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Digital Economies

Digital Economies

Economics plays a central role in policy, business, and competition regulation—not to mention debates on issues ranging from intellectual property to network neutrality. It’s important to understand how technology shapes economic life, and to study the economic and social implications of new market structures and business models.

Economic analysis can be used as a methodological toolset for rigorous thinking about important social issues, with strong positive and normative policy statements emerging naturally from this foundation.

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Academic spotlight

Many of the OII’s faculty work on digital economies, including Vili Lehdonvirta, who is Professor of Economic Sociology and Digital Social Research at the Oxford Internet Institute. 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 ManagementNew Media & SocietySociology, and other leading academic journals. 

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 Society, Electronic Commerce Research and the Journal of International Business Policy.