Research Topic


Young people are exploring what it means to be producers, consumers, and products in the digital economy. We research the blurred boundaries between work, play, and hobbies, focusing on the exploitative potential of social activity online.


In this research stream, we are investigating the opportunities and risks faced by young people while participating in the digital economy. The rapid proliferation of digital intermediaries, particularly social media platforms such as Instagram, Youtube, TikTok, or Twitch, have opened up various pathways for young people to participate in the digital economy. Influencer marketing, for instance, is seen as a popular 'entry route' into an entrepreneurial career. However, recent academic research has stressed that the democratic potential of these platforms is limited by structural and technical factors. Moreover, youth participation within the digital economy is not always voluntary since we are increasingly witnessing the exploitation of young people's data, user-generated content, and private information.  

Our approach is to critically assess this topic using conceptual, qualitative, and quantitative research methods. Current topics being explored are: Nordic Influencer Marketing, 'Sharenting' on Instagram, and Aspirational Labour. 


Collaborating Institutions

Harvard University, VU Amsterdam, Curtin University


Activities and Career Paths

Gemma Newlands joined the Fair Labor project in late 2016 and contributed importantly to the development of the research. Based on her expertise in the Fair Labor project, Gemma became a work package leader of the Horizon 2020 project Participation, Privacy and Power in the Sharing Economy and soon after joined the advisory board of the HubIT Horizon 2020 project. Gemma remains at the Nordic Centre for Internet and Society thanks to a succesful application for a Doctoral Stipendiary Fellowship with the Toppforsk project Future Ways of Working in the Digital Economy. 

Christoph Lutz, who started working on the Fair Labor project from the beginning of 2016 on as a postdoc, established this topic in close exchange with the collaborating institutions. Following up on his doctoral dissertation, which had dealt with inequalities in online participation in Germany, Christoph seamlessly continued his study of the inclusiveness of online media, trajectoring more into a work and labor angle throughout the Fair Labor project. Persistent performance at major international conferences such as ICA, AOM, AoIR and Social Media & Society (Christoph presented papers in all these conferences every year, 2016, 2017 and 2018), the organization of several workshops and pre-conferences in 2016 and 2018, and a strong social media presence led to substantial international outreach and impact. Major publications emerged from Christoph's work on this topic. In 2017, Christoph also became a management commitee member for Norway of the new COST Action From Sharing to Caring: Examining Socio-Technical Aspects of the Collaborative Economy in Europe. As a result of his scientific achievements, Christoph was promoted to associate professor at BI Norwegian Business School in 2018. He will continue the research of participatory aspects of the digital economy in the Toppfork project Future Ways of Working in the Digital Economy.

Throughout the project, Christian Fieseler was strongly engaged in the Global Network of Internet and Society Research Centers and its ongoing focus on AI and inclusion. Christian strengthened the presence of the Nordic research area in that interdisciplinary and quickly growing community. Christian was also the project manager of the succesful Horizon 2020 project Participation, Privacy and Power in the Sharing Economy in 2017, which had synergies to the Fair Labor project, not least in its exploration of the participatory potential of the sharing economy. As a result of his outstanding scientific achievements, both before and within the Fair Labor project, Christian was promoted to full professor at BI Norwegian Business School in 2018. He will continue his work on the digital economy as a project leader of the Toppforsk project Future Ways of Working in the Digital Economy.



Key Publications

Publications are forthcoming, including:

  • Forthcoming white paper on 'Youth and the Digital Economy' with our colleagues at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society
  • Forthcoming book chapter on 'Navigating Pathways to Success as an Aspiring Instagram Influencer'