Interesting contrarian take on steampunk
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And...for pete's sake, what's wrong with taking an ugly computer and making it beautiful? Articles that denigrate an aesthetic style for - omg! being aesthetic! - annoy me. If you're interested in how a Victorian person might have actually designed a computer, read some steampunk lit. If you want something beautiful, look at the aesthetic style.
I missed that comment, but I agree. I've seen posts elsewhere saying nasty things about steampunk, and I just don't get it. Those people make beautiful things because they want to (and, unlike what that article said, much of it is not commercial and most of them certainly do not have "publicists", what rubbish!).
I was also struck by the "mysterious" technology comment - a steam engine is much easier to understand (if you don't worry about the thermodynamics) than a computer.
The DIY aspect is the best part of steampunk - people are making their own artifacts. I do think that DIY will get lost if steampunk becomes really big - we'll be surrounded by apparently-homemade items bought at Target.
How about an easier target? Can't we just go and bash Furries? j/k
“The wonderful thing about a steam engine is that you can follow the path of power generation and function beginning with the fire box and boiler, follow the plumbing, valves, gauges, gears, d-valves, pistons, eccentric shafts and fly-wheels all the way from the source of power to the final outcome of kinetic potential.” One could easily argue that following the etched surface of a printed circuit board would provide no less a fascinating visual "map" of the processes of a computer or electronic device.
And this is what I find confusing about the project of "steampunking" things like computers - although I will admit here to being very taken with some of the designs I've seen. Sure, you can box your computer in wood and attach old-timey typewriter keys to the keyboard, but isn't that just obfuscating how the thing works & suggesting it is something it is not, rather than celebrating the design elements of its function?
A fair number of people seem to disagree with and even be offended by the article and I do agree that - at least from my understanding - the author is wrong when he says that steampunk reflects nostalgia for a time when technology was mysterious. blue, I think your interpretation in post #2 is more accurate. I think a lot of people look back on the Victorian era and see a period where the non-professional (i.e., the "gentleman scientist") could still hope to contribute to scientific discovery. And from what I've read about the history of science, this is an accurate picture. Shortly after this period, scientific discoveries exploded & science became much more professionalized and closed off to the amateur, who could no longer afford the time and sophisticated instruments required to make valuable contributions. As blue points out, who now except a small number of people would feel comfortable taking apart a computer?
Right; computers are fantastically intricate, but mostly at levels where we cannot modify them - the fine detail is all inside the chips and hard drive. We want control over our environment, and since we don't build our goods from raw materials by ourselves, we are reduced to decorating them. Then again, decoration has always been a feature of technology - the ancient Greeks painted scenes on their vases, which certainly wasn't necessary. Computer technology points toward a plain box plus keyboard, screen and mouse; all smooth, characterless and abstract. Yet computer casemods - fancy, often whimsical cases for the functional parts - are very popular, and steampunk is only one of the themes the builders adopt. Perhaps we should just think of this as one more fashion, part of the universal tendency toward decoration.
I am acquainted with Jake von Slatt. He has a rare set of mechanical skills, and he'd always be doing something to make things his own. If steampunk didn't exist, he'd be doing something else. An esthetic movement provides something to aim at.
The Google trends comparison shows steampunk still on the rise, I see.
Steam was something that could be understood and experienced.
Computers, on the other hand, are mysterious to us even now. Very few people will ever really know how their computer works (especially since most use secret operating systems) compared to how many people were familiar with automobiles or steam engines.
The idea of somebody having anything to say about this as "criticism" is just bonkers. Critics need to stay away from good/bad judgements anyway.
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