"jol" or "pani"? How Does Governance Shape a Platform's Identity?

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12 Scopus citations


In this paper, we explore how sociotechnical systems support and impede the identity performances and identity expression of communities that have experienced a long history of colonialism, where colonization is the practice through which a foreign power reshapes the social structures and systems of other societies. We conducted a trace ethnography among members of a specific digital platform-Bengali Quora (BnQuora). BnQuora is part of the question and answer (Q&A) platform Quora, where people with this particular ethnolinguistic identity come together to engage in conversations about their identities; identities which were shaped through a long history of colonization in the Global South. In drawing on a conceptual framework that brings together identity performativity, governance, content moderation, and surveillance, we find that the sociotechnical mechanisms of governance that mediate people's performances on the BnQuora platform give rise to a kind of platform identity-certain identities are privileged while others are pushed to the margins based on linguistic practices, nationalities, and religious affiliations. We illustrate this through the themes of moderators as prison guards, collective surveillance as enforcing a majority identity, algorithmic coloniality, and staging as self-imprisonment. Finally, we discuss the ways in which governance shapes a platform's identity and can create, strengthen, and reinforce coloniality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number473
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberCSCW2
StatePublished - Oct 18 2021


  • bengali
  • colonialism
  • panoptic performativity
  • platform identity
  • quora
  • sociotechnical systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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