Vili Lehdonvirta is Professor of Economic Sociology and Digital Social Research at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. From April to September 2020 he was a Visiting Professor at the Institute for Innovation Research, Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo.

Lehdonvirta is an economic sociologist whose research focuses on digital technologies, such as apps, platforms, and marketplaces — how they are governed, how they shape the organization of economic activities, and with what implications to workers, consumers, businesses, and policy. His research has been published in the Journal of Management, New Media & Society, Sociology, and other leading academic journals (Google Scholar).

Lehdonvirta is the principal investigator of iLabour, a major research project on online freelancing and the gig economy, funded by the European Research Council. He has also led research projects on online labour markets’ effects in rural areas and crowdworkers’ skill development. His other recent research takes a critical look at Bitcoin and blockchain. His previous research on virtual goods, virtual consumption and digital games is summarized in Virtual Economies: Design and Analysis, published by MIT Press and translated to Chinese by China Renmin University Press.

Lehdonvirta’s research draws on theories and approaches from economic sociology, new institutional economics, labour sociology, and science and technology studies. He and his students and postdoctoral researchers use a range of conventional social research methods as well as novel data science approaches. Lehdonvirta sits on the editorial boards of the journals Policy & Internet, The Information SocietyElectronic Commerce Research and the Journal of International Business Policy.

Lehdonvirta is a Hugh Price Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, an associate member of the Department of Sociology, Oxford, and a Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute, London, where he co-convenes the Protocol Governance interest group. 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. Before his academic career, he worked as a game programmer.

Lehdonvirta has advised companies, policy makers, and international organizations in Europe, United States, and Japan. He is a 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. His research has been covered by The Economist, The Guardian, Washington Post, Die Zeit, Le Monde, NHK World, and other popular media around the world.

Positions held 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, October 2014 – December 2016
  • Research Fellow, May 2013 – May 2016

Research interests

digital economy, platform economy, sharing economy, network economy, crowdsourcing, electronic markets, reputation systems, peer production, future of work, future of organizing, freelancing, skills, labour relations, governance, regulation, Digital Single Market, Europe, Southeast Asia, Japan

Areas of interest for doctoral supervision

all of the above topic areas, from sociological, organization studies, and new institutional economics (transaction cost economics) perspectives

Current doctoral students


Current projects

Past projects


  • Lehdonvirta, V. and Castronova, E. (2014) Virtual Economies: Design and AnalysisMIT Press.
    Chinese translation: China Renmin University Press (2015)
    Japanese translation: Cyzo (2020)

    Paperback edition: MIT Press (2017)

Journal articles

Chapters in edited books

  • Graham, M., Hjorth, I., and Lehdonvirta, V. (2019) Digital labor and development: Impacts of global digital labor platforms and the gig economy on worker livelihoods. In: M. Graham (ed.), Digital Economies at Global Margins. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 269-294.
  • Lehdonvirta, V. (2016) Algorithms That Divide and Unite: Delocalization, Identity, and Collective Action in ‘Microwork’. In: J. Flecker (ed.), Space, Place and Global Digital Work. LondonPalgrave Macmillan53-80.
  • Lehdonvirta, V. (2015) “ヘルシンキの春” In: Furuichi, N. and Toivonen, T. (eds), 国家がよみがえるとき 持たざる国であるフィンランドが何度も再生できた理由TokyoMagazine House.
  • Lehdonvirta, V. (2014) Virtuality in the sphere of economics. In: Grimshaw, M. (ed), The Oxford Handbook of Virtuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Lehdonvirta, V. (2013) A history of the digitalization of consumer culture. In: Molesworth, M. and Denegri-Knott, J. (eds), Digital Virtual Consumption. London: Routledge. 11-28.
  • El-Fatatry, M., Lee, S., Khan, T. and Lehdonvirta, V. (2011) A digital media approach to Islamic marketing. In: Handbook of Islamic Marketing338-360.
  • Lehdonvirta, V. (2008) Real-Money Trade of Virtual Assets: New Strategies for Virtual World Operators. In: Ipe, M. (eds)Virtual Worlds. HyderabadIcfai University Press113-137.
  • Hamari, J. and Lehdonvirta, V. (2010) Pelimekaniikat osana ansaintalogiikkaa – Miten pelisuunnittelulla luodaan kysyntää. In: Suominen, J., Koskimaa, R., Mäyrä, F. and Sotamaa, O. (eds.), Pelitutkimuksen vuosikirja 2010.


Conference papers

  • Wood, A., Graham, M., Lehdonvirta, V., Barnard, H. and Hjorth, I. (2016) “Virtual Production Networks: Fixing Commodification and Disembeddedness”Development Studies Association 2016DSA 2016: Development Studies Association Conference.
  • Wood, A., Graham, M. and Lehdonvirta, V. (2016) “The new frontier of outsourcing: online labour markets and the consequences for poverty in the Global South.”Work, Employment and Society ConferenceSAGE Publications (UK and US).
  • Kassi, O.A., Lehdonvirta, V., Graham, M., Barnard, H. and Hjorth, I. (2016) “Not a Lot of People Know Where It Is”: Liabilities of Origin in Online Contract WorkCollective IntelligenceNYU, New York31 May – 2 September 2016.
  • Wood, A., Graham, M., Lehdonvirta, V., Barnard, H. and Hjorth, I. (2016) “Virtual Production Networks: Fixing Commodification and Disembeddedness”GPNs and social upgrading: labour and beyond – Workshop.
  • Kassi, O. and Lehdonvirta, V. (2016) “Building the Online Labour Index: A Tool for Policy and Research”CSCW 2016 workshop on The Future of Platforms as Sites of Work, Collaboration and Trust,.
  • Lehdonvirta, V., Barnard, H., Graham, M. and Hjorth, I. (2014) “Online labour markets – levelling the playing field for international service markets?”IPP2014: Crowdsourcing for Politics and Policy conference, University of Oxford,.
  • Hosio, S., Goncalves, J., Lehdonvirta, V., Ferreira, D. and Kostakos, V. (2014) Situated crowdsourcing using a market modelUIST 2014 – Proceedings of the 27th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology55-64.
  • 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.
  • 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 languagesMultimedia Systems18 (1) 53-67.
  • Liu, Y., Alexandrova, T., Nakajima, T. and Lehdonvirta, V. (2011) Mobile image search via local crowd: A user studyProceedings – 1st International Workshop on Cyber-Physical Systems, Networks, and Applications, CPSNA 2011, Workshop Held During RTCSA 20112 109-112.
  • Liu, Y., Lehdonvirta, V., Alexandrova, T. and Nakajima, T. (2011) “Real-Time Crowd Computing Using Social Media”CrowdConf 2011.
  • Liu, Y., Lehdonvirta, V., Alexandrova, T., Liu, M. and Nakajima, T. (2011) “Engaging Social Medias: Case Mobile Crowdsourcing”First International Workshop on Social Media Engagement (SoME 2011), 20th International World Wide Web Conference.
  • Liu, Y., Lehdonvirta, V., Kleppe, M., Alexandrova, T., Kimura, H. and Nakajima, T. (2010) “A Crowdsourcing Based Mobile Image Translation and Knowledge Sharing Service”Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia (MUM 2010).
  • Yamabe, T., Lehdonvirta, V., Ito, H., Soma, H., Kimura, H. and Nakajima, T. (2010) Activity-based micro-pricing: Realizing sustainable behavior changes through economic incentivesLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)6137 LNCS 193-204.
  • Lehdonvirta, V. (2010) “Digital free time: social leisure and leisurely shopping in online peer groups”XVII ISA World Congress of Sociology RC13/RC23 joint session on Emerging Technologies and Leisure.
  • Lehdonvirta, V., Soma, H., Ito, H., Yamabe, T., Kimura, H. and Nakajima, T. (2009) UbiPay: Minimizing transaction costs with smart mobile paymentsProceedings of the 6th International Conference on Mobile Technology, Application and Systems, Mobility ’09.
  • Takayama, C., Lehdonvirta, V., Shiraishi, M., Washio, Y., Kimura, H. and Nakajima, T. (2009) ECOISLAND: A system for persuading users to reduce CO2emissionsProceedings – 1st International Workshop on Software Technologies for Future Dependable Distributed Systems, STFSSD 200959-63.
  • Shiraishi, M., Lehdonvirta, V., Washio, Y., Kimura, H., Takayama, C. and Nakajima, T. (2009) Tracking behavior in persuasive apps: Is sensor-based detection always better than user self-reporting?Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems – Proceedings4045-4050.
  • Shiraishi, M., Washio, Y., Takayama, C., Lehdonvirta, V., Kimura, H. and Nakajima, T. (2009) Using individual, social and economic persuasion techniques to reduce CO 2 emissions in a family settingACM International Conference Proceeding Series350.
  • Yamabe, T., Lehdonvirta, V., Ito, H., Soma, H., Kimura, H., Nakajima, T. and ACM (2009) “Applying Pervasive Technologies to Create Economic Incentives that Alter Consumer Behavior”UBICOMP’09: PROCEEDINGS OF THE 11TH ACM INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON UBIQUITOUS COMPUTING175-184.
  • Nakajima, T., Lehdonvirta, V., Tokunaga, E. and Kimura, H. (2008) Reflecting human behavior to motivate desirable lifestyleProceedings of the Conference on Designing Interactive Systems: Processes, Practices, Methods, and Techniques, DIS405-414.
  • Lehdonvirta, V., Kimura, H., Soma, H., Nakajima, T. and Ito, H. (2008) UbiPay: Conducting everyday payments with minimum user involvementConference on Human Factors in Computing Systems – Proceedings3537-3542.
  • Nakajima, T., Kimura, H., Yamabe, T., Lehdonvirta, V., Takayama, C., Shiraishi, M. and Washio, Y. (2008) Using aesthetic and empathetic expressions to motivate desirable lifestyleLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)5279 LNCS 220-234.
  • Nakajima, T., Lehdonvirta, V., Tokunaga, E., Ayabe, M., Kimura, H. and Okuda, Y. (2007) Lifestyle ubiquitous gaming: Making daily lives more plesurableProceedings – 13th IEEE International Conference on Embedded and Real-Time Computing Systems and Applications, RTCSA 2007257-264.

Open data sets







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, Rockefeller Foundation, 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.

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