Monday, April 29, 2013

Post C2E2 Applied Ghetto Nerd Political Economy: Could Steampunk and 3D Printing Help Save America's Deindustrialized Central Cities?

I had a great time at C2E2 here in Chicago.

I am a ghetto nerd. Therefore, events like C2E2 are a warm embrace and a safe harbor of sorts. I feel renewed.

Like other cons, C2E2 is a nerd prom. As I shared this past weekend on Twitter, there are folks at C2E2 dressed up in characters from the Star Wars, Dr. Who, Marvel, DC, Halo, and various other "universes" of pop culture fandom.

The energy is inclusive and welcoming.

Sure, I cannot help but notice how there are more interracial couples, i.e. black and brown folks with white partners, than there are black and brown folks with other people of color at C2E2. I do have eyes. All parties present seemed happy and at peace with themselves. Does anything else really matter in our small world and short life here on terrestrial Earth?

As I discussed regarding Worldcon, the steampunk genre and its devotees are highly visible here at C2E2. There are vendors, costumers, and cosplayers who are channeling that sensibility. Moreover, the great actor Bruce Boxleitner graced us with a panel on his new steampunk project Lantern City. It is apparent that in 2013, the aesthetic and genre remains relevant.

I have concerns about the extremely "White" imaginary of steampunk. At its worst, the subculture celebrates, in a particular uncritical way, the European colonial and imperial projects of the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries.

The white racial frame is omnipresent in steampunk: many fans seem reluctant to want to challenge their "pleasure" by thinking in a reflective way about slavery, genocide, exploitation, and the various horrors that lie at the center of the European project of global domination that came with the birth of the Industrial era.

Fairness is central to my claims about such matters. Steampunk fans are not unique: who wants to critically interrogate their own relationship to the politics of pleasure? You? Me?

In all, steampunk fascinates me on a practical and applied level. Thus, my question. Could steampunk be a way to re-energize, and recreate for the better, America's central cities? Could steampunk be a means for poor, working class, and other strivers across the colorline to make our former shining metropolises centers of commerce and economic growth?
Steampunk is an anachronistic appreciation of the Victorian era and the early rise of the rise of Industrial period through the use of steam-powered engines. Many African-Americans would probably scoff or make their typical “that’s not us” ignorant comments but to not realize many African-Americans including Elijah McCoy made contributions during this period followed by Garrett Morgan in the early 1900s. In fact, during the Victorian era and early Edwardian era are probably the most outstanding Black history era of Black inventors and go-getters during anytime in Black History... 
As the real McCoy in the 21st century when it comes to technology, I think it would be an honor and proper tribute to pay homage to our Black ancestral inventors, entrepreneurs and tycoons and embrace elements of their lifestyle... 
Not only that, but I would go far as in the same thread as steampunk and say “what if” and start changing the script. What if we brothas and sistas can apply some of the Victorian era technology back then and apply it and embrace some of it right now? Wouldn’t that be the ultimate anachronistic interpretation of the Victorian era? Where we show what our brothas and sistas back in the 1800s could done if they had the opportunity – I appreciate that and why I choose to spend time discussing this. 
What we discovered is a pattern of applying late 1800s packaging and using late 1800s machinery to offer boutique services but apply the technology to offer modern day services. That is the true anachronistic nature of steampunk and I strongly, very strongly believe from what I’ve been seeing in the marketplace that if African-Americans apply steampunk Victorian elements to their branding, it will be very attractive, hip and the in-thing.
Several months ago, I read these two posts over at the site Dream and Hustle.

Its principal writer's tone is very transparent and direct.

Dream and Hustle is oriented towards sharing practical business concepts with the brothers and sisters who are on the block and in the hood, but that are also entrepreneurial by nature. Dream and Hustle's founder is either an autodidact or an MBA from Wharton or Harvard. He could be both.

Bonafides are just paper that matter in some circles; I am very impressed by his range and expertise; He has real skills.

To point:
There are a few things African-Americans should understand about our hoods and steampunk. First of all, many Black neighborhoods been around since the late 1800s and we still have factories, buildings and even old machinery. In addition, we can re-apply some of the old techniques to create a revival to start up these steampunk inspired operations that make use of creative manual labor, steam and machinery to do everything from manufacturing to branding. 
Midwest cities like St. Louis, Detroit and Cleveland for example are a goldmine for this stuff.
Second, and due to the economy, maybe it’s time for us brothas and sistas to go back to the basics and apply anachronism and discover the lost arts and bring those processes back to modern day standards. 
The art of being a butcher, artesian, the art of alchemy creating soaps and lotions and hair oil, the process of leathering, rolling cigars or paper packaging. We don’t need an advanced degrees and intellectual snobbery roundtables to take back our blocks that were built in the 1800s and start reviving old school business models from back in the day to encourage local spending. 
Let’s go into real-world case studies to understand and extrapolate patterns and practices brothas and sistas can apply to hood-based operations or retailing and branding efforts. What I want to show you is how we can create retail operations and our hustles and apply the branding and techniques of the Victorian as well as 1900s era to pay anachronistic homage to our ancestors who lived during that period and revive many of our hoods.
Teach me something if you would. Is steampunk viable as a means for urban renewal? Could steampunk be mated with other technologies such as 3D printing in order to create a "Second Renaissance" in deindustrialized American cities such as Detroit?


Vic78 said...

I believe Steampunk can help. There's a lot of untapped talent in those cities.

Dream and Hustle is official. Those business experts that come on tv ought to be ashamed of their sorry asses. A dude with a Go Daddy website is killing them with one post.

chauncey devega said...

Dream and Hustle is a great resource. He--assuming the site is authored by a "he"--is on point. Real pleasure to learn from.

Constructive_Feedback said...

When Street Pirates start printing 3D guns and thus no longer have to drive down to Georgia or Alabama for their supply of guns to distribute - I imagine that you will be calling for "Regulations On Technology" - but its just a suspicion.

chauncey devega said...

you know I have no use for street pirates. When are you going to make another chart for me?