by Kenneth Rudich
In case you don’t know, Google is on the verge of introducing a digital headset named Glass to the consumer market. Also referred to as wearable-technology, it’s already sparked a lively debate.
Amid public concern about it becoming a prop for antisocial behavior and privacy invasion, the tech giant initially suggested the etiquette for Glass will evolve much like it has with other recent technologies.
Upon learning this, public confidence grew in a manner similar to how the aforementioned etiquette evolved – in the abstract.
One comment noted, “The problem with technology is that it’s only as good as the user – and society has shown itself to be a little on the selfish, rude and creepy side when it comes to some of this stuff.”
Google then did a turnabout by issuing a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” for Glass.
For example: “If you’re asked to turn your phone off, turn Glass off as well,” Google wrote. “Breaking the rules or being rude will not get businesses excited about Glass and will ruin it for other Explorers.” (Note: “Explorers” are a select group of pre-launch consumers that Google hopes to leverage as product ambassadors.)
The business translation of Google’s message: Don’t be a “Glasshole” (a Google-coined term) and spoil our prospect for generating a handsome revenue stream.
One of many subsequent responses included this thought: ‘It troubles me that in the face of some tremendous privacy concerns associated with Glass, Google’s response is “Don’t worry, Glass users will self-police, we’ll tell them how.” In other words, there are no systematic safeguards against abuse coming from within Glass, and law/policy are too far behind the times to do any good. Frankly this makes me nervous.’
But maybe Google is onto something. Consider this: Wouldn’t it be nice if our society did a better, more effective job of nurturing the non-tech elements – such as instilling the basic norms of etiquette, courtesy and civility — so that they work with equal virtue in both the real and the digital worlds? Furthermore, wouldn’t it be grand if we could do it organically – that is, by ourselves and for ourselves – rather than force the need to have it artificially imposed by policy or law?
Perhaps our society has reached a watershed moment in the course of time with respect to this matter. Though we’ve been brought to this place by the endless procession of new technologies, it’s really still about us as people — or rather, our collective self — and whether or not we care enough to take an active role in what happens with our humanity moving forward.
Is there a happy middle ground between being a Glasshole and a Glassnot?
Here’s one respondent’s take on it: “I don’t see how Google Glasses can be a social success without being rude. Unless your [sic] sitting in bed by yourself, any interaction with other people will be odd. To give a better example, hands free phones. I can’t stand seeing the people who walk around grocery stores or in businesses talking on those things. You don’t know if they are crazy or just rude. The thought of such a thing having a camera is just more awkward. Your [sic] not suppose [sic] to use them while driving, you don’t wanna be walking down the sidewalk wearing them, or in a business. When your [sic] at home, your [sic] just going to be rude wearing them around your family. If your family is talking to you, they will wonder if your [sic] even listening or paying attention.”
Whether or not you agree with this assessment of Google Glass, isn’t it refreshing to see that a concern for social etiquette has found its way into the heart of the discussion?
As another commenter noted: “Digital happiness can make one’s day happy, but being unable to keep your netiquette can ruin another’s life.”