ESRC Digit Research Fellow
University of Sussex Business School
+44 1273 876870

I contribute to the ESRC Digit centre as a Research Fellow. I am responsible for examining the digital transformation of the global retail sector. I am particularly interested in:

  • Understanding the digitalisation of work in retail multinationals
  • Explaining the uneven uptake of digital technologies across firms and geographies in the sector
  •  Updating and deploying classical labour process analysis in the context of digital labour processes
  •  The geographical transformation of the retail sector as it relates to the rise of online shopping
  •  Algorithmic governance and the new technologies shaping consumer preferences.

Prior to joining Sussex, I was Research Associate at the University of Bristol’s School of Sociology, Policy and International Studies and Teaching Associate at Aston University’s Department of Sociology and Policy.

I have recently concluded an interdisciplinary research program entitled ‘China and the transformation of global capitalism’. This project has examined the structural transformations of the global political economy which enabled China’s rapid process of catch-up development since the late 1970s and the consequences, in turn, of the ‘rise of China’ for the multipolar and crisis-ridden global economy. A further focus has been on the social transformations and dislocations taking place within China, including detailed case studies of firms in the electronics and clothing sectors as well as industrial policy mechanisms aimed at upgrading the competitive capacities of Chinese industry in the context of global production networks (GPNs).

Research interests
  • Digital economy
  • Labour process
  • Political economy
  • Variegated capitalism

Recent publications

Journal articles

Working in the end times

Rolf, S. (2021) New Technology Work and Employment

Other publications

Research articles

(2019): ‘National development through global production networks? The case of Dongguan, China’, Political Geography 73, 48-59 (Impact Factor: 3.495).

(2019): ‘The dark side of globalised production: economic ‘rebalancing’ in contemporary China, Leila Talani & Roberto Roccu (eds.) The Dark Side of Globalization (Palgrave: Basingstoke).

(2016): (with John Agnew) ‘Sovereignty Regimes in the South China Sea: assessing contemporary Sino-US relations’. Eurasian Geography & Economics Volume 7, Issue 2: 249-273.

(2015): ‘Locating the state: uneven and combined development, the states system, and the political’, Research in Political Economy, Volume 30.


China’s Uneven and Combined Development (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan). Monograph due for publication in 2020

Digit researchers at the SASE 2022 conference

26 July 2022

Digit researchers discussed their work at the SASE cofnerence, 9-11 July 2022 in Amsterdam.

Previous news

‘Into the vortex? State digital capitalism in China’, SASE New York, June 2019.

‘Industrial upgrading or switching crisis: Manufacturing global production networks and real estate in Dongguan, China’, American Association of Geographers, Washington DC, April 2019.