Steampunk Hands Around the World 2017- Making Life Better is a month long event in February 2017 showing and sharing the great steampunk people, events, and things around the world that other people should know about. Through these means, we come together as a community to forge new connections and friendships, inspire and be inspired by each other, and create realities from the stuff of dreams.
This year, we will share and explore the ways in which steampunk can and has made life better, for ourselves and for others. How does steampunk make life more fun and enjoyable, how does it expand our horizons and help us define who we are, or who we want to be? How does steampunk inform us about ourselves, others, and the world around us? How does it help us find solutions for real life problems, and find ways to make changes for the better?
Today’s contribution to Steampunk Hands Around the World focuses on the “maker culture” of steampunk. One of the primary draws of steampunk is the tangible nature of anachronistic technologies. You can see how the gears move, how pulling this lever activates motion here or there. It’s so entirely different from modern, “black box” technology.
“Maker culture” calls back to these tangible technologies. Makers create their inventions from scratch, with wood and brass and copper, or by re-purposing existing items. Makers work with their hands, get their hands dirty.
A lot of this is considered a “lost art” these days. Most people don’t build or fix things themselves anymore. You bring your car to the shop, you hire a plumber or an electrician. You bring your broken gizmo or gadget to a store where it’s simply replaced with a shiny new one. Maker culture is fighting this trend.
I attended a steampunk festival in Troy, New York this summer – The Enchanted City III: A Brave New World. This festival included events, such as the Inventor’s Challenge and the Mini Maker Fair, that encouraged participants to don their lab coats and goggles and get to work. The Mini Maker Fair, targeted toward kids, is especially important in my eyes. This is where steampunk goes beyond a whimsical genre of books or movies and becomes a force of real tangible good for young people. It encourages their creativity and challenges their problem solving skills. It builds a familiarity with mechanical and technical objects and ideas that will stay with them for years. Steampunk is helping to encourage the next generation of scientists and engineers.