Google Glass: The Glasses of the Future

Each year fashion week consists of one designer trying to “wow” and surprise the press above any other. Well this Fall Fashion week Diane Von Furstenberg stole the show, not only with her clothing, but also with her display of the new Google Glass product on the catwalk. Furstenberg has impressed the fashion world for years, but her partnership with Google took this year’s runway show to the next level.

Furstenberg not only had every model in her show wearing the specs but she also recorded her and the models’ entire fashion week experience through the Google Glass[es]. This footage was then compiled into a short promotional video featuring behind the scene action from the DVF show. Furstenberg is known for always being up to date on the latest social media, but this stunt only proved her to be more of a netizen than before.

The Google Glass product that DVF gracefully debuted has taken wearable technology to the next level. Predicted to be released in 2013 and sold for slightly above $1,000, Google Glass is the phone/computer/ipod/ipad of the future. Essentially the Google Glass is a device that you place on your head with a small projector placed above your eye. The device has all the functions of a phone/computer/ipod/ipad except rather than holding a device in your hand, the bits of information are projected in front of you. The screen can display maps, Skype, texting, pictures, the Internet, apps and even video. It is truly a futuristic device.

In the Washington Post article ‘When Google looked through the looking glass,’Dominic Basulto states that the product most definitely will, “open up a whole new range of possibilities for wearable computing.” Basulto predicts that the device, particularly because of its wearability, will soon be domesticated into society. In Nancy Baym’s book, Personal Connections in the Digital Age, she explains that technologies are domesticated when they transition from no longer being “marvelous and strange,” to being “so ordinary as to be invisible” (45 Baym). Domesticated technologies, she describes, “move from being fringe (wild) objects to everyday (tame) objects embedded deeply in the practices of daily life” (45 Baym). For example, phones have been domesticated, as we rarely consider our phones to be anything spectacular but rather see them as an extra limb, a necessity in day to day life.

As Google Glasses don’t have to be held in your hand or stored in your pocket, it will be easy to forget they are even there, allowing them to easily become assumed as a part of life. Walking down the streets of NYC, for example, Basulto paints a picture of the future where, “you are able to check out the details about your latest paramour from Match.com on your new Google Glasses before heading out for dinner and movie” (Basulto). Basulto is primarily positive about the release of this tech-savvy eye wear, but while the Google Glass product will be in fact wearable and very convenient it could also prove to have a negative impact on people, preventing people even more so from having technology free, face to face interactions. How can you truly focus on another person if you have text messages popping up in front of your eyes?

As I am somewhat of a technological determinist, I believe that releasing the Google Glass will have a direct effect on society. In Nancy Baym’s book Personal Connection in the Digital Age she introduces the term technological determinism with Marshall McLuhan’s phrase, “the medium is the message” (26 Baym). Essentially what McLuhan meant by this is that whenever we use technology to receive and send information, we are not only receiving the information intended to be sent but also the “characteristics” of technology (26 Baym). Claude Fischer puts it that technology essentially imprints itself on users (26 McLuhan).     Technology changes the way we perceive the information and also changes the way that we act and interact in its presence . I believe the Google Glass will most definitely alter our existing society because it completely changes the way we receive and send information through technology.

With this new increased mobility of the Google Glass (which we place on our heads) we will have even less of an opportunity to get away from our technology. As Nancy Baym explains, the more mobile an object is the more responsibility a person has to respond to messages instantly. Even now with just cell phones we are expected to respond to messages within an hour or it is considered rude. What if messages were popping up on a screen in front of us? Would it become socially unacceptable to respond more than 5 minutes later? Not being able to escape technology will most definitely keep us informed and connected digitally but truly could prevent us from being connected personally, and living present in the moment.

As discussed in Michael Wesch’s “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube” the online community is tight and growing fast growing. In Wesch’s video he discusses how this growth is reflected in the popularity of YouTube sensations. People across the world have seen Charlie Bit Me and bond in this imagined community over how amusing yet adorable this clip is. What effect will the Google Class have on YouTube sensations? Presumably they would gain even more celebrity status. I’m curious to see how the Google Glass will interact not only with YouTube but also with our society overall. Perhaps this device is just what we need to move forward. Maybe this technology will lead to leaps in the world of science, or boost SAT scores by the hundreds because you can study on the go. What do you believe will happen as a result of the Google Glass? Do you think it will have a negative or positive affect on our society? Is this just the start of wearable technology? Let me know your thoughts about this daring futuristic device. Perhaps someday we will look back at this blog post and laugh at a time when we lived without Google Glass.

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3 comments

  1. To be honest, I was originally compelled to respond to your piece because as an avid fan of Google and Windows, I am endlessly appreciative and excited when a company such as Google (or anything other than Apple, really) comes out with an innovative new tech product. Additionally, with the little I’ve read about Google Glass until now, I was intrigued and wanted to know more.
    I initally wanted to respond with measured enthusiasm. Enthusiasm because Google Glass is something of personal interest to me – my father has been waiting for just this product for the majority of my life. He has always been talking about how technology has come so far that it does not make sense to him that it is not yet wearable in the form of glasses. He wants glasses that will recognize faces for him. Google Glass fills this and so many, many more daily social/technological difficulties. My enthusiasm was originally measured due to concerns of distraction, though. However, after reading David Pogue’s analysis of Google Glass in his NYTimes blog*, I feel a bit better about the prospects. Pogue clarifies all the nitty-gritty physical restraints that may – but do not, according to him – hold back Google Glass, so that all that’s left are the extremely valid societal cautions.
    You bring up extremely salient points about how Google Glass will eventually affect society – and I definitely agree with you in many respects. I wonder if our culture is even ready for such mobile techologies, and if we are prepared to handle them. Can we handle the temptation – and ability – to be wired in even more often than we are already? Baym starts off her next chapter (ch. 3) with a depicition of society’s communication analysis; generally, she says, people prefer face-to-face communication as a more personable form than over the phone or online. However, with products like Google Glass available, it seems like online communication may surpass face-to-face as the preferred method of personal communication.
    Lastly, I find it incredibly interesting that Google Glass was first introduced in such a large scale at a fashion show, of all places. It’s as if to say that the main issue concerning Google Glass is that it might potentially be cumbersome and unfashionable.

    *(http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/13/google-glass-and-the-future-of-technology/ )

  2. Leah Clancy · · Reply

    While both of you bring up some fantastic points (there’s no denying how “futuristic” this Google glass technology really is), but I don’t think that this can really be chalked up technological determinism.

    Firstly, as you mentioned, your dad has being waiting for these glasses since before they were no more ideas from Sci-Fi and The Twilight Zone; while the actual technology that makes these (goofy-looking) Google glasses up is highly advanced and a result of millions of dollars and years and years and of development, they were originally the product of human imagination. I do realize how sappy that seems, but I don’t think we can disregard that all together.

    Furthermore, we need to consider the highly capitalistic elements at play here— by no means is there an *urgent* demand for a computer that you can wear on your face. Google developed this technology with some incredible possibilities in mind, and the release of the glasses will surely alter how people perceive and interact with technology. And this seemingly fits into Baym’s definition of technological determinism where, “technology is conceptualized as an external agent that acts upon and changes society” (25). But you need to incorporate the supply and demand effect as well. No matter how advanced or specialized any given technology may be, if no one wants to buy it, it’s not going to survive in the market.

    The Times article clearly points out how much agency the market has in regards to the take-off the the glasses. They were marketed *to death* at the Von Furstenberg show. There was a clamor within circles of fashion week to decry how ugly the attempt at a bizarre and obvious product placement truly was (and boy, was it). Von Furstenberg was in many ways a trailblazer by incorporating such a modern piece of tech in her show. But many decisions went into the glasses’ use. Both the Google and Von Furstenberg teams had to actively come up with and decide upon a series of ideas that led to this entire deal. The connection of technology you wear on your face and high fashion just isn’t naturally there. The Google Glass didn’t do it, the people who want you to buy them did.

    So I suppose that this places me closer the the Social Shaping discourse on the spectrum of things. And for what it’s worth, Apple products are SO GREAT. 😉

  3. This is something I’ve been meaning to tweet about for class, so I’m glad you wrote about it!! When the original Google glasses video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JSnB06um5r4 ) was posted last May there was a lot of positive response. The comments section includes comments like “TAKE. MY. MONEY. NAO.” “Please tell me this is real” And “Just think of what it’s going to be like 20 years from now, my god the technology. as a nerd I approve this project.” Overall, people were curious. It’s 2012 and the world looks nothing like Back to the Future Part II (which takes place in 2015).

    The glasses also bring up the question of when are we too connected? Older generations (like our grandparents) likely think the Internet is too much to handle. My grandma doesn’t even utilize the contacts book in her flip phone. Instead she carries around a handwritten address book. So, a technology like this would likely elicit more criticism that this generation is too controlled by technology.

    In response to Aliza’s question (is our culture ready?), I think the answer is no. There are enough accidents involving texting and motion (walking, driving, cycling). Imagine if you were constantly distracted my weather, text messages, email alerts, etc. This parody illustrates my concern: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ma8NbpCvSwo. Apple just came out with the iphone 5, are some people already willing to move on to the next thing? I do agree that this seems to be closer to the social shaping discourse. I’m fine with using the map app on my phone, but some people want it laid out in front of them.

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