Steve Jobs versus the Victorians: Steampunk, Design, and the History of Technology in Society
Steampunk aficionados often appreciate fantastically designed submarines, robot dirigibles, and even modified Victorian-style laptops for their own sake, as expressions of technological fun and creative energy. But on closer analysis, steampunk literature, film, and art also supply excellent commentary on important issues regarding the past, present, and future of technologies. How should objects be designed? Should they follow established historically inspired lines, or try to establish an innovative language of modernity? Who shapes our machines, and what establishes our context of technological choice? What values does technology reflect and/or impose? Who decides and who benefits; as historian David Noble has asked, "Progress for whom? Progress for what?"1
This chapter is published as “Steve Jobs versus the Victorians: Steampunk, Design, and the History of Technology in Society,” Steaming into a Victorian Future: A Steampunk Anthology, Julie Taddeo, Ken Dvorak, and Cindy Miller, eds.; (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2013): 235-253. Posted with permission.