Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Google Glass: Have people really thought this through?

Thinking about the socmedisation of meatspace I'm not sure that your average person has really thought about the consequences. Online, we tailor our messages for a specific public in certain controlled ways, knowing that all we are is a stream of text and images, set pristinely at a distance from those who consume what we post. So we can be quite revelatory, showing aspects of ourselves that we would never introduce into conversation in meatspace. With Google Glasses, of course, we're talking about a level of engagement that occurs well in advance of that required for a conversation; we're talking about ourselves being tagged so that others walking down the street have access to information about us.

How much control will we want to exercise in such a situation? Would we really be happy if Google Glass showed passersby what we had recently posted on Facebook? I sincerely doubt it. But the tendency once the technology has been adequately realised will be toward more revelation, rather than less. It's hard enough now in Facebook to stop the application using the scraps of information it possesses about me to serve up targeted ads designed to pique my interest. (Let alone how successful or otherwise that activity actually is.) And socmed platforms like Google itself are going around the virtual online walls and harvesting related information from many places, where it can positively identify who I am. In meatspace once there is the likelihood of a company - which may not even exist yet - using information about me to sell products to other companies (say, through advertising) then the gloves are going to be off. In such an environment, you may want to be careful what information you show to the people walking past you down the city street.

I wonder just how it's going to work, anyway. Will we see barcodes attached to everything from storefronts to individuals to cars to bicycles? If someone's Google Glass catches sight of a barcode, just what information is going to be visible to the wearer? Are we going to see tattoo parlours offering to affix those barcodes permanently to some highly-prominent part of our anatomies? Will criminals have barcodes affixed as part of their punishment? Would public servants like emergency personnel have barcodes affixed that would be impervious to counterfeiting, to prevent crimes from occurring? What about police?

Live tagging in meatspace offers so many new ramifications that we are still in the grey-fuzz phase of imagining how it can turn out, and how we want to be portrayed in this strange world of revealed truth. For myself, I like to think that I can walk down the street in complete anonymity, with nothing visible to others apart from the clothes that I wear; am I being selfish? Am I being just blithely optimistic?

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