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      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2008
     (1412.1)
    Okay so fair warning here, I may be about to get a bit granola but...
    I've been thinking about what Steampunk has to offer the world besides being another quaint subculture, particularly in light of the fact that it's about to step over the line of subculture and into trendy nonsense that will inevitably bring with it hoards of pipe clogging band waggoneers.

    What I'm really interested in is the Victorian enthusiastic amateur inventor/scientist part. The way I see it, most of the worlds problems - poverty, hunger climate change etc.- will never be effectively addressed by a top down, high tech research and loads of investment capital approach. Rather, I imagine that any progress that will have any real effect will have to be of the sort that a self educated person can make in their garage.
    There's been a lot of debate about weather or not all the Steampunk case mods etc. are legitimate as they don't actually use steam, aren't real Babbage engines or whatever and I think that's pretty legitimate although it also misses the point.
    Which is that steampunk is really an art movement. It doesn't really have any cultural agenda such as the original punk movement did and it's certainly not interested with making steam age technology "useful".

    I would like to propose that were there to be some sort of a Steampunk cultural ethic it should be in taking that amateur inventor approach to modern technology with an eye to addressing the issues that humanity faces today.

    Oh, and it should of course be done in such a way as to exemplify quality workmanship and ostentatious ornamentation.
  1.  (1412.2)
    If you can save the world from climate change, why not do it with some brass embossing and a few too many cogs? :D
    Personally, I'd love to see technology regress in visual style and it might well do if we move away from using plastics, and continue recycling retro fashions at such a massive rate... and real social changes only ever happen from the bottom up. Everyone's sitting on their arse waiting for some scientist or some government to fix their problems, when the only problem is how they spend their money.
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      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2008 edited
     (1412.3)
    Right, Currently Steampunk has quite an anti consumerist mentality but I wonder how much of that is simply due to a lack of availability of steam punk products. It would be nice to see more of the DIY ethic, as anything that gets people off the couch is a good thing in my book, it creates a habit of doing things. I'd love to see a cultural movement defined by activity and the things it stands for rather than one defined by protesting the things it's against and demanding that others do something about them.
  2.  (1412.4)
    Paul Duffield- Stuff would last longer, I suspect. Wish my laptop case was made of metal!
  3.  (1412.5)
    This is interesting. Keep going.
  4.  (1412.6)
    Considering the Steampunk Cultural Ethic, I would like to address my experience at SalonCon. SalonCon describes itself as The victorian Era for the 21st century. While not exclusively a "steampunk" convention, it's organization and attendance are certantly influenced and involved with Steampunk. What stood out for me at this Convention was the manners of those in attendance. I have never been to a cleaner, better smelling, better behaved convention.

    Guests at this convention were given space, approached only after conversations with others were finished and respectfully addressed during panel discussions. No one was lewd, abusive, or rude to me during my attendance.

    In terms of the DIY ethic, most people I spoke to had made some element of their clothing or personally knew the person who did.

    I think there is a longing for a place where there can be a structured formality - a place where the cultural rules call for respect, manners and a sense of grace. Perhaps steampunk, in it's formal expressions, provides the space to have that formality.
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      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2008
     (1412.7)
    I'm not sure of other examples out there but for me Steampunk has a rather uniquely positive outlook. I think that comes from it's focus on making things, it has quite a Constructionalist philosophy (and I use the term in the sense that it's about building things). A lot of western culture has been focused on deconstructing things for a long time now, which is fine but what you end up with is a bunch of pieces. In nature we see a lot of experimentation. Nature tries every way of doing something and the more effective methods are propagated. Today we spend all our time trying to figure out how something works so we can make the best application for the job the first time round, but this method is actually really expensive. So expensive in fact that we end up having to use the end product regardless of weather it's any good because we have too much invested in it. Better to take a variety of simple approaches, the type that one can work on in your garden shed, and let the better ones duke it out. We've got no built in redundancy these days so all of our cultural and economic systems are very fragile, you don't get a robust system when there are only a handful of actors in it so I find things like Etsy to be really hopeful. The biggest problem for this type of business is shipping costs, both financial and environmental. There is of course one simple, effective and very Steampunk answer to that.

    Airships.
  5.  (1412.8)
    In a lot of ways I see steampunk and the aesthetic as part of a reaction to the current state of affairs. Not in terms of politics yadda yadda, but in the sense that it seems to come from a desire to regain some of the satisfaction and catharsis of dealing without something complex and real. In technology especially, with the advent of touch screen, "no tactility" apparatus, but I think it goes further into the overall lack of sensation that mainstream society offers. The lack of hardware creativity in the general population, and the lack of any real visceral experiences to be had in day to day life, I think is a huge part of Steampunk's attraction. Other types of creativity have their appeal, but nothing that can sit on your mantle, nothing that can clog up your living space and make your home dirty. Editing an anime music video can only sate your creativity so much, when compared to putting on some steel toe boots and soldering together a mad gyrocopter with a cannon strapped to the side.

    It's all part of the reaction to the simplicity and ease of living we, as a species, have been working towards for years. Fight Club for sci-fi geeks.

    I'd love to see a cultural movement defined by activity and the things it stands for rather than one defined by protesting the things it's against and demanding that others do something about them.

    Word.
    • CommentAuthorMDickey
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2008
     (1412.9)
    I'd love to see a cultural movement defined by activity and the things it stands for rather than one defined by protesting the things it's against and demanding that others do something about them.


    A sort of wild-eyed ambition to accomplish a goal using the materials at hand and a little know-how, regardless of wearing a whalebone corset or a dirty leather smock?
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      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2008 edited
     (1412.10)
    In reference to Ms Blackwell's comment and my own last point it occurs to me that part of the reason for the loss of aesthetic in most of todays goods is that in the face of such astronomical R&D and Advertising costs workmanship is an expendable area. By contrast, in situations where the garage inventor is at work nicer materials are often a prerequisite. Firstly because they tend to require less expensive tools to work and secondly because when your small you have to be the best to compete. You can't sacrifice quality because it's what makes you stand out. To appreciate good design requires a higher standard of education and to makes sales requires that the person who cares most about the product (it's creator of someone close to) engage with their customers which in turn leads to a more civil society. After all, it's a lot harder to sell crap to someone when you have to do it in person.
  6.  (1412.11)
    I think there is a longing for a place where there can be a structured formality - a place where the cultural rules call for respect, manners and a sense of grace. Perhaps steampunk, in it's formal expressions, provides the space to have that formality.

    I suggested that somewhere last year.

    Of course, everyone acted like I was crazy.
    • CommentAuthorradian
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2008
     (1412.12)
    >Of course, everyone acted like I was crazy.
    That's how you know when you're on the right track.
  7.  (1412.13)
    think there is a longing for a place where there can be a structured formality - a place where the cultural rules call for respect, manners and a sense of grace. Perhaps steampunk, in it's formal expressions, provides the space to have that formality.

    I suggested that somewhere last year.

    Of course, everyone acted like I was crazy.


    I think there is a resistance to the idea of formality. Many people feel that, as in the past, a formal society would be restrictive and oppressive. However, Cultural Steampunk seems to be an idea that balences freedom and a sense of formality. The people who think that it's crazy might not realize that there is a sense of freedom in formality. It is the freedom to move about as a respected individual in a community. Obviously, in the past, this freedom was not applied to all people, but since Steampunk is a mixture of the Old and the New, it now can be applied in a more equal way.

    In many ways, Steampunk is an ideal, rather than a reality. In a place such as SalonCon, it can exist for a weekend - but could it exist for longer periods of time? Could such formality make it's way into the mainstream?
  8.  (1412.14)
    Many people feel that, as in the past, a formal society would be restrictive and oppressive. However, Cultural Steampunk seems to be an idea that balences freedom and a sense of formality. The people who think that it's crazy might not realize that there is a sense of freedom in formality. It is the freedom to move about as a respected individual in a community.


    I can see where you're coming from - naturally, I'd be inclined to flick a V sign at the kind of tedious, hierarchical crap that the word 'formality' connotes, but if you're equating formality here with a kind of mutual respect and politeness, that would be rather nice. If somewhat challenging to maintain.
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      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2008
     (1412.15)
    Heh, this is starting to sound like a rather more civil version of Burning Man....
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      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2008
     (1412.16)
    Actually I had been wondering about how one would make something like Burning Man more real world compatible and Steampunk and micro economies are, I believe, the way to go.
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      CommentAuthormoali
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2008
     (1412.17)
    steampunk at its best suggests the perfect (or maybe unique/interesting) combination of art and science - and being able to appreciate the ingenuity as well as the aesthetics and beauty of a 'thing', I think...with that appreciation comes the respect..
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      CommentAuthorDoc Ocassi
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2008
     (1412.18)
    I have always thought of Steampunk as an aesthetic rather than anything else, this is an interesting thread. Thinking about it regarding culture and ethic, the most prominent thing has to be the DIY/constructive elements of it, which probably leads to the mutual respect and politeness, creative people would be more polite and accommodating to other creatives.

    The formality I can see in the aesthetic of Steampunk, because of the constraints in the design, and that would probably feed into all aspects of the culture, beware the Steampunk xenophobe. Though this would be at odds with the DIY and experimental nature of the culture, with a multitude of people all creating their own Steampunk, it could be an interesting tension.

    I do see the ethic or culture being a lot more anarchic, punk, than prudish, Victorian. again an interesting tension. Finding the middle ground may be something that Steampunk can make moves on, because it does seem to explicitly merge these two quite contrary ideas.

    think there is a longing for a place where there can be a structured formality - a place where the cultural rules call for respect, manners and a sense of grace. Perhaps steampunk, in it's formal expressions, provides the space to have that formality.
    I suggested that somewhere last year.

    Of course, everyone acted like I was crazy.
    Oh beautiful irony.
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      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2008
     (1412.19)
    I have always thought of Steampunk as an aesthetic rather than anything else


    Certainly but most artistic movements have been symptomatic of a change in the culture as a whole if not an explicit commentary on it. It's a matter of form v's content. Because of Steampunks retro aspect I think the Form was "chosen" because of it's content and the relevance that it has to where we find ourselves today.
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      CommentAuthorzarhooie
    • CommentTimeMar 14th 2008
     (1412.20)
    Steampunk as a culture seems to have some of the same problems and advantages of Communism. Jrblackwell mentioned this:
    In many ways, Steampunk is an ideal, rather than a reality. In a place such as SalonCon, it can exist for a weekend - but could it exist for longer periods of time? Could such formality make it's way into the mainstream?

    That's the same question that'd been asked of communism for decades now (centuries?). Certainly, there are many examples of working communist systems, but they are all on a very small scale. 5-50 people isn't that big in the grand scheme of things. There are also some slightly terrifying examples of how communism can go terribly, horribly wrong, but those are, generally, on a national scale. And then of course, there's the "modern" communism (socialism) present in Canada, parts of the EU and various other countries that seems to be working, mostly.
    Now class, let's apply what we've learned about communism (small groups of dedicated people = good, large groups of not-so-dedicated people = bad, watered down versions = sustainable) to steampunk. Small groups of people dedicated to steampunk ethics, codes of honor and general societal tendencies should work, to a point. Trying to make it happen on a larger scale, probably not so good. However, applying a somewhat watered down version of steampunk culture (hitting the big points, such as creative thinking, DIY mindsets, an emphasis on politeness and proper manners) to modern society as a whole might just work. Might.