Friday, December 12, 2008


I wanted to share with ya'll my recent discovery of (and growing interest for) a subculture movement called Steampunk.

When I first heard about it and started looking it up the concept was a little hard to describe, despite the distinctiveness of the Steampunk style. What I gathered from my research is that Steampunk is a sort of sci-fi/fantasy that takes place in a world where steam technology is still used, and from there human technology evolved still using steam. Since steam was mostly used during the Victorian era, the stylings of Steampunk very much reflect the sort of brass-and-gears, marble-and-swirly-embellishment type of design that was going on. Airships, clockwork machinery, Tesla coil technology, you know, stuff like that.

The name Steampunk is a play off the phrase Cyberpunk, which is another sci-fi/fantasy genre that deals with "high tech and low life" (Wikipedia): a world in which technology dominates, but at the expense of human society. This automatically creates this sort of dysotopian aura, whereas Steampunk doesn't. When you think Blade Runner, Akira, Serial Experiments Lain, or Metal Gear, think Cyberpunk.

Steampunk is also called "speculative fiction," because it depicts the advancement of a technology that existed in the past but has since died. When you think H.G. Wells (The Time Machine) or Jules Verne (Around the World in 80 Days), think Steampunk. Hell, think Wild Wild West or Disney's Atlantis and think Steampunk! Although Steampunk wasn't an existing term at the time Wells and Verne wrote their stories, their works represent the cornerstone of Steampunk in that fantastical technological feats have been achieved with the Victorian technology they had then. And the human technology in Atlantis definitely counts.

But Steampunk has evolved to become a lifestyle instead of just a subgenre of fiction, with its own little set of values. It's very DIY, because the kind of machinery present in Steampunk technology can be physically "tinkered" with and stylized to suit the individual. It is enterprising and full of wonderment, an opportunity to mix and match, and a joining of "progress and tradition." A Boston Phoenix article on Steampunk also makes note of how today's technological style is pretty much lead by Apple, with its sleek minimalism and easy-on-the-eyes aesthetic. I had never really thought of their designs as "unimaginative" until I saw the article, but since I saw some Steampunkish things, I started to rethink design — which is excellent for me, trying to get into graphic design and everything.

My "thing" has always been more of a space technology thing, so the whole Victorian-era styles and technological ideas are very new and actually very appealing to me. There's a certain elegance in the way the parts of a Victorian machine are put together, as though its maker had design for design's sake in mind along with design for function.

People around the world have begun to adopt the Steampunk aesthetic and lifestyle into their fashion and way of life in general. This is probably one of the coolest computers I've ever seen, and it's STEAMPUNK'D.

Look at that monitor! That keyboard! That LAMP!
Steampunk artists and crafters the world over do this to a lot of their everyday items like notebooks, chairs, even iPods. You can bet I'll be looking more into this in the very near future.
The article from where I got most of my research (don't worry, I'll post it at the very bottom of the entry so ya'll can read it!) states some peoples' love of mash-ups, and how Steampunk kind of fits into that pretty well. Pretty damn well, I'd have to agree. The elegence of design mixed with the sophistication of technology is just too delicious to pass up for me. Not to mention the innovative ideologies it all implies. I think I can feel my own gears turning.

If you want to read all about the Steampunk movement, this is a very thorough article on the whole thing that covers everything I wish I covered here and more: The Boston Phoenix - Steam Dream.


Lauren Ashley said...

You know, it's kind of sad that I didn't read this already, because I do read the The Boston Pheonix... lol... don't ask me why...

But dang, I'll def be tearing up that article, SO cool!! That monitor is BITCHIN!!! :D

Thanks for sharin', Lauren's gonna have to do some research of her own! :)

Brent said...

Aw no way, that computer is awesome! I like that idea, but yeah everything has to be done on your own huh.

I've always fantasized about a future in which we regress to a not-quite-Victorian but more 1920's-great-depression era, at least regarding clothing. Think Gattaca. That's my dream :)

Jordan said...

I've thought about it too, like a post-electronic age in which we 'regress' into that but it's still all awesome and technological. I guess enough people have thought of it to have come up with Steampunk :P

I actually haven't seen Gattaca!
We're going to have to watch it sometime, you realize this?