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.

Email: vili.lehdonvirta@oii.ox.ac.uk

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 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

Books

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

Chapters

  • 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

Reports

  • 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.
  • The Gig Economy Isn’t Just For Startups Anymore

    29 August 2017 Fortune


    Coverage of a new report by Gretta Corporaal and Vili Lehdonvirta on how Fortune 500 companies are turning to online freelancing platforms like Upwork and PeoplePerHour to find designers, marketing staff, IT specialists and other knowledge workers.

  • Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash: what happens now?

    7 August 2017 ITPro


    Two currencies with 50% market share in the same area are less useful than one currency with 100% market share from the point of view of ability to pay, says Vili Lehdonvirta in a comment for ITPro.

  • Bitcoin splits as new currency takes off

    2 August 2017 BBC News


    The bitcoin split might make it harder to establish Bitcoin or Bitcoin Cash as currencies useful for commerce, says Vili Lehdonvirta, commenting on a story for BBC News.

  • Oxford: Bangladesh second largest source of online workers

    22 July 2017 Dhaka Tribune


    According to a recent study, Bangladesh is the second largest supplier of online labour in the world. The OII's iLabour report analysed data across multiple e-platforms connecting freelancers with employers.

  • The Bitcoin Paradox

    21 July 2017 Oxford Student


    Bitcoin aims to operate as a decentralised, trustless technology void of central authority, says the OII's Vili Lehdonvirta.

  • India followed by Bangladesh: largest supplier of online labour

    21 July 2017 The Independent


    According to a recent study, India is the largest supplier of online labour in the world. The OII's iLabour report analysed data across multiple e-platforms connecting freelancers with employers.

  • Bangladesh 2nd largest provider of ‘online labour’

    20 July 2017 Financial Express


    Bangladesh is the second largest supplier of online labour, says a recent OII report, analysing data from e-platforms connecting freelancers with employers.

  • India largest provider of ‘online labour’

    20 July 2017 Economic Times


    India is followed by Bangladesh, US, Pakistan, Philippines and the UK in what is being termed "digital gig work" or freelance work offered online. Over half of the online work supplied out of India is dominated by software development and technology.

  • India source of most online labour in the world, claims iLabour study at Oxford

    20 July 2017 Connected to India


    According to a recent study, India is the largest supplier of online labour in the world. The OII's iLabour report analysed data across multiple e-platforms connecting freelancers with employers.

  • Online Gig Economy Up 26% Over Last Year: Oxford Internet Institute

    9 July 2017 Spend Matters


    The Oxford Internet Institute recently highlighted a sharp rise in its Online Labour Index, which "measures the utilization of online labor across countries and occupations by tracking the number of projects and tasks in real time."

  • Online Gig Economy Up 26% Over Last Year: Oxford Internet Institute

    9 July 2017 Spend Matters


    Reporting on recent findings of the Oxford Internet Institute's iLabour Project.

  • 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.

  • Online jobs in gig economy growing fast, finds new index

    22 September 2016 The Guardian


    Jobs advertised on sites such as as Freelancer.com and PeoplePerHour leapt by 14% since May, says OII's Online Labour index.

  • Forget Uber: Online self-employment gigs are booming in popularity

    22 September 2016 The Memo


    The total number of new freelance digital jobs in the UK has jumped a huge 14% since May alone, according to new data.

  • Oxford Internet Institute’s iLabour Project Launches Online Labor Index to Measure Gig Economy

    22 September 2016 Spend Matters


    Oxford University Associate Professor Vili Lehdonvirta and fellow researcher Dr Otto Kässi have announced the public launch of the Online Labour Index (OLI), a first-of-its-kind metric to track utilization of "online labor" in the so-called "gig economy".

  • A third of companies are at ‘full capacity’ and looking to hire

    22 September 2016 CIPD


    The OII's new Online Labour Index tracks job vacancies listed on sites such as Freelancer and PeoplePerHour, with growth in the UK faster than the rest of Europe and the US.

  • Rise of online work captured in the first Online Labour Index

    21 September 2016 Phys.org


    Oxford researchers launch the Online Labour Index, which finds US employers are the number one users of the 'online gig economy' (representing 52% of the market) but over the last few months UK employers have been fast catching up.

  • Gig economy on the rise in the UK

    21 September 2016 IT Pro


    Oxford research reveals 14% increase in on-demand freelance platforms in the UK since May.

  • Rapid increase in ‘gig’ working

    21 September 2016 HR Magazine


    Researchers at the University of Oxford have launched the Online Labour Index, which gathered data on the online gig economy from sites and apps across the world between May and September 2016.

  • 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 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.

  • Bitcoin – part 2

    1 August 2013 Pod Academy


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