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Published:August 15th, 2008 08:08 EST
Media Is The Masses: Like Clockwork

Media Is The Masses: Like Clockwork

By Sean Stubblefield

Steampunk has its origin in science fiction and fantasy literature engaging Victorian era level technology and style, and the idea that the computer age coincided with the industrial. The term "steampunk" is a play on cyberpunk, a type of near-future science fiction featuring counter-culture tech savvy rebels. These individuals were cyber punks, for going against "The System". In the same spirit, the steam punk ethic represents a gestalt which defies the cookie cutter mass produced attitude of contemporary society by referring back to a "low-tech" anachronistically mechanical, guilded age in technology known as The Victorian Era.

Steampunk reflects a social ethos of a rustic do-it-your-self approach and craftsmanship expressing an affinity and affection for Victorian era, but it has also evolved as a clockwork design aesthetic and artistry. It is a rejection of the commonly clichéd and mundane homogenization applied to modern technology, in favor of the elegant artistry and extravagant ornamentation prominent in the Victorian age. Consider the aesthetic difference between a pocket watch made in the 1800s... and an ipod or cell phone.

Our computerized mechanisms fundamentally lack an artistic and imaginative essence in their appearance and construction-- much like our architecture and cars.

Modern tech is designed to be disposable and replaceable, but the clockwork mechanisms of the steampunk genre are inherently piecemeal and jerry-rigged; components and materials are more durable and adaptable, so that various parts can be cannibalized, reconstituted and rebuilt. A perfect example of the ingenuity typical of steampunkage is a Rube Goldberg device. Steampunkery is generally characterized by steam powered engines, brass and steel gear cogs and widgets (as used in analog watches and clocks), leather, plus levers and pullies.

Steampunk has become romanticized surrealism, with utopian or dystopian retro-futuristic or post-apocalyptic sensibility, appealing to a nostalgia for a time when technology was mysterious, wondrous and "magical". Also, steampunk reflects a unique aesthetic signature of the craftsman who designed or built these machines. This new sense and evolution of technology ushered in the Industrial Revolution, even as that same revolution fostered the creation of a new mode of technology. This was an age of adventure, discovery and invention of a kind never before seen, or not seen since...

More than a storytelling, social and technological ethic reminiscent of Jules Verne, steampunk also describes a kind of fashion, home decor and music style symbolically or thematically indicative of the Victorian era (1837-1901) --sometimes delving into and borrowing elements from WW1&2 and the American Revolution.

Steampunk fiction focuses most on actual, theoretical or cinematic Victorian-era technology, sometimes incorporating noir, goth and occult aspects.


Currently based in Houston Texas, Sean Stubblefield graduated Sam Houston State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Television Production. A philosopher poet, Stubblefield has been writing non-fiction for over 15 years, and has penned eight books to date. His first and second books, Paradox and Afterword, are now available at` target=_new>