Professor 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) 745 6420012

Professor Vili Lehdonvirta is an Associate Professor and Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, a Hugh Price Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, and a Faculty Fellow of the Alan Turing Institute, London.

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, Warner Brothers, and the World Bank. His book Virtual Economies: Design and Analysis (with Edward Castronova) is published by MIT Press and translated to Chinese by China Renmin University Press. (LinkedIn, Google Scholar)

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

Research interests

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

  • Associate Professor, May 2016 –
  • Senior Research Fellow, May 2016 –
  • Director of DPhil programme, October 2014 – December 2016
  • Research Fellow, May 2013 – May 2016

Latest blog posts

Current projects

Past projects


  • Lehdonvirta, V. and Castronova, E. (2014) Virtual Economies Design and Analysis. MIT Press.


  • Lehdonvirta, V. (2013) "A history of the digitalization of consumer culture" In: Digital Virtual Consumption. 11-28.
  • El-Fatatry, M., Lee, S., Khan, T. and Lehdonvirta, V. (2011) "A digital media approach to Islamic marketing" In: Handbook of Islamic Marketing. 338-360.

Conference papers

  • Wood, A., Graham, M., Lehdonvirta, V., Barnard, H. and Hjorth, I. (2016) "Virtual Production Networks: Fixing Commodification and Disembeddedness", Development Studies Association 2016.
  • 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 Conference. SAGE Publications (UK and US).
  • 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.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 Work. Collective Intelligence, NYU, New York, 31 May – 2 September 2016.
  • 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 model", UIST 2014 - Proceedings of the 27th Annual ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology. 55-64.
  • 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 languages", Multimedia Systems. 18 (1) 53-67.
  • Liu, Y., Alexandrova, T., Nakajima, T. and Lehdonvirta, V. (2011) "Mobile image search via local crowd: A user study", Proceedings - 1st International Workshop on Cyber-Physical Systems, Networks, and Applications, CPSNA 2011, Workshop Held During RTCSA 2011. 2 109-112.
  • 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 incentives", Lecture 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 payments", Proceedings 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 CO2 emissions", Proceedings - 1st International Workshop on Software Technologies for Future Dependable Distributed Systems, STFSSD 2009. 59-63.
  • 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 - Proceedings. 4045-4050.
  • 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 setting", ACM International Conference Proceeding Series. 350.
  • Nakajima, T., Lehdonvirta, V., Tokunaga, E. and Kimura, H. (2008) "Reflecting human behavior to motivate desirable lifestyle", Proceedings of the Conference on Designing Interactive Systems: Processes, Practices, Methods, and Techniques, DIS. 405-414.
  • Lehdonvirta, V., Kimura, H., Soma, H., Nakajima, T. and Ito, H. (2008) "UbiPay: Conducting everyday payments with minimum user involvement", Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings. 3537-3542.
  • Nakajima, T., Kimura, H., Yamabe, T., Lehdonvirta, V., Takayama, C., Shiraishi, M. and Washio, Y. (2008) "Using aesthetic and empathetic expressions to motivate desirable lifestyle", Lecture 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 plesurable", Proceedings - 13th IEEE International Conference on Embedded and Real-Time Computing Systems and Applications, RTCSA 2007. 257-264.

Journal articles


  • Lehdonvirta, V. and Robleh, A. (2016) "Governance and Regulation" In: Distributed Ledger Technology: Beyond Blockchain. London: UK Government Office for Science.
  • Lehdonvirta, V. and Ernkvist, M. (2011) Knowledge Map of the Virtual Economy. Washington DC.
  • 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.
  • Lehdonvirta, V. and Huotari, K. (2010) Advanced Virtual Economy Applications: Project Final Report. Espoo: Helsinki Institute for Information Technology.
  • Pay crash expected in online gig economy as millions seek work

    24 March 2017 New Scientist

    A huge number of people in South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa looking for online “gig economy” work could cause a race to the bottom on pay and conditions, according to a new report from the Oxford Internet Institute.

  • What is Bitcoin? The debate rages on

    21 September 2015 Times of India

    Vili Lehdonvirta comments in an article about the future regulation of Bitcoin, the virtual currency.

  • The Bitcoin community disagrees on what happens next

    19 September 2015 Business Standard

    Vili Lehdonvirta comments on an article about regulation of Bitcoin, the virtual currency

  • Africa: Digital Work Signals a Global Race to the Bottom

    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.

  • Bitcoin could split in debate over currency’s future

    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.

  • Should we love Uber and Airbnb or protest against them?

    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.

  • Bitcoin value surges as Microsoft starts accepting cryptocurrency

    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.

  • Virtual Economies Are the Future of Consumption

    25 June 2014 Pacific Standard

    The online magazine features Vili Lehdonvirta's recent book, Virtual Economies:Design and Analysis.

  • Selling Candy to Babies

    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.

  • If You’ve Ignored Bitcoin Up Until Now, This One’s For You

    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.

  • Bitcoin exchange crash may have cost users $350m

    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.

  • Why was Flappy Bird so popular?

    10 February 2014 Metro US

    In the wake of the abrupt closure of the ‘Flappy Birds’ game, Vili Lehdonvirta answers questions about its popularity.

  • Bitcoin: Problems already cloud the currency’s future

    5 February 2014 New Scientist

    An article highlighting potential problems which could leave the whole Bitcoin currency vulnerable quotes Vili Lehdonvirta.

  • How Virtual Currency Could Make It Easier To Move Money

    15 January 2014 NPR

    Vili Lehdonvirta contributes to an article on how the virtual currency, Bitcoin is attracting attention from governments and companies.

  • Bitcoin just turned 5. And we have no idea who started it.

    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.

  • Bitcoins: What Does the Future Hold?

    27 November 2013 China Radio International

    China Radio interviewed Vili Lehdonvirta about Bitcoin. China accounts for more than half the daily turnover of Bitcoins.

  • Backlight

    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)

  • 1000 likes för 15 dollars

    5 August 2013

    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.

  • Bitcoin – part 2

    1 August 2013 Pod Academy

    Pod Academy which highlights current research interviewed Vili Lehdonvirta about Bit.coin (both podcast and transcript).