Steampunk raison d’être
Steampunk aesthetics are a strong influence for Decimononic and if you are reading these lines we are probably in the same boat. But, what happens when you try to go deeper? What’s Steampunk at present? Is it a movement, a counter-culture, a subculture, a community, a style? There is no straight answer to this question, but let’s see if we can throw some light on this issue.
1.- Steampunk Nature
First of all, ‘Steampunk means different things in different places’. It is a fact that there is an incesant debate regarding this topic, and this is why initiatives like the Great Steampunk Debate have arisen. At this point I would like to encourage you to have a look at the definitions of terms like subculture, community or movement. Is there any lowest common denominator? I think there is. We only need to take into consideration the investigations of scientists like Geert Hofstede or Fons Trompenaars about international cultural models and crosscultural communication to realize that the key issue are values.
So, let’s suppose that Steampunk belongs to the group of Punk Ideologies. Has Steampunk anything to do with concepts such as rebellion, anti-authoritarianism, individualism, free thought, discontent or the do it yourself (DIY) ideal? Is it related to subcultures with punk roots, like Goth? After all, references and comparisons to the Punk or Goth subcultures are common when talking about the reach of Steampunk.
As per Birmingham School’s definition of subculture, Goth community has its own unique values, traditions, uses of material objects or artefacts, territory or physical location and space and focal concerns, as well as having their own patterns of media consumption.
It is curious, because I have the impression that steamers tend to think that Goth subculture is uniform. However, nothing could be further from the truth. As it happens with Steampunk, there are subdivisions in the Goth scene. There are many, many small groups in it. In any case, you will probably agree with me if I state that there is a difference at least: Steampunk lacks of the agglutinating power of music (the concept of ‘Steampunk music’ is a subject under discussion), but it has the inspiring influence of literature as conducting wire.
2.- Steampunk future
Value’s determine people’s behaviour and probably this explains the political concerns of many steamers. There is no doubt that Steampunk faces some big challenges (‘ignorance and delusion’ said one of the participants in the Great Steampunk Debate), but this debating activity reflects its vitality. In fact I would like to encourage you to read a couple of articles:
- ‘Why Steampunk (still) matters’ in Parliament and Wake.
- ‘What makes Steampunk so special?’ in The Gatehouse Gazette.
Would you share your conclusions with us? Taking as starting point that any subculture is based in solid values, which values would you consider characteristic of Steampunk?