Get ready to whip out your lace corset, monocles and steam-powered mouses because 2013 is the year that Steampunk goes mainstream.
For those of you mouthing “steamwhatnow?” at your screens, Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction typically featuring steam-powered machinery (including computers) inspired by 19th Century industrial equipment. The Wild Wild West contained elements of steampunk, although most fan fiction is probably more coherent than a film that, let’s be honest, everyone involved probably regrets.
Anyway, the almighty power that has deemed 2013 the year of Steampunk is none other than IBM. The computing giant based the decision, which headlines its 2013 ‘Social Sentiment Index”, on sentiment analysis across social networks. It claims that the index “combines sophisticated analytics and natural language processing technologies to gauge consumer public opinions from Twitter, blogs, message boards and other social media”.
From 2009 to 2012, it says, the amount of steampunk chatter has increased eleven-fold. Since 2010, more than two dozen US department stores and specialty retailers have become steampunk savvy. During the next two years, IBM predicts that steampunk will shift from low production, high cost “craft” manufacturing to mass production.
Big Blue also reckons that Twitter is the social network of choice for fans of the genre, hosting six times as much discussion around the subject as Facebook. One possible reason for that is that Twitter has a younger demographic than Facebook, making it a more natural fit. According to IBM, 63% of fashion discussions around steampunk are initiated by people less than 30 years old.