Interviews, Insights, and Paradoxes

Because I’m required to protect the names of my interview subjects, I can’t say anything other than P1 gave me these insights for my capstone. However, these insights are so awesome, I have to blog about it. Later, I’ll finally get around to doing more artifact analysis in another blog post. In the meantime, the two insights are:

  1. Janusian Thinking
  2. Old to New vs New to Old

So far, I’ve been able to contact a number of interview subjects, but I desperately need more. If you know anyone who crafts or is a DIYer with an interest in Steampunk, do send them my way.

Janusian Thinking

The first great insight is about Janusian Thinking. Janusian Thinking, in short, refers to the Greek god Janus, who has two faces looking in opposite directions. He is the god of doors and gates, endings and beginnings; i.e. paradoxes. People are drawn to paradoxes because they work. A pencil has lasted over time because on one end, you can write, and on the other end, is the opposite tool, where you can erase. It is both a writing tool and an erasing tool in one, and therefore a paradox that works for us. Same thing with a hammer, you can hammer a nail into place, but you can also pry it out with the same tool.

The paradox in the case of Steampunk is the relationship between old and new, real and imagined.

Steampunk, firmly situated in the imagined worlds of HG Wells and Jules Verne, cannot really exist, right? But it does; people are appropriating modern, real technologies as if they were invented during a time where technology was powered with steam. They are adapting the Victorian and Edwardian aesthetics to modern life, making old things new, and new things old. There is something pleasing in seeing an object that looks old but behaves with modern sensibilities. Old items are familiar, inviting, and have a story accompanying them that modern objects rarely have.

This makes me wonder if the reason why Steampunk is so interesting to so many people. But I wonder, why now especially? Why is Steampunk growing in popularity now? I know it’s not the focus of my capstone, but it’s still something to think about.

Old to New vs New to Old

While interviewing P1, I realized that I once again have to scale down my capstone study. True, I am interested in the appropriation of old items and functionality to new functionality. It’s something I would love to do myself. You know, like find an 19th Century camera and making a new projector out of it or something.

However, it seems to me that the side of the coin I should focus on is the conversion of something new to something with an old visual aesthetic. This isn’t to say I will disregard converting something old to have a new functionality, as I see this as being equally important, and might, in fact, be the same thing for some projects.

Perhaps this isn’t making sense. Is this making sense?

2 thoughts on “Interviews, Insights, and Paradoxes

    1. My belief is that by changing the aesthetic, you change the interaction and use. Sometimes this is the case, and sometimes, obviously, it is not.

      That said, I’m looking at appropriation as an act of personal identity, which often goes back to the aesthetics of something. We tend to choose certain objects over others because we like the look and feel of them; they relate to us and we relate to them in some way.

      I am trying to find a way in which interaction designers can design artifacts that are meant to empower the user to make the artifact their own. Which, unless the user is an expert, means changing the aesthetic rather than the function.

      I realize this is a different use of appropriation than the one typically used in ACM. My working definitions are located here:


Drop a Line

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.