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Mecha-love

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As creatures of the natural universe – risen from dust, apes and the rest of that – humanity has a special place in its heart for nature.

Can we feel the same about machinery and technology of our own making? Tools from the Model T Ford to the iPod – devices that are ostensibly about utility – have taught us that machines can have aesthetic utility too, that we can appreciate them for their beauty no differently than we do nature.

Not only that, we've now had a widely mechanised society for so long we can even be nostalgic about it. What else is the steampunk design movement about?

I was struck with the above while watching the two films that scooped the 2012 Oscars, The Artist and Hugo. The former is a love letter to what was essentially a shortcoming in media technology. Real life has always been depicted complete with sound and in full colour. Isn't it strange to romanticise a time when our species simply wasn't clever enough (whether it was because of commercial or scientific reasons) to replicate reality like we can today?

In Hugo it's even more pronounced. Martin Scorsese's wistful love story between boy and machinery not only loves but absolutely fetishises the mechanics of early movies. The scenes of the automaton starting to work and the giant clockworks and factory-like environment of the Paris train station are like pornography to antique mechanical engineering enthusiasts. It's all clunking cogs, warm-coloured brass and the satisfying clatter of parts moving against each other.

We need a century or so, but eventually all technology attracts the same aesthetic allure for us as nature. Watch as a senior family member complains about all these newfangled i-thingies and then goes to listen to the radio, a then-incredible technology that's second nature to them as the web is to generations X and Y.

Therefore, your next hit movie should have plenty of apparatus that some new tool or standard in the last 50 years has rendered completely obsolete.

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