Research Projects

Freelance Work and Creative Workspaces


Cheryll Soriano
De La Salle University
Jason Cabañes
University of Leeds
Jonathan Corpus Ong
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Deirdre McKay
Keele University


The project is comprised of three key themes. And each of these will be led by various members of the research team, composed by: (1) the Digital Labour in the Global South project co-leaders Cheryll Soriano and Jason Cabañes, (2) Newton Tech4Dev principal investigator Jonathan Ong and co-investigator Deirdre McKay, and (3) research associates Joy Panaligan, Pamela Combinido, and Jeremy Tintiangko.

These project themes are:

(1) the key experiences central to the lives of online freelance workers. This theme attends to (a) the decision-making, conditions, and experiences that underlie the  transition to new “OFWs”, that is, from  – the transition from Overseas Filipino Work to Online Freelance Work; (b) the materiality and the role of co-working spaces in emergent forms of sociality amongst online freelance workers; and (c) the differential conditions and experiences of engaging in diverse kinds of online freelance work, including the emergence of new social hierarchies.

(2) the working conditions that characterise the lives of online political trolls and the digital production of disinformation in Duterte’s Philippines. This theme draws on interviews with political campaigners, journalists and actual paid trolls themselves (including Facebook group moderators and avatar operators) in order to trace how patronage politics, Filipino folklore, and corruption in Filipino mainstream media give rise to today’s landscape of information war.

(3) the broader interrelations of digital workers in the Philippines. This theme reflects on the wider empirical realities of digital labor in the Philippines by attending to whether and how the different social, cultural, and economic capitals possessed by different digital workers enable them to move across different fields of digital work.

The project team is currently working on publishing journal articles that address these three different themes. They also intend to develop larger research grant bids to further develop and expand these streams and to surface interventions that can help to critically address issues faced by workers attracted to join the country’s increasingly significant digital labor force.

We have presented our initial findings in the following conferences/ workshops.

Soriano, C. & Cabanes, J.  “World class” digital work? Mapping out the Freelance Industry in the Philippines. Launch Event of Newton Tech4Dev Network, University of Leicester. Leicester, UK, November 29, 2016.

Soriano, C. & Cabanes, J. World class digital work or proletarianised labour? Ethnographic inquiry on online freelancing in the Philippines, Interaction Design Lab Seminar Series, IDL Usability Lab, Room 9.08, Ninth Floor, Doug McDonell Building, University of Melbourne, 13 April 2017

Soriano, C., Cabanes, J., Ong, J. Online Freelance Workers as the New OFWs? Deep stories and deep structures of online digital labour in the Philippines. Workshop on Methods in Digital Research, Forum for Asian Studies, Stockholm University, 1-2 May 2017

Planned publications:

New class rising? Politics and asymmetries in online freelance work in the Global South. Chapter proposed for the Routledge Companion to Media and Class, edited by Lynn Schofield-Clark, Erika Polson, & Radhika Gajjala (expected, 2018)

For inquiries about our project, email us at:, or

Image source:

Digital Labor: Deep Stories and Structures from Online Filipino Freelance Workers’ Lenses


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The Network
The Newton Tech4Dev Network research team is led by Dr. Jonathan Corpus Ong, Prof. Peter Lunt, and Prof. Julio C. Teehankee.