posted on (deprecated) site on March 9, 2017

The word ‘utopia‘ means the ideal state – a nation, or society, where laws, government and socioeconomic conditions are as perfect as they can possibly be.

We have Sir Thomas More to thank for this strangely beautiful word. Many have tried to describe a perfect state – Plato among them – but More, in 1516 book ‘De optimo rei publicae deque nova insula Utopia’, put a name on this elusive creation, albeit as a parody.


Throughout human history, we’ve tried to create utopias – you might say that’s all we’ve ever tried to do, really. History is littered with attempts to create perfect cities, and so is our fiction.


This leads us to ask:

What would a modern-day utopia look like?

Last year, when the Global Shapers Colombo Hub contacted me about staging an event at one of their conferences, I returned to this question – this time, turning to Twitter for an answer. I downloading a dataset of 7,805 tweets containing the word ‘utopia’ to see what people were actually saying around the subject.


(you can download the dataset from here: Shapers Utopia data – Archive)

Twitter is not the ideal place to describe a society, but it’s conversation gold – religion, economics, jobs and race play out every day across Twitter. My logic was that if I could isolate core elements in these tweets, I could piece together the parameters of today’s Utopia.

7,800 tweets. Weed out the spambots, the marketers, the shoe ads. Weed out anything not English. That brought me down to about 5,000.

Remember when people said, unironically, that young tech billionaires were gonna usher in a new utopia? said some.

Your mama’s so classless she could be a Marxist utopia, said another.

Utopia doesn’t exists. Utopia will never exist. But it is an excellent marketing tool, said yet another.

Basic keyword analysis failed, simply because the majority of the discussion was actually not constructive. ‘No utopia in #dytopian #world of THE ORGAN HARVESTERS’ doesn’t really do much for the conversation.

But then I struck something useful.