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Professor Vili Lehdonvirta

Professor of Economic Sociology and Digital Social Research

Vili Lehdonvirta

Professor of Economic Sociology and Digital Social Research


Vili Lehdonvirta is Professor of Economic Sociology and Digital Social Research at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. His research examines how digital technologies are used to reshape the organization of economic activities in society, from gig platforms to online marketplaces and virtual currencies to crowdfunding. What are the implications to workers, entrepreneurs, and states, and how can this digital economy be governed?

Lehdonvirta’s book Cloud Empires: How digital platforms are overtaking the state and how we can regain control is coming out from MIT Press in September 2022. His previous book Virtual Economies: Design and analysis is published by MIT Press and translated to Chinese and Japanese. Lehdonvirta has authored and co-authored over 30 peer-reviewed articles published in journals such as Socio-Economic Review, Sociology, and Journal of Management.

Lehdonvirta is a former member of the European Commission’s Expert Group on the Online Platform Economy and the High-Level Expert Group on Digital Transformation and EU Labour Markets. The Online Labour Index developed in Lehdonvirta’s iLabour research project is now maintained by the International Labour Organization. Lehdonvirta’s research has been supported by major grants from the European Research Council, the UK Economic and Social Research Council, and other science funding agencies.

Lehdonvirta’s research draws on theories and approaches from economic sociology, political economy, industrial relations, new institutional economics, and science and technology studies. He and his graduate students and postdoctoral researchers use conventional social research methods as well as novel data science approaches. Lehdonvirta co-organizes the SASE Digital Economy network and sits on the editorial boards of the journals Information Society, Electronic Commerce Research, and Journal of International Business Policy.

Lehdonvirta is a Senior Research Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, an associate member of the Department of Sociology, Oxford, and a former Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute, London. Lehdonvirta holds a PhD in Economic Sociology from the University of Turku (2009) and a MSc from the Helsinki University of Technology (2005). Previously he worked at the London School of Economics, the University of Tokyo, and the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology. In 2020 he was a visiting professor at the Institute of Innovation Research, Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo. Before his academic career, Lehdonvirta worked as a game programmer.

Areas of interest for doctoral supervision

I am currently especially interested in supervising doctoral research that examines 1) conflict and cooperation between platform users and owners in setting platform rules; 2) decentralized and other alternative models of platform organization from retrospective, historical perspectives; 3) the relationship between platforms and the state. All proposals should engage with relevant debates in academic journals such as Socio-Economic Review and Information, Communication, and Society. Candidates should also show interest in grounding their research in fundamental social science theory, such as collective action, public choice, transaction cost economics, or social construction of technology.

Research Interests

Digital economy, platform economy, gig economy, sharing economy, crowdsourcing, freelancing, online labour markets, ecommerce, peer production, future of work, algorithmic management, reputation systems, online collective action, platform governance, Digital Single Market, Europe, Southeast Asia, Japan

Positions at the OII

  • Professor of Economic Sociology and Digital Social Research, October 2020 -
  • Associate Professor, May 2016 - October 2020
  • Senior Research Fellow, May 2016 - October 2020
  • Director of DPhil Programme, May 2013 - May 2016
  • Research Fellow, May 2013 - May 2016


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Integrity Statement

In the past five years the majority of my research funding has come from the European Research Council. I have also received research funding during this period from the Economic and Social Research Council (UK), the Hans Böckler Foundation (Germany), the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion, the International Development Research Council, the Alan Turing Institute, Google, Activision, DACS, and the International Labour Organization.

In the past five years I have served on the European Commission’s Expert Group on the Online Platform Economy and the High-Level Expert Group on Digital Transformation and EU Labour Markets.

I conduct my research in line with the University's academic integrity code of practice.



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