What's the deal with renames?

I don’t understand the point of changing from Outlandish artefact into Unprovenanced.
I am not complaining, in fact, it changes nothing to me, I just literally don’t understand what’s the fuss. I’m from non-English speaking country with Western values being only partially relevant, and thus often miss finer points.

Could someone be a dear and explain it?

Br = British English.
Am = American English.
FL = Fallen London

In FL, we use Br. Note that in Br vs Am, some words have different spellings, different meanings, different uses.

The issue of &quotoutlandish artefact&quot vs &quotunprovenanced artefact&quot is a matter of definition. Let me break things down as simply as I can. Please search google if you still do not understand me.

artefact comes from the latin words:
arte = something that comes from art
factum = to make

I assume you know what &quotartefact&quot means. Artefact is Br. It has 2 meanings:

  1. a manmade object that is of historical or archaeological or cultural interest/value. Example - an urn from ancient Greece (in B.C. times)
  2. something that is observed in a scientific experiment. this &quotartefact&quot is not a physical objecy. Instead, you are a scientist. You observe something during an experiment that is NOT naturally there when you first start the experiment. Instead, you suddenly see this happening when you are halfway through the experiment OR at the end of the experiment. Example: Plastic from an empty soft drink bottle (like Coke) curves if you put a burning candle under it. So in your report you will write &quotthe curvature of the surface is an artefact of the application of heat&quot.

In the context of FL, definition of artefact is (1).

Let us see what &quotoutlandish&quot means. It has 2 meanings, both of which are applicable in the world of FL:
a. something that looks/sounds bizarre, weird, strange or unfamiliar. Example: If you have never seen traditional Manchurian dance before with old music, old costumes etc, you will say it is &quotoutlandish&quot.
b. something that is foreign or alien to your own culture, mores, ways, habits. Example: If you don’t know anything about cosplaying as cartoon or comic characters (dressing up like a superhero or as a Star Trek character), you can call Jack who is dressed that way &quotoutlandish&quot.

So, in FL, outlandish artefact will mean:

  • a strange object that you found while performing an archaelogical dig. this thing you found is strange, alien to London &quotculture&quot and what most &quotnormal&quot people in FL are used to. but you know this thing is from an old, ancient culture, that’s why you can call it an artefact.

Also, in the FL world, &quotoutlandish&quot is a pun that gives the word yet another clever joke-type of meaning. Yes, &quotoutlandish&quot has the definitions I spoke of above AND the &quotpun&quot (a joke that is obscure because you have to be in the know to grasp its meaning) at the same time. I will explain. In this &quotjoke&quot context, this word &quotoutlandish&quot is formed from the words and meanings &quotcoming from outside this land&quot. In the FL world, what is &quotthis land&quot? London and Fallen London. So, think. This joke means &quotthis object comes from outside the land of London and Fallen London&quot, meaning it did not originate in London or Fallen London. This joke meaning ALSO combines with the meanings of outlandish as stated above in (1) and (2). Again, the nuance may be lost to you if you’re not familiar with English.

Unprovenanced is a word that will be &quotoutlandish&quot to you if you are unfamiliar to the nuances of English, especially archaic English. Archaic English means old-fashioned English. That was once normal English not very long ago, but is not used much nowadays except by people in certain age groups or people in certain jobs or people who specialise in a certain field of studies. This is different from other older forms of English that I will not talk about as it will likely confuse you. Instead, I will give you a modern day example of &quotarchaic English&quot using myself as example. Example of this: I like to say &quotI don’t know aught&quot. In modern 2020s English, you will say &quotI don’t know anything&quot. But if you don’t know English well, you will not understand me when I say &quotI don’t know aught&quot.

FL uses archaic English because this game is in Victorian times and the English then is not the English now. Words that are normal then, are not &quotnormal&quot now. Example - now you will can call a man &quota guy&quot. But in those days, you must say &quotgentleman&quot if he is a man with good manners or &quotman&quot if is a rough sort of man who spits everywhere or &quotworkman&quot if he is man who does hard labour. In those days, you say &quotI met an odd personage whilst taking a turn in the shubbery&quot. Nowadays, you will say &quotI saw a strange dude as I walked in the park&quot. Notice the difference between archaic English and modern English. So bear in mind that even if you know English but you don’t know the literature, etymology of words etc well, some of the word usage in the FL game will be very &quotoutlandish&quot to you and I mean it indefinitions (a) and (b).

Now, let us look at what &quotunprovenanced&quot means. To do that, let us see what &quotprovenance&quot means. &quotProvenance&quot has 3 meanings:
i) it is a fancy way of saying &quotorigins&quot. Example - What is the provenance of this wine? When you say that, you want to know the origins of the wine, like where it comes from, where is it made, which vineyard makes it, what year is it made, what species of grape, etc. In another example, you want to know the history or origins of a precious item. Pretend you live in a castle with a 16th century rug that is very beautiful and in very good condition. I visit you. I notice this rug. I will ask you, &quotwhat is the provenance of this lovely rug?&quot You will say, &quotoh, it is of Persian provenance&quot meaning it is made in Persia.
ii) the start of something’s existence. Example - Science is still trying to determine the provenance of the universe. This means scientists are still trying to find out how the universe started.
iii) the record of ownership of an artwork (like a painting or statue) to prove that it is a good quality AND authentic object of historical value. Example - Pretend you have a medieval book of hours (a religious book) that is handmade, handwritten, hand painted. Pretend that you need to sell this book because you need the money. You will need to prove the provenance of this book, meaning you need to prove that it is real, that it is not a fake, that it is really owned by you, that it can be proved that you inherited it from your father, that it can be proved your grandfather bought it from a famous auction house that proved the object is real, that you have an expert to prove that the book is high quality, etc.

In the world of FL, especially when the object is found when you perform an archaelogical dig, the definition of provenance is the one I spoke of in (i).

Now that you know Provenance, let is look at &quotunprovenanced&quot. It is the opposite of that. Simply put, you don’t know the origins of object X. You don’t know where it comes from or what it is.

Within FL, &quotan unprovenanced object&quot is an object

  • that you don’t know what it is
  • you cannot trace its history because you don’t even know what this thing is
  • you cannot trace its origins because you don’t know what it is.

I surmise that FL changed the name of the object from &quotoutlandish artefact&quot to &quotunprovenanced object&quot because they want to convey this meaning:

  • it is more mysterious to say &quotI found this thing but I don’t know what it is because I cannot trace its history/origins, and no one knows anything about it either&quot
  • previously, it was &quotI found this strange object that is just bizarre to me because I have never seen anything like this before, but my research shows that I can trace it to a previous Fallen City that was ‘consumed’ by the Bazaar&quot.
    edited by Lady Strange on 5/24/2020
    edited by Lady Strange on 5/24/2020

In recent times, Failbetter has become more active about replacing potentially problematic elements in the writing of the game. I suspect this has at least a little bit to do with a recent-ish controversy surrounding the original CEO, from whom Failbetter have been quick to try to distance themselves from.

The changes that come to mind are changing one option in the Struggling Artist card to not be soliciting sexual favors in exchange for money, and changing the “The Lead” option when making works at court to not be about sleeping with the lead actor.

I suspect the change to Outlandish/Unprovenanced Artefacts is in the same vein. The very existance of that item in the game is kind of iffy, since the British have a long history of stealing objects of cultural importance from less powerful countries, which is generally more or less what you do a lot of the time in Sunless Sea (The game where the item came from originally). There are several occasions in that game where you just straight-up take a thing that seems outlandish to you and is of value to the community you take it from (To be fair to the game, usually you either find it in a ruin or trade for it with the community).

The original name was a bit of a pun, suggesting both definitions of the word “outlandish”, both “from other lands” but also “weird, strange”. The issue with that is that it’s only weird and strange from the perspective of the Londoner. The word “unprovenanced” meanwhile only connotes “from lands unknown” without making any value judgments as to whether it’s a weird object. The name fits in Fallen London, although I feel it wouldn’t fit in Sunless Sea since in that game you do generally know exactly where it comes from. Notably, in Sunless Skies the analogous item is called an “Otherworldly Artefact”, which again makes no value judgments and only refers to the item being from other worlds.

Now for some soapboxing on my part: Along with changing the name, they changed the description. The change from Outlandish to Unprovenanced was arguably unnecessary but probably for the best, but the change in description was just a complete downgrade. The original was one of the best pieces of text in the entire game. It was brilliantly sarcastic, insightful and funny. The new one is a heavy-handed, preachy repetition of the same idea with bad grammar. The first time I saw the original description in the game I literally took a screenshot of it and showed a couple friends because I thought it was that good. The new one is just bad.

For context, the original was:

“This belongs in a museum! Assuming that colonial-imperial appropriation for the purpose of hegemonic taxonomisation is a suitable response to the problem of intercultural contact. Which it probably is, because museums are magnificent institutions.”

While the new one is

“Meticulously crafted by skilled, far-away hands for a deliberate but unknown purpose, and then appropriated, boxed up, and brought to London because “it will look so handsome over the fireplace?””

Eh. The old description was a lengthy equivocation on the history of museums, based on an Indiana Jones reference. The new description is actually about the object in question, and is both original and amusing.

Nah, the old description wins hands down.

I disagree on both counts. The observation is not at all original and I did not find it amusing (Though humor is subjective).

I may have a bit of bias here, since the original description was the first time I ever actually questioned the institution of the museum as a tool of colonialism/imperialism, but I tracked down the patch notes for the change and they have this to say:

[color=rgb(0, 102, 255)]The old version approached imperialism in a tongue-in-cheek way that was nonetheless exoticising. This is no longer our preferred approach to depictions of colonialism, and in addition this quality is about to serve a bigger and more involved role in content, so it felt appropriate to amend its description to fit that new role.[/color]

It seems to me like they failed. The new description is still a tongue-in-cheek remark about colonialism and it goes beyond exoticising all the way to fetishising the labour involved in the artefact’s creation. The previous one was a joke, but it was a joke at the expense of colonialism and had a clever observation to back it up, not to mention how beautifully constructed the language in it was. The new one is still a joke, but the joke is now essentially &quottourists, amirite?&quot.

For an experiment, my sister is an anthropologist. I showed her the original and she thought it was brilliant and asked me what book it came from since she would like to use it in an article as it coincidentally relates to what she’s working on (She quickly changed her mind when I told her it was from a game, that’s life). Note that she’s not only an anthropologist, but we’re both South American and live in a historically colonized country with a bloody history of colonizers taking cultural golden relics by force. The second-biggest museum of golden artefacts is this country, the biggest is in Spain, mostly full of our stuff. The original description critiqued this kind of thing in a clever and funny way, now it’s a heavy-handed joke that downplays the history of colonization by reducing it to tourists taking souvenirs for the mantelpiece.

Anyways, that’s all I’ll say about this change. I’ll put the soapbox away now.
edited by NotaWalrus on 5/24/2020

Yeah, I also thought the previous one was a brilliant peice of satire. It had bite and wit and was funny to boot.
The new one…Nah. Definitely want the old one back.

My wife and I are both GLAM professionals and didn’t care for the old one, so, eh, opinions are subjective too.

That’s a tad cynical, don’t you think?

I mean, it’s also not untrue…