Publication Date

Fall 2021

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Anthropology

Advisor

A.J. Faas

Subject Areas

Cultural anthropology

Abstract

This study documents how small, U.S. bookkeepers are coping with and adapting to changing accounting technology, revealing how larger social and economic processes shape those reactions. This ethnographic research was conducted through literature review, ethnographic fieldwork, and semi-structured interviews, which were then thematically coded and analyzed. New accounting technology is seen both a tool and a source of freedom for bookkeepers, enabling remote entrepreneurship (argued to be a manifestation of neoliberal ideals) for the White women who primarily make up the industry. However, a major consequence of these technological transformations is the increasing ability to automate tasks bookkeepers historically considered the primary portion of their jobs. Thus, two major tensions around technology and how it continues to affect work processes drives the accounting community’s engagement with these topics. While technology companies promote the positive transformation of work through technology, many small bookkeepers express fear around their own increasing economic precarity. Meanwhile, communication technologies allow remote bookkeepers to connect with others and form online communities, reinforced through in-person conferences. These networking tools provide bookkeepers resources for navigating technology and accounting specific problems. Bookkeepers prove active agents in navigating technological and business changes in a landscape increasingly dominated by artificial intelligence and algorithms, while also operating within the constraints of the neoliberal state.

Available for download on Thursday, February 29, 2024

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