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Utopian sociality. Online

Department of Social Anthropology of the University of Cambridge
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  • Gn Anthropology
  • H Social Sciences (General)
  • Qa75 Electronic Computers. Computer Science
  • Design
  • Philosophy


The metaworld Ultima Online was designed to foster ‘tight communities’ of inhabitants. Software users frequently say it has done just that. Yet many users spend most of their time online alone, engaged in practices of self-realisation, individuation, and skill maximisation. Drawing on Wilde’s utopian writings, I suggest that Ultima Online has fostered an emergent sociality of sympathetic individualism – but that characterizing this as ‘community’, ‘friendship’ and ‘camaraderie’ also allows users to engage with seemingly opposed communitarian tropes of the good life. This affords insights into how ethical imaginations influence emergent forms of human sociality.

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