Accountability, neoliberalism and digital platforms: an ethnography of digital forms of accountability in China

Feng, Mengyuan (2023) Accountability, neoliberalism and digital platforms: an ethnography of digital forms of accountability in China. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.

Abstract

Accounting researchers have studied systems of governance to see how accounting is implicated in them (Alawattage & Azure, 2021; Alawattage, Graham, & Wickramasinghe, 2019; Alawattage & Wickramasinghe, 2022; Cooper, 2015; Miller & Rose, 1990), but little is known about how platform organisations as systems of governance deploy accounting to exercise control and power (Jeacle & Carter, 2011; Kornberger, Pflueger, & Mouritsen, 2017; Ahn & Wickramasinghe, 2021). This thesis explores how accounting technologies are enlisted in accountability relations permeating a new form of governance on a digital platform in China called Didi. It draws on Foucauldian notions of bio-political power and disciplinary power to understand how this system of governance manifests a social control system to produce a digital form of accountability. Further, it moves into the alternative ‘empire’ by Hardt and Negri (2000) to understand how power is dispersed into every corner of our lives in modern society and how this social control system has implications for national security as well as the production of individual lives. The study adopts ethnographic methods with in-depth interviews, participant observations, online observations, and documentary reviews.
This thesis contributes to several bodies of literature. The first contribution is made to accounting and accountability literature on digital platforms. The thesis suggests that digital platforms generate a new regime of governance and manifest a social control system through their digital form of accounting relations. Unlike on eBay, when a platform such as Didi extensively engages labour forces, workers can be held more centrally accountable to the platform for their performance and behaviour through the algorithm and surveillance technologies. This system thus has implications for national security and the production of individual lives. Second, the thesis contributes to accountability literature on neoliberal twofold accountability. The empirical story suggests that there is manifold digital accountability on Chinese digital platforms, where drivers are not only accountable to the platform and its customers, but also to the state via GPS sensors, telematics-enabled performance metrics and surveillance technology. The finding unveils a digital form of accountability that platform workers face as information technology advances and governance becomes more neoliberal and controllable. Finally, the thesis contributes to the Foucauldian governmentality theory regarding a population within a territory being indirectly governed at a distance via an ensemble of disciplinary apparatuses. This system of governance manifests a social control system by producing a digital form of accountability in platform capitalism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Accountability, governmentality, power, control, mobile panopticon, neoliberalism, digital platform, Didi.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School
Supervisor's Name: Wickramasinghe, Professor Danture and Ahn, Dr. Paul
Date of Award: 2023
Embargo Date: 28 February 2026
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83460
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Mar 2023 15:50
Last Modified: 02 Mar 2023 09:50
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83460
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/83460

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