A refreshing perspective on the modern age of communication from John Freeman, editor of Granta magazine, in an extract from his forthcoming book The Tyranny of E-Mail.
Steampunks love their technology, but, essentially, always with a backward glance - you have only to see the fantastic contraptions of Jake Von Slatt, and even the new Steampunk Tales application for the iPhone for immediate gratification of this. The Victorians believed in progress, and believed in their new technologies as a means to achieve this, bringing with it education, sanitation, transport, social housing and amenities along with the pollution and massive material and human waste which Industrialisation brought.
Things have changed. Essentially, those in the so-called 'advanced' countries, Freeman argues, have become enslaved by the new technology. Citing an example of a colleague's friend,
"He tells me he is now detained, night and day, in downloading every album he ever owned, lost, desired, or was casually intrigued by; he has now stopped even listening to them, and spends his time sleeplessly monitoring a progress bar. . . . He says it's like all my birthdays have come at once, by which I can see he means, precisely, that he feels he is going to die."
Speed does not equate to efficiency, and the connection between technology and progress is a complicated one. Freeman calls for a Manifesto, a new approach, one in which the "technology is to be used for the betterment of human life", used more sensibly and coherently, and in a more controlled manner.
This notion has been lost, but is recognised in the Steampunk world. The recently re-ignited interest in De Profundis within the genre is only the most recent recognition of this phenomenon. The bleeding of steampunk ideals into the wider world continues!
Please, take a visit over to Mr Freeman's article, before it is too late!