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Ayesha Kapila

MA work

Title of dissertation: Steampunk: From Science Fiction to Design Culture


In 1987, K W Jeter coined the term, ‘Steampunk’ to describe a new subgenre of science fiction. The term referred to works with narratives set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used — usually Victorian-era England — but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H G Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date.


This dissertation traces the development of Steampunk from its roots as a subdivision of science fiction to its position as a burgeoning subculture. Steampunk has recently infiltrated the field of design through the work of a maker community. Using the Internet as a space for communication, a tool for production and as a platform for designed objects, these enthusiasts have conceived a particular Steampunk aesthetic, perhaps best described as ‘Neo-Victorianism’ — the amalgamation of Victorian design principles with contemporary sensibilities and technologies.


However, Steampunk is not merely a retro movement or fleeting ‘fad’, and the relationship between its literature and design culture far transcends aesthetics. As this research uncovers, Steampunk instils a sense of technological and design optimism within its makers, enabling the movement to present itself as a viable alternative to the unsustainable nature of contemporary design.


Info

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2011

  • Title of dissertation: Steampunk: From Science Fiction to Design Culture


    In 1987, K W Jeter coined the term, ‘Steampunk’ to describe a new subgenre of science fiction. The term referred to works with narratives set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used — usually Victorian-era England — but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H G Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date.


    This dissertation traces the development of Steampunk from its roots as a subdivision of science fiction to its position as a burgeoning subculture. Steampunk has recently infiltrated the field of design through the work of a maker community. Using the Internet as a space for communication, a tool for production and as a platform for designed objects, these enthusiasts have conceived a particular Steampunk aesthetic, perhaps best described as ‘Neo-Victorianism’ — the amalgamation of Victorian design principles with contemporary sensibilities and technologies.


    However, Steampunk is not merely a retro movement or fleeting ‘fad’, and the relationship between its literature and design culture far transcends aesthetics. As this research uncovers, Steampunk instils a sense of technological and design optimism within its makers, enabling the movement to present itself as a viable alternative to the unsustainable nature of contemporary design.


  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons), History of Art, University of Sussex, 2009