Professionalization in Action: Accountants' Attempt at Building a Network of Support for the Webtrust Seal of Assurance
45 Pages Posted: 9 May 2004
This paper examines the attempts by the North American Accounting Institutes to develop a new market in e-commerce assurance based on their claims to professional expertise through the WebTrust project. Employing actor-network theory in an in-depth longitudinal field study we investigate how WebTrust was originally developed and promoted as a seal of business-to-consumer assurance, which largely failed to generate support in the marketplace. Proponents were subsequently able to generate more interest in the eyes of managers of online organizations by reshaping WebTrust as a flexible set of principles and criteria for systems advice and business-to-business assurance. Our analysis suggests that attempts to expand the accounting profession's domain of expertise reflect a trial and error process where the outcome achieved may be far from the vision that motivated the Institutes into undertaking the project in the first place. We further show that the initial network of support for such projects can be quite fragile and dynamic as various actors reposition themselves around the shifting meanings attributed to the project.
Keywords: E-commerce, professionalization, new assurance services, expertise claims
JEL Classification: J44, L86, M41, M49, L14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation