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Student Showcase Archive

Ellen Rivers

MA work

MA work

Designed Futures in Omni Magazine 1978-88

This dissertation is a study of the American magazine of popular science and possible futures named Omni. Located between 1978 and 1988, the first decade of Omni’s publication, this dissertation address’s the relationship between Omni magazine and speculative design concerning the future. As a magazine dedicated to popular science, science fiction and speculative futures, coverage of scientific and technical advancements featured strongly in the written content. An analysis of how science and technology were treated within the language of the magazine found two distinct treatments of the future; one indiscriminately positive and the another a great deal more complex. Chapter one deals primarily with visions of the future based around space travel, exploration and settlement as presented in Omni. These space futures were treated with an overwhelmingly positive and optimistic rhetoric that had strong links to an ironically historicised image of American character that included the tropes of the pioneer and the unexplored frontier.  The second chapter confronts uncertain or anxious futures presented in Omni. These involved the future body, including its interactions with artificial intelligence and biotechnologies. The first two chapters of the dissertation are intended to highlight the differences between nostalgic safe futures and alien uncertain futures. The final chapter explores the consumption of the magazine, addressing questions of male consumerism and the commodification of science. This dissertation concludes that whilst Omni was a magazine of the future, a significant proportion of its content was rooted firmly in the past. However, the emerging futures that it did engage with promoted a new relationship with science and technology which combined technological determinism with libertarian individualism.



  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2015