Culture of Narcissism Meets Google Glasses

The recent case of Google Glass wearer Cecelia Abadie being given a citation for wearing a computer-in-eyeglass device while driving is only a launch point for what will be some very interesting court battles. The citation was dismissed in a San Diego court by a judge who properly noted that the police could not prove the device was in use and therefore charge Miss Abadie with distracted driving under the code.

Abadie was cited under a code banning operation of a video or TV screen at the front of a vehicle that is moving. Blair said the code’s language is broad enough that it could also apply to Google Glass if there were evidence the device was activated while the motorist was driving. But Abadie, who wore the device around her neck during her trial, insisted afterward that the screen is above her line of vision, its functions can be activated with her voice or a wink, and it is not a distraction even when activated.

I’m not too interested in the state’s case for distracted driving because most of these laws are totalitarian, no matter how much we dislike the abject quality of driving that materializes from the dimwits of distraction. While I personally despise those moments where drivers distract themselves to the point of a total lack of spatial awareness, as my friend Amy Alkon has written, “you can’t ban our way to safety.”

For the most part, I am more intrigued by the imminent evolution of Google Glass and how this device will further redefine the human connection in a way that sacrifices conversation in exchange for cyborg companionship. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Google Glass event at MOCAD (Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit) when Google came to Detroit in November 2013 to promote a user demonstration of Google Glass.

The Detroit Free Press headline reads, “Google Glass Wows at MOCAD.” It was a well-organized event where folks were let into the demo area in small groups to speak with the Google Glass Guides and try out the device for as long as was desired. Afterwards, attendees were ushered over to a lounge area of the museum to indulge in free beverages and appetizers. All participants had photos taken while wearing the device, and we left with a printed copy as well as an emailed digital version of the photo.

I attended with an open mind because I wanted to be educated on the product so that I could either endorse it or condemn it as just another overt device of the culture of narcissism. The demo I experienced began with the Google Guide telling me he was “very excited” to see my reaction to this amazing new device. After thirty minutes of fussing with the Glass and trying out all of the available options, I was absolutely floored over the lack of excitement I experienced in totality. To be truthful, I went in a bit prejudiced, thinking that perhaps this was a device that was going to turn a generation of digital narcissists into unrestrained egomaniacs. On the other hand, I expected the actual product to be somewhat cool, and it wasn’t. It was completely unexciting and uneventful – sorry Google.

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