Stress the mobility of expertise beyond
the setting in which it originates
•Show the changing nature of expertise
as artefacts evolve, shifting from the
centrality of expert analysts as creators,
to that of junior analysts using codified
knowledge, then of the vendors as
contributors of insight, to that of
customers as data providers.
Mobility of expertise, producing a
new form of knowledge
• Not only tied to the setting
• Not just in the research meeting - anyone can
add things up
• Not a light-hearted teasing, but a scientific
• An idea of the way in which they started to
produce something which can be added up
A potent thing: but is it trivial or a
• Frivolous and risky.
And quite internal.
• The "Magic"
Quadrant - not
discussions in which
analysts in other
areas could push and
pull ideas in the
market into a visual
• Part of mechanising and
codifying to improve
productivity under the
pressure of new owners after
the failure of Gartner's initial
sale. A continually expanding
research guide of hundreds
of pages was built up.
• Now a new form of business
knowledge: one that is more
compelling and threatening,
and thus valuable, than
tabular data itself
• Blank, G. (2006). Critics, ratings, and society: The sociology of
reviews. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
• Espeland WN, Stevens M. (2008). A sociology of quantification.
Eur. J. Sociol. 49: 401–36
• Lascoumes P, Le Galès P. (2005). Gouverner par les Instruments.
Paris: Sciences Po.
• Latour, B., & Woolgar, S. (2013). Laboratory life: The
construction of scientific facts. Princeton University Press.
• Power, M. (1996) Accounting and science: natural inquiry and
commercial reason (Vol . 26). Cambridge University Press.
• Power M. (1997). The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification.
London: Oxford Univ. Press.
10:52 AM 17
Artefacts and the social learning of
How the Quadrant lost its Magic
18 10:52 AM