Dr Vili Lehdonvirta
Vili is an economic sociologist who studies the design and socioeconomic implications of digital marketplaces and platforms, using conventional social research methods as well as novel data science approaches. His particular areas of expertise are virtual economies and online work.
Tel: +44 (0)1865 287214
Dr Vili Lehdonvirta is a Research Fellow and DPhil Programme Director at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. His research deals with the design and socioeconomic implications of digital marketplaces and platforms, using conventional social research methods and novel data science approaches. He has a PhD in Economic Sociology from Turku School of Economics (2009) and an MSc in Information Networks from Helsinki University of Technology (2005). Previously he worked at London School of Economics, University of Tokyo, and Helsinki Institute for Information Technology.
Before his academic career, he worked as a game programmer. He has advised companies, startups, and policy makers in the United States, Europe, and Japan, including Rovio, Mojang, and the World Bank. His book Virtual Economies: Design and Analysis (with Edward Castronova) is published by MIT Press.
For more details, see Vili's home page.
Areas of Interest for Doctoral Supervision
digital marketplaces, e-commerce, platform business, app stores, games, virtual currencies, crowdsourcing, online freelancing, volunteer work, 'the gig economy', and labour movements; especially from sociological, organization studies, and science and technology studies (STS) perspectives
virtual goods, virtual property, digital money, digital games, persuasive technology, online work, microwork, microsourcing, crowdsourcing, gold farming, platforms, platform business, institutional theory, sociology of consumption, sociology of work, organization theory, ICT for development, East Asia
Positions held at the OII
- DPhil Programme Director, October 2014 -
- Research Fellow, May 2013 -
September 2015 - August 2020
The iLabour project is premised on the idea that a fundamental change is taking place in labour markets. It seeks to understand the social and policy implications of this momentous shift.
November 2013 -
This project aims to understand the current and potential impact of Internet and mobile technologies on social and economic development, especially when it comes to the emergence of new and transformative 'virtual' economic activities and work.
- Lehdonvirta, M., Nagashima, Y., Lehdonvirta, V., and Baba, A. (2012) The Stoic Male: How Avatar Gender Affects Help-Seeking Behaviour in an Online Game. Games and Culture 7 (1) 29-47.
- Liu, Y., Lehdonvirta, V., Alexandrova, T., and Nakajima, T. (2012) Drawing on Mobile Crowds via Social Media. Case UbiAsk: Image Based Mobile Social Search Across Languages. Multimedia Systems 18 (1) 53-56.
- Nakajima, T., and Lehdonvirta, V. (2013) Designing Motivation Using Persuasive Ambient Mirrors. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing 17 (1) 107-126.
- Lehdonvirta, M., Lehdonvirta, V., and Baba, A. (2011) Prosocial behaviour in avatar-mediated interaction: the influence of character gender on material versus emotional help-giving. On the Horizon 19 (3) 165-173.
- Näsi, M., Räsänen, P., and Lehdonvirta, V. (2011) Identification With Online And Offline Communities: Understanding ICT Disparities In Finland. Technology in Society 33 (1-2) 4-11.
- Lehdonvirta, V., and Räsänen, P. (2011) How do young people identify with online and offline peer groups? A comparison between UK, Spain and Japan. Journal of Youth Studies 14 (1) 91-108.
- Lehdonvirta, M., Lehdonvirta, V., and Nagashima, Y. (2010) Collecting conversations: three approaches to obtaining user‐to‐user communications data from virtual environments. Journal of Virtual Worlds Research 3 (3).
- Lehdonvirta, V., and Virtanen, P. (2010) A New Frontier in Digital Content Policy: Case Studies in the Regulation of Virtual Goods and Artificial Scarcity. Policy & Internet 2 (3).
- Lehdonvirta, V. (2010) Online spaces have material culture: goodbye to digital post-materialism and hello to virtual consumption. Media, Culture & Society 32 (5) 883-889.
- Lehdonvirta, V. (2010) Virtual Worlds Don't Exist: Questioning the Dichotomous Approach in MMO Studies. Game Studies 10 (1).
- Hamari, J., and Lehdonvirta, V. (2010) Game Design as Marketing: How Game Mechanics Create Demand for Virtual Goods. International Journal of Business Science and Applied Management 5 (1) 14-29.
- Lehdonvirta, V., Wilska, T.-A., and Johnson, M. (2009) Virtual Consumerism: Case Habbo Hotel. Information, Communication & Society 12 (7) 1059-1079.
- Lehdonvirta, V. (2009) Virtual Item Sales as a Revenue Model: Identifying Attributes that Drive Purchase Decisions. Electronic Commerce Research 9 (1) 97-113.
- Lehdonvirta, V. (2004) European Union Data Protection Directive: Adequacy of Data Protection in Singapore. Singapore Journal of Legal Studies 2004, 511-546.
- Lehdonvirta, V. (2012) A history of the digitalization of consumer culture: From Amazon through Pirate Bay to FarmVille. In: J. Denegri-Knott and M. Molesworth (eds) Digital Virtual Consumption. New York: Routledge.
- El-Fatatry, M., Lee, S., Khan, T., and Lehdonvirta, V. (2011) A Digital Media Approach to Islamic Marketing. In: O. Sandikci and G. Rice (eds), Handbook of Islamic Marketing. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 338-362.
- Hamari, J., and Lehdonvirta, V. (2010) Pelimekaniikat osana ansaintalogiikkaa - Miten pelisuunnittelulla luodaan kysyntää [Game mechanics as part of revenue logic - How does game design create demand?]. In: J. Suominen, R. Koskimaa, F. Mäyrä and O. Sotamaa (eds), Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirja 2010 [Finnish Yearbook of Game Studies 2010]. Tampere: University of Tampere, pp. 11-21.
- Lehdonvirta, V. (2008) Real-Money Trade of Virtual Assets: New Strategies for Virtual World Operators. In: M. Ipe (ed.), Virtual Worlds, Hyderabad: Icfai University Press, pp. 113-137.
- Lehdonvirta V., and Lehtiniemi, T. (2008) Economics. In: B. Perron and M. Wolf (eds), The Video Game Theory Reader 2, New York: Routledge, pp. 344-346.
- Lehdonvirta, V., Barnard, H., Graham, M., and Hjorth, I. (2014) Online labour markets - levelling the playing field for international service markets? Paper presented at the IPP2014: Crowdsourcing for Politics and Policy conference, University of Oxford, 25-26 September 2014.
- Ratan, R., Lehdonvirta, V., Kennedy, T., and Williams, D. (2012) Razing the virtual glass ceiling: Gendered economic disparity in two massive online games. ICA Annual Conference, Phoenix, AZ, 24-28 May 2012.
- Liu, Y., Lehdonvirta, V., Alexandrova, T., and Nakajima, T. (2011) Real-Time Crowd Computing Using Social Media. Poster presented at CrowdConf 2011, San Francisco, CA, 2 November 2011.
- Liu, Y., Lehdonvirta, V., Alexandrova, T., Liu, M. and Nakajima, T. (2011) Engaging Social Medias: Case Mobile Crowdsourcing. Paper presented at First International Workshop on Social Media Engagement (SoME 2011), 20th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW 2011), Hyderabad, India, 29 March 2011.
- Liu, Y., Lehdonvirta, V. Kleppe, M., Alexandrova, T., Kimura, H., and Nakajima, T. (2010) A Crowdsourcing Based Mobile Image Translation and Knowledge Sharing Service. In: Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia (MUM 2010), Limassol, Cyprus, 1-3 December 2010.
- Lehdonvirta, V. (2010) Digital free time: social leisure and leisurely shopping in online peer groups. Paper presented at the XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology RC13/RC23 joint session on Emerging Technologies and Leisure, Gothenburg, Sweden, 11-17 July 2010.
- Tetsuo Y., Lehdonvirta, V., Ito, H., Soma, H., Kimura, H., and Nakajima, T. (2010) Activity-Based Micro-pricing: Realizing Sustainable Behavior Changes through Economic Incentives. In: T. Ploug, P. Hasle and H. Oinas-Kukkonen (eds), Proceedings of the 5th International Conference on Persuasive Technology (Persuasive 2010), Copenhagen, Denmark, 7-10 June 2010 (LNCS 6137). Berlin: Springer, pp. 193-204.
- Yamabe, T., Lehdonvirta, V., Ito, H., Soma, H., Kimura, H., and Nakajima, T. (2009) Applying Pervasive Technologies to Create Economic Incentives that Alter Consumer Behavior. Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp 2009), Orlando, FL, September 30-October 3, 2009. New York: ACM, pp. 175-184.
- Lehdonvirta, V., Soma, H., Ito, H., Yamabe, T., Kimura, H., and Nakajima, T. (2009) UbiPay: Minimizing Transaction Costs with Smart Mobile Payments. Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Mobile Technology, Application & Systems (Mobility 2009), Nice, France, 2-4 September 2009. New York: ACM.
- Shiraishi, M., Washio, Y., Takayama, C., Lehdonvirta, V., Kimura, H., and Nakajima, T. (2009) Using individual, social and economic persuasion techniques to reduce CO2 emissions in a family setting. In: S. Chatterjee and P. Dev (eds), Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Persuasive Technology (Persuasive 2009), Claremont, CA, 26-29 April 2009. New York: ACM, pp. 130-138.
- Shiraishi, M., Washio, Y., Takayama, C., Lehdonvirta, V., Kimura, H. and Nakajima, T. (2009) Tracking Behavior in Persuasive Apps: Is Sensor-Based Detection Always Better Than User Self-Reporting? Poster presented at The 27th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2009). Proceedings of the 27th international conference extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems, Boston, MA, 4-9 April 2009. New York: ACM, pp. 4045-4050.
- Nakajima, T., Kimura, H., Yamabe, T., Lehdonvirta, V., Takayama, C., Shiraishi, M., and Washio, Y. (2008) Using Aesthetic and Empathetic Expressions to Motivate Desirable Lifestyle. Proceedings of Smart Sensing and Context, Third European Conference (EuroSSC 2008), Zurich, Switzerland, 29-31 October 2008, pp. 220-234.
- Takayama, C., Lehdonvirta, V., Kimura, H. and Nakajima, T. (2008) ECOISLAND: A System for Persuading Users to Reduce CO2 Emissions. Poster presented at Tenth International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp 2008). Proceedings of the 10th Ubicomp 2008 Adjunct Programs, Seoul, Korea, EcoIsland: A System For Persuading Users To Reduce CO2 Emissions 21-24 September 2008, pp. 30-31.
- Takayama, C. and Lehdonvirta, V. (2008) EcoIsland: A System For Persuading Users To Reduce CO2 Emissions. Paper presented at Pervasive Persuasive Technology and Environmental Sustainability Workshop, 6th International Conference on Pervasive Computing. Pervasive 2008 Workshop Proceedings, Sydney, Australia, 19 May 2008, pp. 113-119.
- Lehdonvirta, V. (2008) Virtual Worlds Don't Exist. Paper presented at Breaking the Magic Circle: Game Research Lab Spring Seminar, Tampere, Finland, 10-11 April 2008.
- Lehdonvirta, V., Soma, H., Ito, H., Kimura, H., and Nakajima, T. (2008) Ubipay: conducting everyday payments with minimum user involvement. Extended Abstracts Proceedings of the 2008 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2008), Florence, Italy, 5-10 April 2008. New York: ACM, pp. 3537-3542.
- Nakajima, T., Lehdonvirta, V., Tokunaga, E. and Kimura, H. (2008) Reflecting Human Behavior to Motivate Desirable Lifestyle. In: G. Marsden, I. Ladeira and P. Kotze (eds), Proceedings of the 7th ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (DIS 2008), Cape Town, South Africa, 25-27 February 2008. New York: ACM, pp. 405-414.
- Kimura, H., Lehdonvirta, V., Okuda, Y. and Nakajima, T. (2007) Lifestyle Ubiquitous Gaming: The Use of Daily Objects for Persuading Players. Paper presented at the 1st International Workshop on Design and Integration Principles for Smart Objects (DIPSO 2007), 9th International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp 2007), Innsbruck, Austria, 16 September 2007.
- Nakajima, T., Lehdonvirta, V., Tokunaga, E., Ayabe, M., Kimura, H., and Okuda, Y. (2007) Lifestyle Ubiquitous Gaming: Making Daily Lives More Pleasurable. 13th IEEE International Conference on Embedded and Real-Time Computing Systems and Applications (RTCSA 2007), Daegu, Korea, 21-24 August 2007, pp. 257-266.
- Ayabe, M., Okuda, Y., Lehdonvirta, V., Tokunaga, E., Kimura, H. and Nakajima, T. (2007) Effective lifestyle changes through ubiquitous feedback systems. Paper presented at the 4th International Symposium on Pervasive Gaming Applications (PerGames 2007), Salzburg, Austria, 11-12 June 2007.
- Lehdonvirta, V. (2005) Real-Money Trade of Virtual Assets: Ten Different User Perceptions. Proceedings of Digital Arts and Culture (DAC 2005), Copenhagen, Denmark, 1-3 December 2005, pp. 52-58.
- Lehdonvirta, V. (2005) Real-Money Trade of Virtual Assets: New Strategies for Virtual World Operators. Proceedings of the 2005 Conference on Future Play (Future Play 2005), Lansing, MI, 13-15 October 2005.
- Lehdonvirta, V. (2005) Virtual Economics: Applying Economics to the Study of Game Worlds. Proceedings of the 2005 Conference on Future Play (Future Play 2005), Lansing, MI, 13-15 October 2005.
- Lehdonvirta, V. and Ernkvist, M. (2011) Knowledge Map of the Virtual Economy. Washington DC: World Bank.
- Lehdonvirta, V. (2011) Digital Labour in Online Games. In: O. Sotamaa et al. (eds), New Paradigms for Digital Games: The Finnish Perspective. Tampere: University of Tampere, pp. 87-89.
- Lehdonvirta, V. and Huotari, K. (eds) (2010) Advanced Virtual Economy Applications: Project Final Report. Espoo: Helsinki Institute for Information Technology.
- Lehdonvirta, V. (2009) Virtual Consumption [Doctoral thesis]. Publications of the Turku School of Economics (A-11:2009). Turku: Turku School of Economics.
- Lehdonvirta, V. (2005) Economic Integration Strategies for Virtual World Operators [Master's thesis]. Espoo: Helsinki University of Technology.
Courses taught at the OII
This course offers a tour of selected cutting-edge phenomena where Internet technologies seem to be at the root of radical social discontinuities.
Recorded: 10 March 2016 Duration: 00:23:38
Dr Vili Lehdonvirta, uses survey data and interviews with workers to show the heterogeneity of backgrounds and outcomes for people working on online labour platforms and compares this to traditional manufacturing work.
Recorded: 10 June 2015 Duration: 00:02:39
This option course for the OII MSc in "Social Science of the Internet" offers a tour of selected cutting-edge phenomena where Internet technologies seem to lie at the root of radical social discontinuities.
Recorded: 8 November 2013 Duration: 00:19:33
Vili Lehdonvirta discusses emerging markets on the Internet.
21 September 2015 Times of India
Vili Lehdonvirta comments in an article about the future regulation of Bitcoin, the virtual currency.
19 September 2015 Business Standard
Vili Lehdonvirta comments on an article about regulation of Bitcoin, the virtual currency
15 September 2015 allAfrica
Mark Graham writes about his research with Vili Lehdonvirta into the effect of online technologies on the African labour market. By connecting rich and poor into one labour market, workers' rights could be damaged, he says.
18 August 2015 BBC News Technology
Vili Lehdonvirta comments on the changes being introduced to Bitcoin production which, he says, could make the virtual currency less accessible.
31 July 2015 Malay Mail Online
Vili Lehdonvirta explores the implications for society of new platforms such as Uber and Airbnb which disrupt established markets.
11 December 2014 techradar
Vili Lehdonvirta comments on the significance of the news that Microsoft is accepting Bitcoin payments for Xbox games and other digital applications.
25 June 2014 Pacific Standard
The online magazine features Vili Lehdonvirta's recent book, Virtual Economies:Design and Analysis.
1 May 2014 Oxford Internet Institute
This book introduces the basic concepts of economics into the game developer's toolkits; explaining how the fundamentals of economics—markets, institutions, and money—can be used to create or analyze economies based on artificially scarce virtual goods.
3 April 2014 Polygon
Vili Lehdonvirta contributes to an article on free-to- play online games which encourage players including children to run-up big bills. 'It would be smart of the industry to do some self-regulation', he says.
26 February 2014 npr
In the wake of the MtGox bitcoin exchange collapse npr explains the background and considers the implications. Vili Lehdonvirta says that Bitcoin allows people to dream dreams about how things could be different.
25 February 2014 New Scientist
Vili Lehdonvirta adds to the debate about the collapse of MtGox a prominent Bitcoin exchange which could prove very expensive for customers.
10 February 2014 Metro US
In the wake of the abrupt closure of the ‘Flappy Birds’ game, Vili Lehdonvirta answers questions about its popularity.
5 February 2014 New Scientist
An article highlighting potential problems which could leave the whole Bitcoin currency vulnerable quotes Vili Lehdonvirta.
15 January 2014 NPR
Vili Lehdonvirta contributes to an article on how the virtual currency, Bitcoin is attracting attention from governments and companies.
3 January 2014 Washington Post
The Switch, the technology section of the Washington Post speculates on the possible creator of bitcoin, the virtual currency. It suggests that it might be OII researcher Vili Lehdonvirta.
27 November 2013 China Radio International
China Radio interviewed Vili Lehdonvirta about Bitcoin. China accounts for more than half the daily turnover of Bitcoins.
5 November 2013 Oxford Internet Institute
We are pleased to call for papers for the 2014 Internet, Politics, Politics conference, convened by the OII for the journal Policy and Internet, in collaboration with the ECPR Standing Group on Internet and Politics.
14 October 2013 VPRO Netherlands
Vili Lehdonvirta was interviewed for ‘Backlight’ a weekly Future Affairs programme from Dutch broadcaster VPRO, about how technology can monitor every aspect of our lives. Does this make a closer union between man and machine? (Dutch and English)
5 August 2013 Hbl.fi
Finland’s largest Swedish language daily paper quotes Vili Lehdonvirta in an article about the Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ programme which exposed the activities of so-called click farms used to artificially indicate approval of a product on social media.
1 August 2013 Pod Academy
Pod Academy which highlights current research interviewed Vili Lehdonvirta about Bit.coin (both podcast and transcript).
Policy and Internet Blog on 29 Feb 2016 17:41PM
Platforms that enable users to come together and buy/sell services with confidence, such as Uber, have become remarkably popular, with the companies often transforming the industries they enter. In this blog post the OII’s Vili Lehdonvirta analyses [...]
Policy and Internet Blog on 27 Aug 2015 12:28PM
If elections were invented today, they would probably be referred to as “crowdsourcing the government.” First coined in a 2006 issue of Wired magazine (Howe, 2006), the term crowdsourcing has come to be applied loosely to a wide variety of situations [...]
The Connectivity, Inclusion, and Inequality Group on 20 Aug 2015 15:40PM
As part of our project on digital labour and development, Isis Hjorth, Mark Graham, Helena Barnard and I have been meeting and interviewing over a hundred people who do freelance work over the Internet, through platforms such as Upwork and… Continue [...]
Policy and Internet Blog on 30 Jul 2015 11:51AM
Some theorists suggest that such platforms are making our world more efficient by natural selection. The reality is a little more complicated. Reposted from The Conversation. An angry crowd has attacked Uber cars with bars and stones outside Mexico [...]
Policy and Internet Blog on 27 Jul 2015 08:12AM
Ride-hailing app Uber is close to replacing government-licensed taxis in some cities, while Airbnb’s accommodation rental platform has become a serious competitor to government-regulated hotel markets. Many other apps and platforms are trying to do the [...]
Policy and Internet Blog on 27 Jul 2015 07:48AM
Cars were smashed and tires burned in France last month in protests against the ride hailing app Uber. Less violent protests have also been staged against Airbnb, a platform for renting short-term accommodation. Despite the protests, neither platform [...]
The Connectivity, Inclusion, and Inequality Group on 16 Jan 2015 12:47PM
Digital technology has uneven impacts on global economic inequalities, but it also has uneven impacts on different sociodemographic segments within countries. I recently published a paper on virtual gender gaps (with colleagues from MSU and USC), and now [...]
Policy and Internet Blog on 15 Jan 2015 18:32PM
Determinants of economic wellbeing have long been investigated from many angles in the social sciences: a key finding that is consistent across economies and time periods is that women tend to earn less income and hold less wealth than men. But what about [...]
The Connectivity, Inclusion, and Inequality Group on 10 Dec 2014 04:02AM
Please excuse the somewhat self-congratulatory tone of this post. I was very excited to learn this week that the European Research Council (ERC) expects to fund my research proposal on online labour markets and the sociotechnical rules or institutions [...]
Policy and Internet Blog on 28 Nov 2014 13:45PM
In a pivotal vote today, the Finnish parliament has voted in favour of removing references to gender in the country's marriage law, making it possible for same-sex couples to get married. OII Research fellow Vili Lehdonvirta argues that the decision it [...]
The Connectivity, Inclusion, and Inequality Group on 29 Oct 2014 14:03PM
Gold farming, game labour, playbor – these terms are used to refer to the harvesting of online game items, currencies, and characters with a view to selling them to earn income. As part of a new research project on online… Continue Reading →
The Connectivity, Inclusion, and Inequality Group on 4 Aug 2014 10:00AM
In this series of blog posts, Vili Lehdonvirta writes about his thoughts and experiences at ISA 2014 in Yokohama, Japan. In this third and final part, he discusses organized labour and global production networks, and draws implications to the study… [...]
The Connectivity, Inclusion, and Inequality Group on 29 Jul 2014 08:43AM
In this series of blog posts, Vili Lehdonvirta writes about his thoughts and experiences at ISA 2014 in Yokohama, Japan. In this second part, he discusses professionals and knowledge workers in the context of labour market flexibilization, and draws [...]
The Connectivity, Inclusion, and Inequality Group on 25 Jul 2014 12:20PM
In this series of blog posts, Vili Lehdonvirta writes about his thoughts and experiences at ISA 2014 in Yokohama, Japan. In this first part, he discusses labour market flexibilization and its implications to the study of online work. Last week,… [...]
Policy and Internet Blog on 3 Jul 2014 09:54AM
What can ‘real’ economies and the economists who run them learn from these virtual economies? How can a focus on social fabric -- rather than just on efficiency and output –usefully inform national economies? OII Research Fellow Vili Lehdonvirta discusses [...]
Policy and Internet Blog on 12 May 2014 10:24AM
What kind of research does the journal Policy & Internet publish? Editor Vili Lehdonvirta approaches the question from two angles; first, by examining the question empirically, through a brief thematic analysis of the articles published since its [...]