So, I nearly started a flame-war on Caledon Chat while trying to give flavour to the argument that steampunk is more about ‘teh pretty’. I’m exaggerating but only slightly. It’s part of the whole “what is steampunk, anyway?” issue that rears its head continually.
Jake Von Slatt has his own notion of what steampunk is, what it means and where it can take its practitioners. It is an overt political (although not partisan) viewpoint and was passionately articulated at SteamPowered 08’s keynote session. Is it grandiose? Probably. Unreasonable? Maybe. Intriguing? Only if you like that sort of thing. As it happens, I do. Not to agree or disagree, but simply to observe and take note and notice tendrils of Lessig’s remix culture mix in with folks who get very excited over Jules Verne and brass geegaws.
From a DIY technology perspective, Steampunk is a romanticized cousin to the Maker movement—and the Maker movement is the hardware-based offspring of the hugely successful and important Open Source software revolution.
The advent of cheap personal computers spawned a society of programmers and hackers who write computer programs for their own use and distribute the source code, the program’s core instructions, for free to anyone that’s interested. Over time, these hackers have coalesced into groups and organizations that are capable of rivaling the skill and ability of huge corporations when it comes to the production of computer programs and particularly computer operating systems.
Furthermore, the Open Source movement seeks to protect the free and open nature of what they have wrought with tools like the GNU Public License that require subsequent users and modifiers of their work to make those modifications freely available to everyone under the same terms. Today you can, and many do, run even the largest businesses on what is essentially free software.