Measuring the unknown: Evaluative practices and performance indicators for digital platforms

Christos Begkos, Katerina Antonopoulou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

318 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: In the current digital era where online content is riddled with fabricated metrics and rankings, this research aims to investigate the underpinning mechanisms of the calculative practices which actors engage with to evaluate digital platform content in the absence of well-defined performance measures. Design/methodology/approach: The paper focuses on the online, photo-sharing platform Instagram which is devoid of common performance measures such as rankings, ratings and reviews. The authors applied netnographic methods to capture users' actions and interactions at the Greek Instagram community. The authors adopt a practice lens as informed by Schatzki's ‘site ontology’ to capture actors' calculative practices as organised by rules, teleoaffective structures and general and practical understandings. Findings: Platform actors engage in aesthetic and palpable evaluations of other user profiles and their posted content. They employ permissible (e.g., using third-party apps) and illicit (e.g., lobbying and procuring engagement) tactics to measure and manage digital platform performance, fabricate metrics and blur others' evaluations, in pursuit of prestige and material teleologies. Their calculative practices are conditioned by an implicit social etiquette, which permeates the platform both horizontally and vertically. Originality/value: First, the paper captures and theorises the mechanisms which underpin actors' calculative practices for performance measurement in the absence of robust judgement devices. Second, it demonstrates how ambiguous assemblages of material and prestige teleologies, aesthetic and palpable evaluative regimes and implicit rules and practical expertise collectively invoke platform actors' calculative practices and the construction of performance measures. In doing so, it contributes to performance measurement literature via demonstrating how management accounting is implicated in the evaluation of digital platform outputs. Practical implications: The paper provides insight on how platform actors fabricate performance metrics, what they perceive as ‘good’ online content and what constitutes an ‘impactful’ user account or a ‘successful’ social media campaign. Such findings are valuable to management accountants, entrepreneurs and practitioners who seek to evaluate digital platform performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)588-619
JournalAccounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
Issue number3
Early online date2 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2020


  • Digital platforms
  • Instagram
  • Performance indicators
  • Performance measurement
  • Practice
  • Social media


Dive into the research topics of 'Measuring the unknown: Evaluative practices and performance indicators for digital platforms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this