Friday, January 18, 2013

Misplaced fears regarding the "mainstreaming" of Steampunk

Over the past few days there has been a plethora of news sites "predicting" the "mainstreaming of Steampunk", including the thread leading to an IBM algorithm (completed with some association with the National Retail Federation Convention), which may have been one of the impetuous leading to this particular meme. In short, IBM (and Dr. Trevor Davis), used what is termed the "Social Sentiment Index" (SSI) to assist retailers in predicting social trends and better market their inventory/products. The latest incarnation of the Social Sentiment Index predicts that the "new-fangled" Steampunk genre will be the "next-big thing" in promoting sales for large retailers.

Although very Hari Seldon-esque in nature, and though there have been plenty of concerns regarding potential "mainstreaming" of the genre, I would argue that predictions of any sort have to be taken with a large grain of salt (so to speak). As anyone who has dabbled with sports betting will attest to, there are no certainties when dealing with predictions. Though some sporting events are certain bets, many a sporting outcome tends to disappoint many who attempt to place their hard-earned pieces of copper on events. Making predictions with limited variables (e.g. the regulations of a sporting activity) pales in comparison to predicting a nation of consumers, and what they will perceived (and follow) the "next trend". Though a "big name" such as IBM points to their "sexy forecast" of Steampunk overtaking, IBM is a business, and I'm gathering this is a consulting branch of their company.

Additionally, a prediction can be a self-fulfilling circumstance. If this assertion that Steampunk is the "steamy wave of the future", and it does come to pass, a further analysis of this is a sort of "chicken-and-the-egg" circumstance... was it a natural evolution of the genre coupled with a maturing of a portion of its adherents, or did the proclamation of Steampunk as a "trend", which is later promoted my mainstream retailers, followed by a growth of interest in the genre? Alas, this is perhaps one of those "only-time-will-tell" scenarios.

I would argue there is nothing to worry about, regarding this latest proclamation regarding the genre. Will it mean that larger retailers will "hop on the bandwagon" regarding the genre? Perhaps. Will it lead to the demise of the genre? No. In actuality, I'd say there are a few potential benefits if Steampunk does broach the aforementioned "mainstream" status...

1) It will provide more exposure to those who may have not been familiar with Steampunk.
- Although readers of this blog have at least the minimum understanding of what Steampunk is as a genre (and likely much more beyond a "minimal understanding"), for those who may have no inkling of what Steampunk is, it could be a way of introducing the genre to those who may have simply heard of it, but never really attempted to understand what it is. Defining Steampunk is a trope unto itself, but perhaps going "mainstream" is a trope raise awareness of the genre.

2) There will likely be more Steampunk goods available for purchase...
- Indeed, assuming the "great mainstreaming" does occur to Steampunk, one will see a good number of items related to Steampunk (and likely Dieselpunk) available on a broader platforms (retail merchants). Some items will be quite nice, others will be, shall we say, disappointing, but it would mean there is more available for use, and as one desires, enhancement to one's persona. Additionally, national retailers tend to have sales, so perhaps that item that one desire can be obtained for a proverbial song...

3) ... and modification!
- One of the noted skills of Steampunk enthusiasts is a penchant for tinkering. Continuing on from the above, has the opportunity to obtain goods at a ... good price, with a little creativity and elbow grease, one can certainly fashion a gem to one's liking!

Not to say that a "mainstreaming" will be a complete boon were it to come to pass, but nor would it a be a disaster. Some will dip a toe in the genre, and decided its not to their liking, and other will be quite gratified at learning about Steampunk. So fear not the "mainstreaming" predictions - just sit back, enjoy one's tea / pipe / Guinness, and everything will most certainly turn out fine!

The referred-to IBM infographic (link listed below...)

For more details and articles, please consider visiting:

IBM Steampunk Trend Graphic

IBM Sentiment Analysis
A Smarter Planet (analysis)

Business News Daily (&

And a lively thread is already in swing at the Steampunk Empire, which is locate at:

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