Transmission in Motion

Seminar Blogs

“Leaving Omelas: Media archeology and science fiction” – Stepan Lastuvka

Marsh, Henry. n.d. “A person holding smartphone.” Pexels. Accessed November 9, 2022.


In the seminar titled “Media Imaginaries / Imaginary Media / Imaginations of Media,” the presenters Frank Kessler and Imar de Vries together reflect on how the three parts of the title interconnect and, in turn, shape the social conditions of the present-day media landscapes. Specifically, the presenters point out how the imaginations of media come to flourish based on technologies that manifest in society and stimulate ideas of its perfection. In this way, the imaginations of media are recognized to follow teleological visions of progress, for which the approach of media archaeology aims to offer an alternative and room for critical reflection. In particular, Kessler highlights how any utopian visions of potential media and their social conditions come about as inevitably informed by social class and a particular experience and view of the world. Such imaginaries or daydreams are at once characterized as impossible or utopian and, as shaped by the social class of a particular period, more generally a paradigm, which could be seen as a structure delineating the scope in which we make sense of the world (Kluitenberg 2011).

In the talk “Leaving Omelas: Science Fiction, Climate Change and the Future,” Vandana Singh addresses the potential of science fiction literature to offer a space for imagination beyond the existing overarching paradigms. Even though the author recognizes that not all science fiction literature does that, Singh highlights a vision regarding science fiction literature that I recognize to resonate with the seminar of Kessler and De Vries. Specifically, the author responds to the renowned story by Ursula K. Le Guin articulating a world where the happiness of inhabitants living in Omelas is dependent on the suffering of a single child in a basement (Singh 2018). The story has that if the suffering of the child is redeemed, it would result in the suffering of the greater majority living in the city. In consequence, the inhabitants of Omelas could either choose to live with this fact or leave the city and look for other places or paradigms. According to Singh:

“Science fiction should enable us to see structures of oppression and control, to make us aware of and question the things we normally take for granted, and to expand our imaginative reach. But more often than not, science fiction simply reflects the world in the image of the overwhelming paradigm” (Singh 2018).

Since Kessler and De Vries brought examples from the genre of science fiction, Singh highlights the potential of such narratives to enable imaginaries beyond the existing paradigm of the contemporary Omelas in which we may recognize to live. How then study of media archaeology may help to reflect on such a potential of science fiction literature? Or, how can the study of science fiction enable to ask renewed questions concerning media conditions of different historical periods? By extension, how does science fiction potentially extend our imaginative capacity to envision and conceive of media beyond the paradigm of the contemporary version of Omelas? Kessler and De Vries point out the link between science fiction and the conception of media or new technology, Singh’s normative vision for this genre may inspire to think further of its potential and limitations with respect to media imaginaries, imaginary media, and imaginations of media.



Kluitenberg, Eric. 2011. “On the Archeology of Imaginary Media.” In Media Archaeology Approaches, Applications, and Implications, edited by Huhtamo, Erkki and Jussi Parikka, 48-68. University of California Press.

Singh, Vandana. 2018. “Leaving Omelas: Science Fiction, Climate Change, and the Future.” Powell Books Blogs. Last modified February 22, 2018.