Vili Lehdonvirta

Vili Lehdonvirta is Professor of Economic Sociology and Digital Social Research at the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford. A former software developer, he is the coauthor of Virtual Economies: Design and Analysis (MIT Press).

  • Cloud Empires

    How Digital Platforms Are Overtaking the State and How We Can Regain Control

    Vili Lehdonvirta

    The rise of the platform economy into statelike dominance over the lives of entrepreneurs, users, and workers.

    The early Internet was a lawless place, populated by scam artists who made buying or selling anything online risky business. Then Amazon, eBay, Upwork, and Apple established secure digital platforms for selling physical goods, crowdsourcing labor, and downloading apps. These tech giants have gone on to rule the Internet like autocrats. How did this happen? How did users and workers become the hapless subjects of online economic empires? The Internet was supposed to liberate us from powerful institutions. In Cloud Empires, digital economy expert Vili Lehdonvirta explores the rise of the platform economy into statelike dominance over our lives and proposes a new way forward.

    Digital platforms create new marketplaces and prosperity on the Internet, Lehdonvirta explains, but they are ruled by Silicon Valley despots with little or no accountability. Neither workers nor users can “vote with their feet” and find another platform because in most cases there isn't one. And yet using antitrust law and decentralization to rein in the big tech companies has proven difficult. Lehdonvirta tells the stories of pioneers who helped create—or resist—the new social order established by digital platform companies. The protagonists include the usual suspects—Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Travis Kalanick of Uber, and Bitcoin's inventor Satoshi Nakamoto—as well as Kristy Milland, labor organizer of Amazon's Mechanical Turk, and GoFundMe, a crowdfunding platform that has emerged as an ersatz stand-in for the welfare state. Only if we understand digital platforms for what they are—institutions as powerful as the state—can we begin the work of democratizing them.

    • Hardcover $27.95
  • Virtual Economies

    Virtual Economies

    Design and Analysis

    Vili Lehdonvirta and Edward Castronova

    How the basic concepts of economics—including markets, institutions, and money—can be used to create and analyze economies based on virtual goods.

    In the twenty-first-century digital world, virtual goods are sold for real money. Digital game players happily pay for avatars, power-ups, and other game items. But behind every virtual sale, there is a virtual economy, simple or complex. In this book, Vili Lehdonvirta and Edward Castronova introduce the basic concepts of economics into the game developer's and game designer's toolkits. Lehdonvirta and Castronova explain how the fundamentals of economics—markets, institutions, and money—can be used to create or analyze economies based on artificially scarce virtual goods. They focus on virtual economies in digital games, but also touch on serious digital currencies such as Bitcoin as well as virtual economies that emerge in social media around points, likes, and followers. The theoretical emphasis is on elementary microeconomic theory, with some discussion of behavioral economics, macroeconomics, sociology of consumption, and other social science theories relevant to economic behavior.

    Topics include the rational choice model of economic decision making; information goods versus virtual goods; supply, demand, and market equilibrium; monopoly power; setting prices; and externalities. The book will enable developers and designers to create and maintain successful virtual economies, introduce social scientists and policy makers to the power of virtual economies, and provide a useful guide to economic fundamentals for students in other disciplines.

    • Hardcover $50.00
    • Paperback $40.00