"What a wonderful world!": human relatedness, social space and accountability through action in a top-level amateur choir

P.E. Kamminga, Ivo De Loo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


During choir rehearsals, a conductor continuously holds choir members accountable for what they do and how they sing. Hence, members are held accountable through action. This allows a conductor to emphasize his/her expertise and underline his/her authority. Choir members typically respond in certain ways when this is done, for instance by commenting on the feedback they receive or by trying to improve their singing. The interplay between these accounts, how they develop over time, and what they (do not) accomplish in terms of human relatedness are the focus of this study. We use Bauman's (1993) conceptualization of social space to investigate these issues.

By providing reasons for their conduct and behaving in a certain way, a conductor and choir members, but also a choir's management, can alter their position in social space. Thereby, they solidify or change how they relate to other individuals in the choir. Bauman assumes that processes of social spacing require so-called “misunderstandings”. We examine seven misunderstandings that occurred in a particular rehearsal of a top-level amateur choir, analyzing their impact on human relatedness. Video analysis methods, interviews and photo-elicitation are the main research methods used.

We find both short-term and long-term effects of misunderstandings on human relatedness, and offer two extensions of Bauman's (1993) conception of social space. Firstly, we assert that there is a reflective side to processes of social spacing that needs to be taken into account when changes in human relatedness are discussed. Secondly, we find that the emotional impact of accountability on how individuals behave ought not to be underestimated, as this can have lasting effects on how people relate to one another.

This research makes two contributions to the extant literature. It is shown how accountability through action unfolds when people engage in leisurely activity, and how this affects the way they relate to one another – in sometimes unintentional and unpredictable ways. It also extends a well-known theoretical framework on social space that has seen little application in the accounting literature. This framework is adapted so that it may be used more fruitfully in future accounting studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-299
Number of pages29
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number2
Early online date22 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2022


  • Accountability
  • Choirs
  • Human relatedness
  • Misunderstanding


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