Tag Archives: popular culture

Techs-Mechs – Steampunk time?

Ulysse Nardin Chairman Mechanical Smartphone

Ulysse Nardin Chairman Mechanical Smartphone

I’ve been following the Steampunk phenomenon with fascination. It’s a stylistical branching out that makes perfect sense to me, bringing as it does the formal exuberance of 19th century excitement at the technological wonders of the industrial revolution, its heavy mechanical seduction, its steam and coaldust manliness, onto the flat, bland and opaque physicality of our own turn of the century electronics: Steampunk is hard at work trying to turn Bill Gates into Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Until now, Steampunk has been a somewhat tribal affair, developed by cyberpunk geeks intent on beautifying their gear, a labour of love and tinkering. Well, Steampunk is finally crossing over into mainstream consumer electronics – I was wondering when – and with the support of The Long Now Foundation no less… It makes perfect sense. The Ulysse Nardin Chairman hybrid smartphone’s unique selling point? It’s powered by a mechanical thingy that charges its battery through the users’ movements, just like self-winding wristwatches do. And it looks pure Steampunk.

I leave you with a couple of Steampunk beauties, in the hope that I will get a few of you hooked onto the trend.

Laptop by Datamancer

Laptop by Datamancer

Brass USB stick

Brass USB stick

Steampunk'd desktop computer

Steampunk'd desktop computer

And of course the most spectacular of them all, Paul St George’s Telectroscope that linked London and New York, the twin capitals of Steam and Punk, in the summer of 2008.

The Telectroscope, London end.

The Telectroscope, London end.

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Batman joins The Wheelman in Barcelona

It can’t be the weather. I don’t think it’s the nightlife, either. The food? I doubt that Batman and The Wheelman will be able to spare any time for tapas while they chase the bad guys down the dark alleys of the Gothic Quarter. But come March, they’ll both be in Barcelona doing their stuff, joining Vicky and Cristina in the latest trend of celebrity tourism: that of film, comic book and video game characters.

This recent spate as a leading city of pop-cultural narrative imagination marks a turning point in Barcelona’s steady climb towards global recognition. In the case of Batman and The Wheelman, these latest representations of Barcelona will reach an audience that might not care much about architecture, design and molecular gastronomy. And as the image of the city slips away from the tight controlling grip of its institutional and high-cultural minders, we might all be able to reclaim a more open, more complex version of our city – or drown in the endless rehash of half-baked Barcelonese stereotypes.