Building Resilient Futures in the Virtual Everyday: Virtual Worlds and the Social Resilience of Teens during COVID-19

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Virtual worlds have been central to an imagined future in which advances in technology propel new social practices. The recent focus within the technology industry on the “metaverse” is the latest iteration of imagined, utopian virtual worlds which have continually surfaced in literature, film, product development, and more since the 1960s. One might say that the concept of virtual worlds is resilient—but do these proposed virtual worlds actually make society more resilient? We argue that despite their endurance, these concepts present a deterministic vision of a singular future towards which humanity is inevitably progressing, revoking the agency, desires and resilience expressed by people today in their everyday realities. Building on original ethnographic research conducted with 31 teenagers in China, Germany and the US as well as past anthropological work on using ethnography to anticipate the future and teenage online practices, this paper conceptualizes resilience as present-day creative adaptations which propel people into more desirable futures. Virtual worlds emerge as multilayered and equiprimordial spaces for the building of social worlds, giving teenagers novel tools to build and augment their social resilience. Article citation: 2022 EPIC Proceedings pp 117–136, ISSN 1559-8918,

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