Google Glass, Google, technology, Journalist, ubiquitous computing, research method, Research data, journalists, wearable computer, non-human, Google maps, wearable computing, controversies, human actors, ANT, Glass creation, privacy issues, human interactions, International Public Management Journal, London, Callon, Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, diffuse Glass, privacy invasion, new technology, facial recognition, Mark Weiser, computing devices, Latour, non-humans, research results, Google Search, Actor Network Theory, Google Accounts, Glass Attack, Google calendar, Luxottica Google, human interaction
WHO IS AFRAID OF GOOGLE GLASS? MAPPING THE CONTROVERSY ABOUT
WEARABLE AND UBIQUITOUS COMPUTING
Amarolinda Klein Angilberto Sabino de Freitas Cristiane Drebes Pedron Silvia Elaluf-Calderwood Paper presented at the Academy of Management Meeting Vancouver CA - 2015
ABSTRACT Google Glass has been a promise of a first wearable computing device to be sold in a large scale. When it was launched, some experts claimed that Google Glass represented the future of computing, while other actors, such as journalists, lawmakers, artists and NGOs raised a set of concerns about how this device will be incorporated in our daily lives, for instance, regarding privacy issues. Therefore, we have an interesting controversy (a shared uncertainty) about wearable computing. The aim of this paper is to explore the controversy that arose with the launch of Google Glass in order to understand what are the views and expectations about wearable-ubiquitous computing manifested by the different actors involved. Our main theoretical foundation is the Actor Network Theory. The research method was inductive and based on the collection and analysis of secondary data from the Web, following the method of controversy mapping. As research results, we map and analyze the different expectations (hopes and fears) about Glass, from the many different human actors involved in the controversy, such as developers, lawmakers, IT experts, consultants, artists and Ёordinary peopleЁ, among others. The role played by the non-human actors, such as smartphones, operational systems and clothing is also addressed. By understanding this controversy, we
raise a set of issues and implications for the future development of wearable and ubiquitous
KEY WORDS Google Glass, Ubiquitous Computing, Wearable computing, Actor Network Theory, Controversy Mapping
INTRODUCTION We live the era of ubiquitous computing, in which there are several computing devices available for each person; the technology has a natural interface and becomes embedded in several contexts and objects (Weiser, 1991). Particularly, wearable computing is an attempt to make computers truly part of everyday life by inserting them into clothing and alike, for instance, watches or glasses (Starner, 1996). The wearable-computer market may increase up to $6 billion by 2016, according to IMS Research (Kharif, 2013), reaching a total of 19.2 million units of wearable computing devices in 2014 (IDC, 2014). Google Glass has appeared as a promise of a first wearable computing device to be sold in a large scale. When it was launched, some experts claimed that Glass represented the future of computing, while other actors, such as journalists, lawmakers, artists and NGOs raised a set of concerns about how this type of wearable computing device will be incorporated in daily life. Therefore, the Google Glass launch has created a controversy, defined here as a shared uncertainty (Latour, 2005). This case highlights a set of issues about the future of wearable and ubiquitous computing, in which human and non-humans engage with one another in a series of associations and performances over time. In this sense, Actor-Network Theory - ANT (Callon 1986; Law & Hassard 1999; Latour 2005; Law 2004) can be applied to explore this controversy by focusing in the actors (human and non-humans), their actions and the associations they make.
The use of ANT as a theoretical framework
has already a certain tradition in studies of
information systems and computing (Bowker & Star, 1999; Cornford et al., 2010; Doolin &
Lowe, 2002; Hanseth et al., 2004; Hanseth et al., 2006; Quattrone & Hopper, 2006; Rhodes,
2009; Star & Ruhleder 1996; Timmermans & Berg 1997; Walsham, 1997; Wernick et al.,
2008). Researches using ANT might fairly offer reasonable understandings and explanations
about the increasing hybridization of humans and computer technologies (Walsham, 1997).
ANT can offer a plausible comprehension of sociotechnical relations from a relativist view of
the nature of Modern Society
(Lee & Hassard, 1999), in which the social and the technical are
gathered in the same analytic view (Hassard et al., 1999).
In this context, the aim of this paper is to explore the controversy that arose with the launch
of Google Glass in order to understand what are the views and expectations about wearable and
ubiquitous computing manifested by the different actors involved. Technological expectations can
be described as "real-time representations of future technological situations and capabilities"
indicating wishful enactments of a desired future, and being, in this way, performative (Borup et al.,
2006: 286) it means, expectations can actually influence technology development.
The research method was inductive and based on the collection and analysis of secondary
data from the Web, following the method for mapping controversies (Venturini, 2009, 2010).
Through our data analysis
, we discuss the different expectations (hopes and fears) about Glass
from the many different human actors involved in the controversy, such as developers,
lawmakers, IT experts, consultants, artists and Ёordinary peopleЁ, among others. The role played
by the non-human actors, such as smartphones, operational systems and clothing is also
addressed. By understanding this controversy, we raise a set of issues and implications of the
different expectations involved for future developments of wearable and ubiquitous computing.
The paper is structured as follows: in the next section we explore the literature about
ubiquitous and wearable computing, ANT and controversies. In the next section we present
the research method, and then the controversy mapped (Google Glass launch). In the last
section we discuss the research results and their implications, with concluding remarks.
UBIQUITOUS AND WEARABLE COMPUTING The term ubiquitous computing was coined by Mark Weiser in 1991 to describe the third wave in computing. According to Weiser (1991: 94) "the most profound technologies are those that disappear", meaning that, according to the vision of ubiquitous computing, the use of technology becomes a tacit dimension in daily life, because computers become so integrated, so pervasive and natural, that we do not have to pay attention to them. Weiser's ubiquitous computing vision is turning into reality due to the fast development of mobile technologies and the expansion of Internet use, allowing chips to be installed in a wide variety of devices interconnected, such as cell phones, smartphones, clothes, cars, tables, doors, appliances, etc. (Ladd et al., 2010). According to Weiser, ubiquitous computing is based on three fundamental objectives: (1) natural interaction with humans, (2) intelligent technologies, and (3) communication. Wearable computing is one of the branches of ubiquitous computing. The wearable computing allows computation to move from the desktop to people (Starner et al., 1997), given empowerment to the individual (Mann, 1997a). Although the earliest wearable system was built in 1961 (Thorp, 1998), only in the mid of the 90s the concept of wearable computing had achieved academic respectability (Baber et al., 1999). With the technological devices' miniaturization and portability, wearable computers are more popular today (Fong et al., 2003). According to Viseu (2003), the main four research areas
of wearable computing are: (1) medical/health to monitor the body; (2) work to improve efficiency and productivity; (3) security to augment or diminish physical abilities, and; (4) leisure for life-style applications.
Mann (1997a: 205) defines a wearable computer as a "data processing system attached to
the body, with one or more output devices (...), where the output is perceptible constantly despite
the particular task or body position, and input means (...) where the input means allows the
functionality of the data processing system (...) to be modified". In order to clarify this concept,
the author defines seven attributes: (1) constant (always ready); (2) unrestrictive to the user (you
can do other things while using it); (3) unmonopolising of the user's attention; (4) observable by
the user (it can get your attention if you want); (5) controllable by the user; (6) attentive to the
environment (gives the user increased situational awareness); (6) communicative to others, and
(7) personal (human and computer are intertwined).
The main goal of wearable computers is the inextricable link between the human and the
technology, which differs from portable computers (Mann, 1997a). This huge link allows
improving the human intelligence capacity by the feedback loop of the computational process
(Mann, 2013). As the technology is always running, the human has the feeling of being multi-task
(Deshpande et al., 2013). As the technology can be incorporated like a prosthetic, it can be
perceived as an extension of the user's mind and body (Mann, 1998). This close relation between
human and technology, to the point of achieving humanistic intelligence (Mann, 1998), has the
promise of transforming a computer into our second brain - to the point that we do not know if an
information is part of our memory or it is recorded in a wearable computer (Mann, 1997b).
One concern of the research on wearable technology is related to its usability. In this
context, the concept of universal design
is especially relevant (Gandy et al., 2003). This concept
includes a set of principles: equitable use (people with diverse abilities can use the technology);
flexibility in use (the design is interesting to different users); simplicity and intuitiveness (the
design is user friendly); perceptible information (independent of ambient conditions, the
technology communicates the needed information to user); tolerance for error (the design is
prepared to minimize dangerous consequences of unintentional actions); low physical effort (the
device do not require excessive force); and size and space for approach and use (the device allows
full mobility). Gandy et al. (2003) claim that, in spite of all these precautions, the main limitation of
wearable computing design is the fact that the device can be used in unanticipated environments.
Mann (1997b) already believed that after shrinking technological devices and with the
cellular phone advent, people also would consider wearable computing fashionable. According to
him, in the future people can develop dependence on computer clothing to the point of feeling
naked or confused without it. Another aspect is the synergic relation between humans and
technology that brings ethical questions (Viseu, 2003). One of them is the fact that the human
body becomes part of "global information network systems" (Viseu, 2003: 24).
A close connection between humans and non-humans is at the core of the concept of
wearable computing. Therefore, ANT is an adequate lens of analysis to explore this type of
heterogeneous network, between human and non-human actors. We explore it in the next section.
ACTOR NETWORK THEORY (ANT) Martin and Schouten (2014) points out that Actor Network Theory (ANT) is a constructivist ontological epistemology for investigating and theorizing social phenomena. It was developed by sociologists of science and technology in order to explore the roles of materiality in social life, an aspect not taken into consideration in the traditional sociology of science that, in general, privileges cognition and social construction
(Callon, 1986; Latour, 2005; Law, 2004). The ANT argument is that the ordering of the social is never purely social, but it is defined assuming a sociotechnical hypothesis that the social and the technical mutually interacts to each other (Law, 1991; Knights & Murray, 1994; Gille, 2010). With that in mind, Latour (2005) entails a change of focus from `society' (of humans) to `collectives' (of humans and non-humans) and call it sociology of associations in contrasts with the "sociology of the social". Its method changes from theoretically interpreting human actions to
obstinately `following the actor' by tracking associations in heterogeneous networks (Latour,
2005). ANT takes as its challenge accounting for new associations without a priori assuming any
fixity to social aggregations, as the sociology of the social does (Bryson et al., 2009).
ANT identify contemporary society as constituted by heterogeneous collectivities of
people, simultaneously with technology, machines and objects and see the collective as a
socio-technical phenomenon, framed analytically as a heterogeneous network of negotiated
and enforced relationships between its various elements (Law, 1992). To Latour (1999a), the
idea of a collective is the intricate inter-relations among these heterogeneous elements that
make up our society and organizations (Knorr-Cetina, 1997).
The heterogeneity embodied in ANT treats humans and non-humans symmetrically as
actors within a network, with no privilege to neither one nor the other (Latour, 1987; Latour, 1988).
This symmetry in ANT tradition makes no distinction between what is collected or included (or
otherwise), be it social (human), technical or conceptual (Callon, 1986; Law, 2000). It is important
to note that this symmetry adopted in the studies of science, technology and society should not be
confused with the proposition of a complete equivalence between humans and non-humans.
The core construct in ANT is the actor-network formed as a result of the
interconnections between the entities, human and non-human, the actors presented in the
network. An actor, in a semiotic sense, "is not an entity to which human intentional behavior
can be attributed, but a more abstract term that can refer to either human or non-human entities.
It is not a specific unitary entity, but rather the product of a more or less stable relationship
between various effects that together form an actor-network" (Fountain, 1999: 6). Regardless of
its condition as a human or non-human, an actor is accepted to be the source of an action and
differences in agency and size between actors are the result or product of some process of
negotiation involving power relations (Callon & Latour, 1981). Such actors are constituted as
objects only to the extent that the actor-network stays in place (Law, 1992).
Latour (1994; 2005) stresses that society and technology cannot be conceptualized as
ontologically separate (though interrelated) entities, but as a heterogeneous collection of human,
non-human, and hybrid actors. The author divides the entities in any social situation analyzed
using ANT into three types: (1) actors, (2) mediators, and (3) intermediaries. Actors are active
in the situation and are most often people but can also be technological entities or anything else
involved in the situation. Mediators transmit and receive messages from any participant in a
network and translate these messages into something that can be understood by any participant,
but mediators are capable of changing the messages they receive in often unexpected ways
before passing them on. Examples of mediators are religion, science, law and economies.
Intermediaries, like mediators, receive and transmit messages, but without changing the content
of the messages. For practical purposes they can be taken as a black box (Latour, 2005). In
summary, the task of defining and ordering the social should be left to the actors themselves.
Networks can be strong or weak, and some actors will work for strength and a central
role, while others may work for weakness and dissolution. Networks are not stable, and the
threat of a breakdown is often real (Cornfold et al., 2010). They can become unstable with the
entry of new actors and the abandonment of existing ones. Successful networks occur where
aligned interests are created through the enrollment of a sufficient body of allies and the
network is maintained through the translation of interests that link all actors. Each
modification in the network can be considered a displacement and affects not only other
actors but also other networks (Rhodes, 2009).
CONTROVERSIES In the process of understanding the sociotechnical world, with the interaction among the various actors, controversies can arise and need to be stabilized on its course of action to inform how humans might best live together. Latour (2005) points out that sociology has three
main tasks that must be accomplished in order to understand society: (1) First, it is necessary
to discuss the full range of possible controversies involved in living together without
restricting the controversies in advance; (2) Second, it is necessary to demonstrate how these
controversies are or may be stabilized and how the arrangements are made or may be
maintained; (3) The final task is to define the procedures for the composition (reassembly) of
the collective by being interesting and useful to those who have been the object of study.
A controversy refers to any element of science and technology that is not yet stabilized,
closed or "black boxed" (Latour, 2005; Callon et al., 2009; Venturini, 2010). Therefore,
controversies "are the social world in the making" (Venturini, 2010: 263). The main features of a
controversy are (Venturini, 2010; Law, 1992; Latour, 2005): (1) Controversies involve different
actors, human, non-human, natural and biological elements; (2) they display the social in its most
dynamic form - even unities that seemed indissoluble can be broken into a plurality of conflicting
pieces; (3) they are reduction-resistant old simplifications are rejected and new simplifications are
not accepted yet; (4) they are debated - things and ideas that were taken for granted or considered
stables start to be questioned; (5) controversies involve conflicting worlds - they decide and are
decided by the distribution of power, since power is the result of social interactions.
Controversy stabilization can be done through closure (Law & Bijker, 1992). Closure
indicates a state where a consensus emerges around a particular technology. By focusing on
the resistance to change, closure stabilizes (Bijker, 1993) the technology and this is achieved
through a process of negotiation, enrolling and aligning (Callon, 1991) entities of various
kinds into a network, leading to what Callon (1986) refers as translation.
Translation is a process in which an actor problematizes a situation and then mobilizes an
actor-network to deal with it. Translations can be described as transformations or movements of
materials or meanings from one medium or space to another (Latour, 2005). ANT theorists argue
that translation is a relevant conceptual mechanism for adoption of new technologies in a way in
which actors give meaning to the technologies when they translate themselves in relation to the
worldviews of others and the way they preserve or confront the status quo (McMaster et al., 1997).
The process of translation is essential for a network to gain strength through allies.
The stronger a network becomes, the harder it is for others to impede its progress. In the
process, entities establish themselves as agents, building a network of alliances by defining,
mobilizing and juxtaposing a set of materially heterogeneous actors, forcing them to enact
particular roles and fitting them together to form a working whole (Law, 1988). The agent
becomes the voice of the actors constituted in this translation (Callon, 1986; Law, 1992).
Callon (1986) describes four stages of translation: (a) The first stage is problematization.
In this stage, certain actors, an agent or an initiator, attempt to impose their definition of the
situation and seek to enroll other actors into a network by a process; (b) The second stage is
interessement or how the allies are locked into place; (c) The third stage is enrollment of allies
in a network and involves persuading other actors that share a common interest or problem. Is
worth noting that resistance is possible and translation is only achieved when actors accept the
roles defined and attributed to them. If an actor resists enrollment and defines itself differently it
becomes complex, possibly leading to the modification or disintegration of the actor-network
system; (d) Finally, the fourth stage is mobilization. This stage is concerned with the
identification of the spokespersons or representatives integrated in the network. The agent, or
the initiators, can use a set of methods to make sure that spokespersons for relevant collectives
are able to represent those collectives appropriately so that the initiators are not betrayed by the
spokespersons. It is in this stage that the legitimacy of the spokesperson is established.
Latour (1987; 1993; 1999a) repeatedly reminds us that without substantial resources
and effort, ideas do not travel, prototypes do not become commonplace and knowledge does
not produce centers of calculation that become obligatory points of passage. It is only after all
these resources have been effectively put together and carried out that controversies can be
resolved and black boxes are produced (Preston et al., 1992).
ANT studies are not universally accepted. They are controversial in the world of
sociology and elsewhere, at least in part because they seem to give to non-human participants
in process characteristics that are normally ascribed only to humans. It is however for this
very reason that ANT can be applied to the case of Google Glass, providing a basis for
understanding the controversy aroused in the process of launching this new technology.
The research method adopted is the cartography of controversies, which is a set of
techniques to explore and visualize issues related to socio-technical debates (Venturini, 2010).
The cartography of controversies is a minimalist method that consists in observing and describing
a controversy. The researcher needs to keep an open mind and be conscious that research
perspectives are never unbiased; we can improve objectivity only by multiplying the points of
observation (Venturini, 2009; 2010). The method also has as assumption that there is no one more
knowledgeable about the phenomenon under study than the actors who participate on it.
In sum, to apply the cartography of controversies it is necessary to not restrain the
observation to any single theory or methodology, to observe from as many viewpoints as possible
and listen to actors' voices more than to the researcher presumptions. The importance of studying
a controversy comes from the fact that, when a piece of science and technology is still open (such
as the Glass prototype), we can better observe the way this artifact has been created and shaped by
all the actors involved in the process. After an artifact is ready and `closed', it becomes a black
box and it is more difficult to map and understand the different translations involved on it.
Some criteria can be used to choose a controversy, for instance, it is important to
observe a `hot' controversy (when it is at the peak of the debate), it has to be restricted to a
specific topic or subject and open to public debate (Venturini, 2010). We started studying the
Glass controversy at the peak of the polemic about this device, on May 2013, after Glass
started to be used by the `Glass explorers' in April 2013 (see the timeline at Table 1 on p. 18).
The study was inductive and based on the collection and analysis of secondary data
from the Web. In order to get a sample that could be properly analyzed qualitatively, we
aimed to select at least 300 different types of materials in which the different actors involved
in the controversy manifested their points of view.
First, we collected data via a search in Yahoo with the exact expression `Google Glass', filtering the results by language (only English), in May 20th 2013. We used Yahoo as the Web
search engine and not Google to avoid any possible bias in the news about Google Glass. This
search resulted in 6.880.000 links. We then selected the material from the 250 first links in
decreasing order of appearance. The exploration of these links resulted in a collection of 162 news
and blog articles, plus 93 videos. As other source of manifestations, we searched Twitter for
"Google Glass" asking for positive tweets, resulting in 85 of them, and negative tweets, resulting
in 60 of them. Some of these tweets had links to other news or blog articles, also collected (17 in
total). It is important to highlight that also the commentaries from `ordinary people' to the news
and blog articles were also included in the database and analyzed. The comments to videos were
not analyzed because they were too numerous, even thousands of comments for one single video.
With this material, we created a database in NVivo10© with all the sources collected.
We used open coding (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), defining and organizing categories and
subcategories that emerged from the data, with the issues raised by the different actors. The
process of coding involved three researchers and lasted around 8 months.
Besides this database, we keep following the news about Google Glass in the press systematically from May 20th 2013 until October 1st 2014, also following the project Glass in
the Google pages such as on Google+ (https://plus.google.com/+GoogleGlass). In this period
we collected 105 extra news and blog articles that were also considered during the analysis,
reaching a total of 552 documents.
All this material was important to follow the steps of the cartography of controversies,
since it allowed us to consider different points of view and to build the timeline of the controversy.
Following the procedures indicated by Venturini (2009), we considered, during the analysis:
1) "The glossary of non-controversial elements" - basic concepts about the technology
involved in Google Glass were considered and are explained in the sequence.
2) "The documentation repository" a database of the controversy was created using the
software NVivo10© and is available for other researchers.
3) "The analysis of the scientific literature" we considered the literature about ubiquitous
and wearable computing and the literature about Google Glass, however, most of the
references found have only a technical approach to the hardware of Glass.
4) "The review of the media and the public opinion" this was our main source of
information from the actors involved.
5) "The tree of disagreement" - in our analysis we attempted to show all the different
issues and implications related to the controversy by the different actors.
6) "The scale of the controversy" no controversy is isolated. This is the case of Glass,
that is related to other controversies such as the power of the platforms ecosystems.
This is explored in our analysis.
7) "The diagram of actor-networks" according to Venturini (2009: 806) "every actor can
be decomposed into a network and that every network can be connected tightly enough
to become a single actor", so we have attempted to trace the connections between the
human and non-human actors, in order to better understand the controversy.
8) "The chronology of dispute" - controversies need to be explored in how they develop
over time. We begin our analysis by tracing the timeline of the Glass controversy.
9) "The table of cosmoses" controversies provoke the opposition of conflicting world
views. In our analysis we explore the diferente discourses related to Glass, for the
present and expectations for the future, according to different actorґs views.
In the next section, we attempt to follow these guidelines for mapping the Google Glass
controversy, describing and analyzing it, leading to the research results and the final remarks.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GOOGLE GLASS CONTROVERSY Google Glass was developed by Google X Lab, which has been working on other futuristic technologies in Google. The media published the first rumors about a secret project from Google to create a wearable computing device in 2011. Google submitted a patent application to the US Patent and Trademark Office on the 18th of August 2011, being published under the number 20130044042 on the 21st of February 2013. In April 4th 2012, the Glass became public, via a video showing a first person perspective of its use. The Glass team claimed that they wanted to "start a conversation" and get public input about what Glass should be. In April 5th Sergey Brin (Google's co-founder and technology chief) made the first appearance of Glass use in public, during a dinner for the Foundation Fighting Blindness. In June 2012, Brin made a spectacular presentation, which included a live skydiving demo of athletes using Glass in the Google I/O conference, announcing the ЁGlass ExplorerЁ program. This program aimed to engage developers and different types of people especially invited by Google (celebrities, artists, researchers or potential app creators) to use Glass and develop for it. The "Google Glass Explorer edition" prototype cost US$1,500. Approximately 2,000 people pre ordered the device, all of them above 18 years old and US-based. Google said that the Glasses would be delivered to them in the first semester of 2013. In September 2012 Glass appeared in fashion shows. In October, the Time Magazine indicated Glass as one of the best inventions of that year.
In January 2013 Google announced the Mirror API, a platform for developing apps for
Glass, and promoted the first ЁGlass Foundry eventЁ in San Francisco, a two-day event for coding
and tests on Glass for developers enrolled in the Explorer Program. The same event happened in
New York in February 2013. Although the first group of people subscribed in the Explorer program have not received their Glasses yet, in the 20th of February 2013, Google expanded the program and
allowed more developers and consumers to buy and test the prototype. Entry into the program was ended the following week, on February 27th. Applicants had to post a text, consisting of 50 words or
less, in their Google+ or Twitter pages with the hash tag #ifihadglass:
ЁWe're looking for bold, creative individuals who want to join us and be a part of shaping the future of Glass. Glass is still in the early stages, so we expect there will be some twists and turns along the way. While we can't promise everything will be perfect, we can promise it will be excitingЁ (Glass Project, 2013).
During a fireside chat during the Google I/O conference 2013, the project team
affirmed that they were looking for different types of people to use Glass, people such as,
Ёeducators, teachers, athletes, DJґs, hairstylists...Ё. Following the call, more than 8,000 people
(US residents only), including developers but also a variety of users, get involved. In parallel,
the media broadcasted several reviews of Google Glass.
Although Glass was still only being used inside Google, the polemic around the device
aroused, especially regarding privacy concerns, manifested by politicians and public
authorities, but also for `ordinary people'. During March 2013, a cafe in Seattle banned the
use of Glass in its facilities and the West Virginia
became, also in that month, the first US
state to propose a bill to ban the use of Glass while driving. Also in March 2013, the Financial
Times announced that Google would manufacture Glass in Silicon Valley.
During April 2013, Google released the Mirror API, allowing the development of apps for
Glass, called ЁGlassware". The Glasses started been delivered in waves to the members of the
Explorer program that pre ordered them in June 2012. In April 2013, Google also released a web-
based setup page for Glass and the ЁMyGlass companionЁ app. It also announced the terms of
service for Glass, explicitly forbidding the inclusion of advertisements and fees charges in Glass
apps. The Explorers were not allowed to sell their devices.
In parallel to the new advancements in the product, the polemic has continued to grow. At
the end of April 2013 an IT expert and Google Explorer took a selfie in the shower using Glass
and his photo went viral, contributing to create an image of Glass as a device for geeks. The
expression ЁglassholeЁ was created. To overcome this image, Google made some movements
engaging celebrities and more people from the fashion industry to use Glass, trying to create an
image of a cool, futuristic device (such as in the 12 pages editorial in the Vogue Magazine of
September 2013). However, popular TV shows such as the Saturday Night Live made parodies of
Glass use, and many videos mocking the device were posted in You Tube during 2013.
The public concerns about privacy issues aroused. In May 2013 a Vegas Casino banned
the use of Glass in its facilities. In that same month, members of the US congress sent a letter to
the Google CEO asking information about privacy issues, especially regarding facial recognition
apps for Glass. In that month, Google reinforced that it would not approve any Glass apps with
facial recognition. Googleґs answer to the congress letter was sent back in July 2013, and was
considered disappointing, due to its evasive character. During 2013, some cases of hostility and
even aggression against Glass users were reported in the press. At the same time, from May 2013
many different Glass applications were publicized in the media, including its use during the
performance of surgeries, sports, journalism, music, and education, among others. Several apps
were announced in the Google I/O conference 2013, that also held talks with the Glass team.
In July 2013 Google initiated the Glass Creative Collective, a partnership with five film
and design schools to experiment the Glass possibilities. In the same month, although Glass was
not available for sale out of the US, the UK Department for Transport acts to ban drivers from
using Google Glass. In August 2013 several Explorers report that high heat or humidity during the
US summer damaged Glass, and Google quickly replaced their devices. In October, Google
initiates a series of roadshows in US cities to publicize Glass and the development of Glassware.
In this same month, Google announced an updated Glass version, and invited current Explorers to
switch their devices for free, and also to invite friends to join the program. In November 2013,
Google opened a subscription form in the Glass webpage allowing anyone to join the Glass
Explorer program, and also released the Glass Development Kit, showcasing some specific apps
as successful examples. This kit offered more programming options. The year of 2013 ended
without the launching of Glass as a commercial product, as some people expected or predicted.
In 2014 the development process and the polemic continued. In January, an app for
recording and watching sex performance was released, and received criticism by the media. In the
same month an Explorer was interrogated by US federal agents, being suspected of using a
prescription version of Glass during a movie exhibition in Ohio. An episode of ЁThe SimpsonsЁ
was broadcasted, making a parody of Glass, also addressing privacy concerns. The month closed
with the release of a new version of Glass for prescription lenses called ЁTitanium CollectionЁ. In
February 2014 new events regarding privacy concerns happened, including a US senator raising
more questions about facial recognition in Glass. The media also broadcasted a late night attack in
a club in San Francisco against an Explorer using Glass. In this same month, Google published a
list of ЁDoґs and DonґtsЁ that addressed issues regarding Glass usersґ behavior. In April 15th 2014 Google opened the sale of Glass for the general public in US and in
May, for UK residents. At that time they announced that: ЁThis isn't the same Glass you saw last
April. In the past year, we've released nine software updates, 42 Glassware apps, iOS support,
prescription frames, and more, all largely shaped by feedback from our ExplorersЁ. Table 1
shows a detailed timeline with remarkable events of the Project Glass from 2011 until May 2014.
-----------------------------------Insert Table 1 about here ------------------------------------
Many updates and incremental developments were done during the development
process until Glass was released to the public, in April 2014. In the sequence, we analyze in
detail the actors involved in this controversy and its main issues.
THE ACTORS INVOLVED IN THE CONTROVERSY There are many actors involved in the Google Glass controversy, and categorizing them is not an easy task, because all of them are in an assembly of imbricated human and non-human elements. Only with an analytical purpose, as non-human actors, besides the Glass device itself, we can list: Android (its operational system), the apps created for it, and the smartphones (because Glass does not connect independently to the Internet, it needs to be connected via Bluetooth to an smartphone to do it). Other operational systems such as Apple's iOS are important actors, since there is a `war' between the different platforms (another controversy related to Glass), constraining what can be accessed directly or not through the different devices. Other `ordinary' objects such as prescription lenses glasses (which where not integrated with Glass at its launch) and also clothes, are all non-human actors involved. Glass is also compared with other devices that are related to vigilance, such as CCTV (Closed-Circuit Television) systems and small cameras, as we will see in the sequence. One important non-human actor is venture capital, since innovations such as Google Glass provoke moves in the markets and stock prices. As the main human actors involved in the controversy, the division in categories of actors was done according to the different identities we perceived in our data and we can list: Google (the company, managers and the Google Glass development team), Government and regulators, NGOs representatives, software developers (especially the Glass explorers, from here all called `developers'), IT people who are people that work with IT, experts, consultants in the IT industry, journalists, reporters and bloggers that produce news about Glass (from here all called `journalists'). Also, academic research
ers, artists, and ordinary people, who are
people that commented on the blog and news articles that we analyzed (the majority of them do
not show his/her personal information), business consultants, physicians, celebrities and people
from the fashion industry, venture capitalists, hackers, and porn industry members.
For each one of the human actors listed above, there is also a difference between those that are users and those that are non-users of Glass1. Some actors have stronger voices in the
news and blogs, while others - such as venture capitalists - do not speak directly, but are
mentioned by other actors. In the sequence, we analyze the different views of Glass according
to these different human actors.
WHAT GOOGLE GLASS IS: DIFFERENT VIEWS FROM DIFFERENT ACTORS
The Google Glass is presented in its patent as: ЁAn electronic device including a frame configured to be worn on the head of a user (...) The device can also include a transparent display affixed to the frame adjacent the brow portion and an input affixed to the frame and configured for receiving from the user an input associated with a functionЁ. The Glass explorer edition is a computing device built into spectacle frames, with a high-
definition screen in the upper corner of the right lens. Android is the operating system (but it can
connect also to iOS devices), running in a dual-core OMAP processor, with a lithium polymer
battery, with 1GB of RAM and 16 GB of flash memory (12 GB usable). The data can also be
synced with Google cloud. It has a prism projector of a virtual image with 640Ч360 pixels
(equivalent of a 25 in/64 cm screen from 8 ft/2.4 m away). It can project an image onto a semi-
transparent prism and the projector's image is reflected into the user's retina. It connects to the
Internet via a Bluetooth connection with any phone, but it can also work alone as a disconnected
offline camera. The sound is transmitted via a bone conduction transducer to the user. The input is
made via a touchpad, via the MyGlass phone app, voice commands through a microphone, and it
has also an accelerometer and a gyroscope (to keep track of where the wearer is facing and in
1 In the remaining of the paper, we will specify when an actor was clearly a Google Glass use or experimented Glass. This information is clearer in the case of journalists and developers, but not so clear for other actors, so it is also a limitation of our research.
what angle and for making the system aware in terms of location and direction). It also has a
magnetometer, ambient light sensor and proximity sensor. Glass has a built-in compass, but it
does not have its own GPS receiver, depending on the phone to provide location data.
Glass displays the information above the eye in a timeline of cards, with few data in each
card. When tapped, it can reveal more cards, or present actions like `reply' or `delete'. Some cards
can be `pinned', which places them to the left of the home screen. Otherwise, cards are sorted
chronologically to the right of the home screen. Glass allows for taking photos (5 MP) and
recording videos (720p), do Google searches, video chats (Google's Hangout), receive Google+
notifications and display directions turn by turn, translate phrases, also allowing the user to answer
to emails, SMS and phone calls and share information with others. The user can make a sum
(using a calculator), currency conversions and check stock values, weather forecasts, receive
travel alerts and reminders of appointments. Several apps have been developed to Glass, including
The New York Times
app, Evernote, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, CNN, etc.
Besides these descriptive technical features, Glass received different definitions by
different people. Table 2 shows some of these definitions.
------------------------------------Insert Table 2 about here -------------------------------------
As Table 2 shows, even being objectively a piece of hardware as described before, Glass is
defined in many different ways depending on the type of actor and also depending if the actor is or
is not a user. As explained in the project timeline (Table 1), Google released Glass as a prototype
available only for pre-selected people, such as software developers, some journalists, celebrities, and
people from the fashion industry. Some of these users manifested their view about Glass
enthusiastically, frequently with exaggerated and imprecise adjectives. Journalists also exaggerated
in their descriptions of Glass, some of them listing even equivocated features right after the release.
Next to the various definitions of Glass, we can find different views about the purpose
and consequences of this technology use, as follows.
THE GLASS DEBATE According to Google, Glass was created as a new way to allow access to information and to connect people without losing their attention to the real life. Google's arguments for Glass creation departure from the distractive nature of smartphones, that demands one to look down and pay attention to the device: Ёyou want something that frees your eyes. That's why we put the display up high, out of your line of sight, so it wouldn't be where you're looking and it wouldn't be where you're making eye contact with people. And also we wanted to free up the ears, so the sound actually goes through, conducts straight to the bones in your cranium, which is a little bit freaky at first, but you get used to it. Ё (Brin, 2013) The Google lead designer of Glass affirmed that they didnґt want to make an improvement in the design but created something original that could be Ёintuitive, immediate and intimateЁ, following the design guidelines: lightness, simplicity and scalability, providing timely and relevant information. The main idea for them is that this technology Ёdonґt get in the way", it is important also to Ёavoid the unexpected and the unpleasantЁ. Even with the declared purpose of being a technology with a natural interface that could be able to not interfere in human interactions, the Glass debate started exactly questioning the utility of the technology and the possible consequences for human interaction and privacy. ЁAlmost immediately after the technology was revealed, analysts began complaining. There were complaints about privacy, complaints about daily living with technology overload, complaints about battery life, and complaints for the sake of complaining. Let's face it: Google Glass is the whipping boy of the wearable tech industryЁ. (Journalist) As mentioned before, the controversy around Glass has privacy as one key issue. For instance, the possibility of being recorded without permission is one of the most quoted issues about privacy mentioned by the actors involved, as well as facial ID recognition. Google claims that are social clues to see when somebody is recording using Glass, for instance; for recording it is necessary that the user look at the person or object being recorded. Google also
did not allow the creation of apps that use facial ID recognition.
Besides the worries about privacy invasion, there is the issue of technology overload and
the discussion about the role technology plays in our daily life and human relations. We observed
two main discourses regarding the use of Glass. The first one is the `more of the same'
discourse. Actors that adopt this discourse, including Google itself, some journalists,
developers, IT and `ordinary people' are in general pro Glass and claim that it is not different
from using other devices such as smartphones - see Table 3.
--------------------------------------Insert Table 3 about here ---------------------------------------
Close to this `more of the same discourse', we perceive a Google's discourse that
privacy has always been a main issue for them, stating that "Protecting the security and
privacy of our users is one of our top priorities". However, at the same time, some claims
from their main executives and Glass team members denote a sort of `laissez faire' approach,
because they claim that society will adapt to the new technology, or the consequences are
going to be discovered during the actual use of Glass.
"Criticisms are inevitably from people who are afraid of change or who have not figured out that there will be an adaptation of society to it." (Google) "People worry about a lot of things that, when we use the products, don't turn out to be an actual concern (...) I would encourage you not to create fear and concern about technological change until it's out there and we understand the issues." (Google) Some journalists reinforce the assumption that society will naturally figure it out how
to properly use Glass, for instance:
"Common people are preparing their own social rules to the new technology device." (Journalist non-user) "We may figure out to adapt the new technology into our lives without giving up of our privacy. We've certainly done it before." (Journalist non-user) Other argument close to these is the inevitability of technological progress:
"So stop crying about Google Glass and get used to how it's going to accelerate the blending of the public and the private. Yes, it's scary. But all sea-change technologies are frightening at first. The sooner you adapt, the sooner you'll be able to profit from it instead of being paralyzed by it." (Journalist non-user) "The same people like you were against electricity. Technological advancements will make our
lives easier for everyone. Someday the majority of people will no longer have to invest half their life working and will be able to fully enjoy their lives. Thanks to technology." (`Ordinary people')
A very different view is the `we had enough' discourse (Table 4). Actors that assume
this discourse, which are some journalists, some `ordinary people' and the few NGOs
representatives that appears in our data (all of these actors are non-users), argue that we are
already full of privacy invasions and technology interference in daily life. These actors can
assume two main attitudes: (a) they defend that it is time for society to discuss what type of
behavior should be accepted or not regarding Glass use or (b) they are clearly against Glass
use and think it should not be sold for the general public or either it is inevitably going to fail.
-------------------------------------Insert Table 4 about here --------------------------------------
Many people, especially `ordinary people' criticize Glass associating it with other Google's products and episodes of privacy invasion: "While the nation frets over privacy Google is working on its next project: Google suppositories." (Journalist non-user) "Believe me, they want every one wearing them. After these companies, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, have betrayed all us to the NSA you would willingly go along with this concept? Did we get an apology? Did they offer us increased privacy and restore our anonymity? They have remained silent. I for one, no longer trust them. I am all for tech advancement, but my objections are not about that. It is the threat against individual freedom." (`Ordinary people') At the same time, that are other `ordinary people' and journalists that defend Google and the importance of the innovations they created, for instance: "They can be fitted with prescription or sun shades. Even if they don't catch on as a consumer choice the industrial and military applications for a device like this should be huge. Driverless cars and other modes of driverless transportation is the future, albeit the distant future. Chrome books are in thousands of U.S schools and are anything but a failure. Google maps are amongst the best you can get. Directions for walking paths, bikes, transit, inside major malls/airports, streetview etc. They aren't "in everyone's shit", everyone uses their shit and for good reason. Your comment is so full of fail and on such a colossal level that it's difficult to properly comprehend the sheer magnitude of your stupidity!" (`Ordinary people') "Honestly, they use our information to help us. Worst case scenario, Google tells all my friends I like cats." (`Ordinary people') In the debate, that are contexts that appear as being adequate for the use of Glass, and Google, developers and some journalists promote these possible uses to improve quality of life and work in specific activities. At Table 1 (p. 18) it is possible to observe that the first
public appearance of Glass happened during a charity dinner for the Foundation Fighting
Blindness. Its use for sports and to control chronic diseases (such as diabetes) is one of the
arguments about the importance of such type of wearable computing device.
This is a very trick issue in the controversy, because one point of the polemic involving
privacy issues is the use of facial recognition. Google claim that they do not allow apps to use
facial recognition on Glass. However, more recently, we can see news about Glass apps that use
facial recognition of emotions, age or movements to help people with chronic diseases such as
autism and hard of hearing. Some developers claim that, although Google does not allow facial
recognition ID apps to Glass, it will eventually allow it due to developersґ pressures. One
journalist (non user) talked about an app with facial recognition for health care:
"One team of developers for instance, developed an app (...) that allows patience facial recognition by the users (physicians). This app allows doctors to create and access patients folders with their personal data and access via facial recognition." The issue of privacy and information security points to the contexts considered as
appropriate or inappropriate for Glass use see Table 5.
---------------------------------Insert Table 5 about here ----------------------------------
Glass is also compared to other technologies by different actors, either technologies that
have failed or succeeded. For instance, it is compared to devices that failed for being too ahead of
the time (such as Applesґ Newton), or for being the pioneers but not the commercial success and
even devices that failed for looking ridiculous (such as Bluetooth headsets). Glass is also compared
to other technologies that are diffused, such as smartphones, and digital small cameras (Table 6).
---------------------------------Insert Table 6 about here ----------------------------------
In the pros and cons of Glass use we can see hopes and fears surrounding the wearable
computing applications. At Table 7 we show some examples of hopes and advantages related
to Glass use according to different actors.
---------------------------------Insert Table 7 about here ----------------------------------
At Table 8, we list the `fears' related to Glass use with their main arguments against
---------------------------------Insert Table 8 about here ----------------------------------
All the discussion of pros and cons of Glass leads to a debate, with many guesses,
about how the future will be, what kind of consequence the use of this type of ubiquitous
technology will bring for society.
Some actors bet that Glass is going to be a failure, while others argue that a technology
like this is inevitable, either for the better or for the worst. For instance, some actors point to the
technical limitations faced during the development of Glass, saying that it is going to fail. Others
claim that some specific uses (for instance, for porn) will lead to the diffusion of this technology:
"Headaches. Poor quality in bright sunlight. Buggy voice controls. Merciless user interface. The list of complaints rolling in from tech bloggers who have (or haven't) given the "next big thing" a test drive. Many are saying that it's a failure. Others are being more sympathetic, saying that it's going to take time for it to be ready for prime time but that it's heading in the right direction." (Journalist non-user) "But the interesting thing for us is that porn has historically made technology. Look at the VHS versus Betamax war: porn sided with VHS and it won out. The same thing has happened time and time again with various technologies through the ages, so that probably means that if porn adopts Google Glass it'll get a massive kick in its forward-looking pants." (Journalist non-user)
More than the bets about the failure or success of Glass, the possible consequences of
this type of wearable-ubiquitous computing for human interactions and the real value of it for
daily life is discussed by several actors. As mentioned before, some actors claim that it is a
natural evolution. Others argue that it can lead to decadence in human capacities and relations:
"Is the opportunity to "wear" a tiny computer a sign of progress, or simply more evidence that culturally we're evolving into robotic consumers with reduced respect for quality of life and almost no sense of individual privacy? Do we really need the ability to surf the Internet every moment of our lives? And once we're able to do so, will the act of googling or updating our Tumblr become as important to our well-being as exhaling? (Journalist non user) "Futureworld seems dumber by the day...personally, like Gaugin I'd love to escape to an island to make love and eat papaya all day." (`Ordinary people')
At Table 9 and 10 we draw scenarios of the future related to the diffusion of Glass in
the society, according to the views of different actors. We separate them in `optimistic views',
in which devices like Glass succeed, either evolving technologically or bringing benefits to
the society, and in `pessimist views', meaning that devices like Glass become successful but
their use brings losses to society. It is important to highlight that many "ordinary people" that
posted to the first articles about Glass worried more about discussing the future implications
of this device than asking or commenting about its features. Google, some journalists,
developers and business consultants, in their `optimistic view', bet in a fast increase in the
mass market for wearable devices such as Glass, and discuss the gains it can offer for
commerce and business. These actors do not frequently discuss possible `negative'
consequences of Glass use for society.
---------------------------------Insert Table 9 about here ------------------------------------------------------------------Insert Table 10 about here ----------------------------------
So far, Glass has been considered as a failure. Recent news show that some early adopters
stopped wearing them because considered them useless and `personal ridicule' or rude (Dvorak,
2014). Other evidences of failure are: Google pushed back the Glass roll out to the mass market, app
developers abandoned their projects and several key Google employees related to the Glass project
have left the company, although Google insists it is committed to Glass (Oreskovic et al., 2014).
The commercial product, released as a beta product, shows in its users feedback such
ambivalence. Looking for example into the reviews of Glass we have encountered this is as a
product where the average review is only 3 stars or less (from a maximum of 5), for all its
different versions. In later times, there have been slightly better reviews for Glass XE V2. The
reviews indicate that Google designers failed to understand the mechanisms to embed in the
design the users requirements as market needs whilst presenting Glass as the disruptive
technology it was branded at the start of its launch2.
In this section we address a set of three questions that are outstanding from the controversy
studied. Our first question is what are the elements - steamed from the Glass controversy - to be
considered regarding the expectations about wearable-ubiquitous computing today, considering the
complex network of actors (both human and non-human) involved. The second question is focused
on the implications for future developments on wearable-ubiquitous computing. The third question
is what we can learn from the fact that Glass failed to be the breakthrough device and service
innovator that, for instance, iPhone was in 2007 (Eaton et al., 2014).
Addressing the first question, Glass, according to our data, gained different views and
definitions according to different actors, some as a futuristic promise that finally was about to be
delivered, and others as a useless, intrusive, rude device. The lack of clarity about what the device
is and what main purpose or `killer application' it can have left space for the polemic, among all
the issues that were raised, especially due to the privacy issue. Paradoxically, the attachment of
such device to the body and its possible uses did not appear to be seen as the same of using a
mobile phone for taking pictures or videos, for instance. It was the lack of an `active' right to deny
access to individual actions by Glass users (e.g. performing a personal profile search in the
Internet, recording an encounter, etc.) that is at the center of the debate on the use of Glass.
Glass was created in a time when the worries about the abusive use of ICT for surveillance
are alive, including previous technologies created by Google itself. The fear of the unknown,
together with other concerns about privacy that are related to other events and controversies (such
as the NSA scandal of leaking by Edward Snow in June 2013) fed the Glass controversy.
2 The authors revised using amazon.com search engine the product and extracted using XML files the comments and reviews from Google glass users, in November 2014.
Besides that, there is an important aesthetic aspect of Glass, since it is wearable, and part of
the polemic is related to the `geek look' that some people claim the users have while they using it.
As showed in the timeline (Table 1), from the beginning Google attempted to associate Glass with
the fashion world, as a cool, futuristic device. Celebrities and sportsmen were also invited to wear
Glass. But this also had unpredicted consequences, for instance, entertainment shows, comedies
and even cartoons like the Simpsons, found in Glass a good material for mocking.
The `we had enough' discourse is latent in contemporary society. As the data shows,
`ordinary people' actively discuss, compare and reflect on possible implications of wearable-
ubiquitous computing for now, including privacy and interference on human relations, and for
the future. Therefore the expectations flourished, not only regarding Glass itself, but the type
of relation we have with ICT today and what space it is going to occupy in the future.
The data suggests that, when we talk about wearable computing, we talk about what being
a human really is, the way we interact with the technology, what is the level of interference this
technology can have on what we do and in the way we interact with others. This is not a simple
equation, since as ANT highlights - the very notion of human and non-human is increasingly
blurred and challenged by technical innovation. For instance, the designers and engineers of Glass,
driven perhaps for their enthusiasm towards the technology, forgot that as individuals and as
society, the `passive' acceptance of the transgression of privacy rights is not a light matter to be
dismissed. Glass, as a product, failed to successfully deal with the complexity of social interaction
and the layers of body, psychology and language communication that are characteristics of human
interaction (Grohol, 2013). The aesthetic dimension of this device is not to be ignored as well.
Addressing our second question, perhaps the most interesting consequence for future
developments of wearable-ubiquitous computing is the need to integrate even further the work of
engineers and hard scientists to the social and human sciences, and the demands and expectations
of users (Dourish & Bell, 2011). The empirical evidence shown in this paper indicates that there
are many hopes of wearable-ubiquitous computing according to different actors, especially in
order to support work, to provide digital assistance and for prosthetics. These hopes follow
previous arguments on the relevance of wearable computing, as showed by Mann (2013) and
Viseu (2003) e.g.: to improve efficiency and productivity, to augment and also for leisure/life-
style applications. These hopes can be explored in future developments of the technology.
For now it seems to be that the path for wearable technology industry is to develop
innovations in niche markets and sectors that can allow collaborative design. Some of those
products might eventually be adapted and adopted by users not covered in the original niche
market and might gain universal adoption depend upon their usability and affordances adaptability.
None of the wearable-ubiquitous products been released have attempted to be a mass product as
Glass aimed to be, however their deployment is seamless and gathering momentum as time passes
by, specially in niche markets, which give Glass some hope for the future. It is important to
reinforce the need to have lot of care to allow humans to have mechanisms for controlling the
`active' or `passive' engagement with the devices, when dealing with privacy and data collection
Our final question is: Why Google Glass in 2013 failed to be the breakthrough device
and service innovator than the iPhone was in 2007? The combination of the multiple actor
networks discussed in previous sections of this article
indicates that Google's strategy to let
users to explore, create, distribute, and promote Glass (Shaughnessy, 2013) as Google has
done with other products they have delivered has not given the expected results: mass
commercial adoption of the device (Wohlsen, 2014). It is interesting to note that the iPhone,
when it was released in 2007, ignored controversies and presented itself as a "complete and
close" device for use. The original iPhone released in 2007 did not have an App store, so Apps
were closely guarded and controlled by Apple. With modifications over time Apple still holds a
tight control on the apps releases for use on the iPhone (Eaton et al., 2014).
The incremental and open innovation process set by Google via the Explorers program
had an unpredicted effect: instead of allowing the creation of plenty of useful applications and
stimulate the mass market to adopt Glass, it instead created a tech-elite, that provoked
suspicious (on privacy issues) and rejection (towards the "glassholes"). Controversies on the
design, privacy and security features during the period that the Explorers where using the
device on the wide social community did not help to its case.
Finally, analyzing the Glass controversy at the light of the stages of translation (Callon,
1986), we can conclude that it has passed through problematization and enrollment of some allies, in
which Google attempted to involve other actors - the Explorers, journalists, IT professionals,
business consultants, venture capitalists, etc. - into a network in order to develop and diffuse Glass.
Google also promoted the interessement, attempting to impose and stabilize the identity of the actors
involved in the problematization in order to build the network of Glass developers and advocates.
The seduction of being an `Explorer', a chosen one, an early adopter, was one of the strategies used,
but economic interests in being part of a new technology ecosystem were key in this case.
Some of the allies where enthusiastic about the new technology, but since especially
`ordinary people', other journalists, legislators, NGOs representatives (although few of them) raised
privacy issues and worries about their expectations on this technology, Google was not able to reach
mobilization, it means, the Glass spokespersons and representatives have not gained legitimacy. The
use of all types of social media
have strong influence in how, when and what defines such debate,
anybody can give an opinion and discuss in real time pro and against these issues.
As Callon (1986) states, translation is a situation in which certain entities control
others: actors are defined, associated and simultaneously obliged to remain faithful to their
alliances. But it has not occurred in the case of Glass. As Latour (1987; 1993; 1999a) argues,
without substantial resources and effort, ideas do not travel and prototypes do not become
commonplace. In sum, the Glass controversy is not resolved yet and Glass, as a technology, is
not a consensus (Preston et al., 1992).
FINAL REMARKS The aim of this paper was to explore the Glass controversy in order to understand what are the views and expectations about wearable-ubiquitous computing manifested by the different actors involved. There are many expectations about possible uses of wearable computing, for health, productivity and support to everyday life tasks, but there is also a set of fundamental concerns about the consequences of the use of this type of technology for human interactions, privacy, and individual freedom. The intention of our analysis was to understand the controversy, to listen to the different actors, generating rich insights about the present and future of wearable-ubiquitous computing. We can also reflect on the innovation processes to develop this type of technology, either as a close process or as an open one, and the possible consequences of both approaches for those involved and for society as a whole. In this sense, the method of controversy mapping is a powerful tool to study a case like Glass, as stated by Callon et al. (2009: 32): "Because they formulate a triple inventory of actors, problems, and solutions, controversies are a highly effective
apparatus for the exploration of possible states of the world when these states are unknown, owing to uncertainties. They encourage the enrichment and transformation of the initial projects and stakes, simultaneously permitting the reformulation of problems, the discussion of technical options, and, more broadly, the redefinition of the objectives pursued. This exploration, which aims to take the measure of overflows not yet framed within definite parameters, equally constitutes a process of collective learning." The controversy mapping to understand different expectations on wearable and ubiquitous computing is important because both positive expectations and fears can influence technological change (Borup et al., 2006). Therefore, the study of the Glass case is important in order to keep the debate on the present and future of wearable and ubiquitous computing alive in the society. Technology development is not a fate, it can be discussed and the different actors
involved must have their voices heard. For future research, we, as academics, need to be more
involved and attentive to the debates. The role of `silent' actors involved in the type of controversy
(such as, for instance, venture capitalists) should also receive attention in future research.
As limitations, this paper relied only in data from the Web; we have not spoken directly to
the actors involved (Vaast & Davidson, 2008). Instead, we tried to consider as much evidences
and manifestations we could manage to read and analyse, and we tried to present direct quotes
from the actors' thoughts in order to show the different views on the controversy.
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Date Aug 18th Dec 18th Feb 21st Apr 4th Apr 5th
Table 1: Project Glass Timeline
Patent of Google Glass submitted
Rumors in the press about the Glass project http://goo.gl/p5QELl
Project Glass first news ЁGlass: one dayЁ video is released First public appearance of Glass
http://goo.gl/d5NSNr https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c6W4CCU9M4 http://goo.gl/xUoIKP
May 25th The first video made with Glass is published https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jOLBBrSFms Jun 27th Live skydiving demo at Google I/O conference https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7TB8b2t3QE
Sep 9th Oct 31st
Glass Explorer program starts
Glass is used in the New York Fashion Week http://goo.gl/79GxEA
Time Magazine award (best inventions 2012) http://goo.gl/zNN0wk
Jan 15th Annouce of the Mirror API
Jan/Feb Glass Foundry events in San Francisco and NY http://goo.gl/Xqdy4l
The website google.com/glass goes online
Feb 20th ЁHow it FeelsЁ video released
Feb 20th Mar 5th Mar 22nd
#ifihadglass call is announced Media publishes several Glass reviews A cafe in Seattle bans the use of Google Glass West Virginia bill banning Glass while driving.
http://goo.gl/4vbHc1 http://goo.gl/ZDAFSJ http://goo.gl/KTLkWq http://goo.gl/uGueCG
Apr 15th Google released the Mirror API
Google forbids adds and fees for Glass
Apr 16th Glasses start been delivered for the Explorers http://goo.gl/FV4hCz
Release of a web-based setup page for Glass https://plus.google.com/+GoogleGlass/posts
Apr 28th May 4th
Google releases the MyGlass companion app https://plus.google.com/+GoogleGlass/posts Selfie in the shower with Glass ("Glasshole) http://goo.gl/Nj00L5 The ЁSaturday Night LiveЁ parody of Glass http://goo.gl/dfGKD4
May 16th May 17th Jun 3rd
Las Vegas casino Caesars Palace bans Glass use Glass apps announced US congress members send a letter to Google Porn app launched is banned by Google
http://goo.gl/nskkGh http://goo.gl/ZKt7r8 http://goo.gl/cVEIUy http://goo.gl/GhXbO9
The UK Department for Transport ban Glass http://goo.gl/zC7qjh
Google answer to US congress members
US summer heat damaged Glass
Vogue fashion editorial with Glass.
Oct 29th A person is ticketed for driving with Glass. http://goo.gl/GhygtX
Oct 31st Nov 13th Nov 19th Dec 19th
In January 2014, considered Ёnot guiltyЁ Glassware directory added to the MyGlass page Google allows any person to apply for Glass Google releases its Glass Development Kit The MyGlass app for iOS is released
http://goo.gl/pUeiMr http://goo.gl/xp2oFP http://goo.gl/csQtWZ http://goo.gl/U0QCPW
Jan Jan 18th Jan 26th Jan 27th
An app to record and watch sex is released Explorer interrogated by FBI in a cinema ЁThe SimpsonsЁ makes a parody of Glass Glass for prescription lenses is launched
http://goo.gl/Ptk7EI http://goo.gl/fgocyy http://goo.gl/BxyKa8 http://goo.gl/J9wUQB
Feb Feb 15th Feb 22nd Mar 24th Apr 15th May 13th
US senator questions recognition apps for Glass Google publishes etiquette tips for using Glass Attack on an explorer in bar in San Francisco Google announces a partnership with Luxottica Google sells Glass to anyone in US Google sells Glass also to the UK
http://goo.gl/YgJdl9 http://goo.gl/f1FQIV http://goo.gl/IhP5zg http://goo.gl/MFFvzk Letter received via email http://goo.gl/mDm40Q
Source: Research data, and also: http://dsky9.com/glassfaq/project-glass-a-timeline-of-key-developments-in-
reverse-chronological-order/ and http://glassalmanac.com/history-google-glass/
Table 2: Different definitions of Google Glass, by different human actors
What Google Glass is
ЁIt is for fast, brief moments of experiencesЁ
Developers Ёin one phrase, that is picture and picture for lifeЁ (...) itґs a Ёfloating magical boxЁ(...)
"Whether or not Glass is successful, this is the first widely available wearable computer" (...).
Journalists ЁThe most futuristic piece of consumer technology might be Google GlassЁ.
ЁThe hottest object of high-tech lust since the original iPhoneЁ.
Ё a glowing, transparent cube - floated over my field of vision, showing maps, photographs
and simple messagesЁ.
"Google's not-nearly-as-dorky-as-you-might-think eyewear has emerged as the poster child
for wearable computing".
"This product is often incorrectly referred to as "Google Glasses" with good reason. But it's
really more of a lensless eyeglasses frame, with a mobile computing device built into the stem
that sits on your right ear".
Journalists ЁThe future of computingЁ.
(non users) ЁSounds cool. Looks geekyЁ.
"Google Glass has arrived like a piece of sci-fi memorabilia sent from the future".
"Glass has been described by some as a "hands-free, voice-activated, augmented-reality
headset"--and by me as a "dork monocle."
"a personal robot in the form of fashionable eyewear".
"Google Glass is an experiment in wearable tech".
"Google Glass, a cross between a mobile computer and eyeglasses".
ЁIt is the next step in mobility, a new form of Internet usageЁ
consultants ЁItґs a game changing in terms of hardware, not exactly in terms of softwareЁ.
IT people ЁGlass is not an all-purpose computer, it's a Google computer. All of its core experiences are
based on Google+, Google Search, and Gmail, and there's no way to change thatЁ.
ЁProject Glass-and the whole idea of machines that directly augment your senses-seemed to
me to be a nerd's fantasy, not a potential mainstream technologyЁ.
ЁOrdinary ЁIts pretty good thing and it is the future of communication but the price is bigЁ
ЁIt is a product that the world does not need. As long as it remains with developers who
explore the technology for other applications I think it is beneficial, but please no consumer
version! I'm already massively disturbed by the morons who film my kids on the playgroundЁ.
Government "Google Glass, the futuristic technology that's in the hands and on the heads of some
- regulators developers and journalists"
· In our corpus of analysis we have not found clear definitions of what Glass is by the other actors.
Table 3: The `more of the same' discourse The `More of the same' discourse "People are paranoid about without knowing why they are paranoid about.Ё (Developer - user). "You can create the laws but at some point technology will break them (...) In my generation some people think some things are annoying but young people think it is perfectly ok to share your whole life on Facebook, for example." (Journalist non-user) "Google Glass is getting a lot of press recently, and I think that Google has a winner on its hands. I predict that Google Glass will become the new iPhone-everybody will want one and will be willing to pay a premium price to own one. And like the iPhone, Google will release a new version twice a year and make big bucks like Apple did. Google stock will probably go up like crazy as a result." (`Ordinary people') "Regarding privacy concerns, yes - that needs a larger debate. But, all of us know that there are devices out there with more hidden ways of capturing videos/images. Glass is still apparent 'in your face'... Even Google maps with street view has captured images that are under 'discussion' under privacy laws of European countries
. In larger context, CCTV monitoring in all public places needs to be debated as well." (`Ordinary people') "The vast majority of people aren't perverts or creeps, and wouldn't use Glass as a force of evil. Besides, the real stalkers already have better tools at their disposal." (IT people user) Source: Research data
Table 4: The `we had enough' discourse The `we had enough' discourse "Things evolve but at some time people say ЁstopЁ, itґs enough." (Journalist - non-user) "We cannot keep allowing multinational corporations to erode whatever bit of privacy we have left for data mining and for governments to get a hold of this data. Again it's not lost on me that nerds who have never had social skills are at the forefront of all this digital technology
." (`Ordinary people') What they see, Google sees and can use, store and, after that, who knows? Facial recognition analysis? Your picture on a billboard? In reality, it is an academic question. If there's someone willing to pay for it, it will almost inevitably happen. Choice is key to trust in the digital economy and Glass doesn't just challenge our assumptions about consent, it challenges whether we even have a choice any more. And that can't be good for anyone". (NGO representative) "I think it's a technology overkill; there are already so much crap happening around us nowadays, do we really need to superimpose an additional layer of information on top of everything to further distract ourselves from the reality? People are going to fucking crash their cars and bikes playing with this nonsense." (`Ordinary people')
Source: Research data
Table 5: Contexts of use and non use of Glass
Contexts of use
Contexts to not use
· Sports (running, cycling, etc.)
· Field training (e.g. mobile workers, physicians, etc.)
· Travelling and street photography
· Locker rooms
· Translation (of street signs)
· Musicians to read lyrics, Actors (to read scripts),
· While driving
Reporters (to read news)
· Bars, restaurants, coffee shops
· Handicapped people: for hearing (facial recognition), autism (to identify facial expressions), for the blind, etc. · Support to control chronic diseases such as diabetes
· Movies · Sex (some actors such as journalists and `ordinary people'
· Field games · Education (field trips, etc.)
criticize this use and Google have rules that restrict it3).
Source: Research data
Table 6: Glass comparisons with other technologies
Technologies that failed Apple Newton - too ahead of its time (Developer - user) Bluetooth headsets - looks ridiculous (`Ordinary people') Microsoft, which launched the first tablet computer but was not the one to make profit out of it (Journalist, non-user) "Chromebook - looks good from afar, but nobody really wants it" (`Ordinary people')
Technologies that are diffused Smartphones - so not a new menace in terms of surveillance (Business consultant) social networks
"There was a time when people would tell me that social networking was `kids' stuff' and that adults would never use Twitter or Facebook." (`User developer') Any `radical' innovation "I would never "wait for anything to" fail. Decca told the Beatles in 1962 guitars groups were on the way out. HP told Wozniak computers were not for the home. The brass at Xerox laughed at the idea of a `mouse' for a computer." (`Ordinary people') The display Arnold Schwarzenegger used in `Terminator' (Journalist, non-user) GoPro Camera (Journalist, non-user, `ordinary people' user) The first iPad (Journalist, non-user)
Source: Research data
Benefits - hopes Accessing information on the move to support everyday tasks Support for communication everywhere, with anyone, via translation Having access to news and updates anywhere Accessing information with hands free can help to improve the
Table 7: Benefits and hopes about Google Glass Examples · "Record your daily habits. From the kind of food you eat to everything you do in the office. As well it provides you alternate routes to avoid traffic, and update you occasionally about the weather conditions (...) You can keep track of all your important appointments. You can set the calendar to appear on the lenses." (Journalist non-user) · "If he has a business meeting listed on his Google calendar, for example, Glass will alert." (Developer user) · Translate Language in Google Glass - this feature is very handy and very useful if you are traveling outside your country. Just ask your Google Glass for the language translation. Google Glass is able to translate a word, sentences, and phrases." (Journalist non user) · "Its like having Bloomberg 24h a day.Ё (Developer user). · Live Information When You Need It (Journalist non-user) · "What about at work when I need to help a colleague troubleshoot some equipment where he needs both hands free?" (Developer user) · "Wake up and have a look at how it can benefit our doctors, auto-techs and any
3 "Sexually Explicit Material: We don't allow Glassware content that contains nudity, graphic sex acts, or sexually explicit material. Google has a zero-tolerance policy against child pornography. If we become aware of content with child pornography, we will report it to the appropriate authorities and delete the Google Accounts of those involved with the distribution" Source: https://developers.google.com/glass/policies
performance of craft work Accessing information discretely can help to improve the performance of knowledge work (`invisible coach') Discrete technology that does not demand attention to be used can enhance human interactions Discrete technology that does not demand attention to be used can enhance the experience of living in the real world Source: Research data
other industry where you require 2 hands to perform a task, and if the information was directly in front of your eye, you could do it faster and more efficient. This is beneficial technology." (`Ordinary people') · "Suddenly I noticed something on the screen: [name of Glass user] had left open some notes that a Google public-relations rep had sent him. The notes were about me and what [name of Glass user] should and should not say during the interview, including "Try to steer the conversation away from the specifics of Project Glass." In other words, [name of Glass user] was being coached, invisibly, right there in his glasses. And you know what? He'd totally won me over"" (A journalist telling his experience in interviewing and academic researcher and technical lead/manager on Google's Project that was using Glass during the interview). · "Wearable computing interfaces can effectively augment the user's eyes, ears, voice and mind while being less socially intrusive than a desktop, laptop or phone. In addition, a properly designed interface can actually create a "calming" technology that helps mediate interruptions and allows the user to be in charge of her own attention." (Google) · "Why yes, you can even chat with your friends via social networks with Google Glass. Maybe you wanted to let someone know of an important event coming up in your life. Why sit at the computer and type it up when you can simply tell Google Glass to send a message you speak out-loud. This brings hands-free to a whole new level!" (Journalist non-user) · "They are much more social than looking at a cell phone. Why? I don't need to look away from you to use Google, or get directions, or do other things." (IT expert user) · "It's great to capture family moments with hands free." (Developer user) · As a parent of young kids, I'm often torn between enjoying the moment and capturing it - would love a set just for that. (`Ordinary people', non-user)
Fears/cons Privacy invasion by being recorded of photographed without notice Hacking and having personal data collected without notice Distraction (while driving, walking, working, etc.) Safety issues: risks for the eyes radiation Interference in
Table 8: Fears and arguments against Google Glass Examples · "There will be an entire new genre of stuff on the internet to join the other secret filming of women in locker rooms, bathrooms, at the beach, in their apartments by their landlords or in changing rooms or up their skirts while they stand in line." (`Ordinary people') · "We would like to know how Google plans to prevent Glass from unintentionally collecting data about the user/non-user without consent?" (US congressmen) · "Glass makes it entirely too easy to capture `creeper shots' of unsuspecting women. Within seconds of noticing them I was able to capture these lovely young ladies, you know... for science." (IT expert user) · "Once the attacker has root on your Glass, they have much more power than if they had access to your phone or even your computer: they have control over a camera and a microphone that are attached to your head." (Hacker - user) · "It is impossible to guarantee against these devices being hacked, so it would be surprising if people are allowed to wear them anywhere like Government buildings or in businesses that handle sensitive intellectual property." (NGO representative) · "Just imagine, folks: you're stuck in rush hour traffic, or you are trying to cross a busy intersection, and lucky for you all the other drivers are using (are DISTRACTED) with Google Glass. Go ahead, venture out into that intersection...drive down that interstate at 65 MPH. What an awesome technological society we are creating! In my opinion, this is an example of where the technology is exceeding our human shortcomings (...) "Glassing"...and putting the rest of us at risk." (`Ordinary people') · "Like when wearing glasses, some people may feel eye strain or get a headache. If you've had Lasik surgery, ask your doctor about risks of eye impact damage before using Glass. Don't let children under 13 use Glass as it could harm developing vision." (Google) · "Just how long do you want to wear something that transmits/receives data that close to your brain? We're told to keep our phones at least a couple of inches away from our bodies when we're not using them. But these are right on your head, and you'll wear them for hours at a time." (`Ordinary people') · "I think that if you are going to wear Google Glass, you want to wear it almost with a
purpose (...) But if you are going to a party, do you really want to wear them? You are going to be interacting with all these people you sensibly know. So maybe that's a time to put aside Glass." (Journalist non-user)
Alienation from reality or living in an artificial world Domination and fear of being manipulated by the technology Aesthetic problems (Geek, cyborg or robot appearance)
· After the shock and paranoia subside, there is the annoyance. Can a person really be engaged in a conversation if there are e-mails in the corner of their eye? (Journalist non-user) · ЁSight, a brilliant and disturbing short sci-fi film (...) imagines a world in which Google Glass-inspired apps are everywhere. A man is using a type of contact lenses called ЁsightЁ that projects images, TV, games, sounds, etc. He lives in a flat that is almost empty, almost everything that he sees is project through the lenses (e.g.: TV, bookshelves, etc.)." (Artists) · "I don't like the feeling of being "that guy"... That guy who is there but not really there... that guy who is less concerned with the people and things surrounding him physically, and who is more concerned with his virtual world." (`Ordinary people') · "And don't think for a second you're in control of the data from your own Glass. You're just a conduit for data collection." (NGO representative) · "A curious thought: We have, wisely, learned to dread Big Brother government. But now Big Brother is... us. There will be abuse, but I think also, as there has been with phone video, there will be an opportunity to prevent abuse." (`Ordinary people') · "Now you can walk around all day and look like an absolute prick. Thanks Google. Taking the cool out of society one product at a time." (`Ordinary people') · "Google Glass will be a commercial failure because you look like an idiot using it." (Journalist non-user)
Source: Research data
Table 9: Optimistics views of the future with Glass
Google Glass will help "In the future, wearable technologies will help us manage our lives, keep us in tune
users to perform most with our bodies through on-body sensors, augment our minds and allow us to be
of the tasks in daily
more independent of the physical desktop computing infrastructure that currently
life, controlled by them limits us." (Academic Researcher)
"You can imagine shopping apps that give you reviews and info about products or
deals as you peruse a store's aisles. Travel apps could provide, say, sightseeing
information based on your whereabouts. You might eventually pay for your parking
meter or your cup of coffee through Glass. Or request a taxi. In an emergency,
Glass might even summon 911 help." (Journalist, non-user)
Glass will bring new "People is going to use Google Glass to find coffee shops and restaurants, for
instance, and Google can get some cents out of each transaction that it helped to be
done, and it Ёcan be billions." (User IT expert)
"Developers at eBay Inc. are working on potential applications for Google Inc's Glass
project. Some of eBay's existing mobile apps already let shoppers point smart phone
cameras at products to check online prices and buy related items." (User developer)
Glass will evolve to
"Project Glass could hypothetically become Project Contact Lens [Google
more pervasive devices researcher's name] most recently built a tiny contact lens that has embedded
such as contact lenses electronics and can display pixels to a person's eye." (Journalist non user)
Source: Research Data
Table 10: Pessimists views of the future with Glass
Humans became totally "We are unwittingly constructing the Matrix. Google Glass is just one more small
step in acclimatizing ourselves to being part of a larger organism. While it appears to
technology to perform enhance the capability of the individual it actually co-opts it at the expense of your
independence. Today, many people would not know what to do if the lost
connectivity. Tomorrow, you may die without connectivity- Do you want this?
Humans will be
"I can imagine politicians in the future being 'plugged into' Google literally, at all
manipulated by the
times. How handy for them and big CEOs to have speeches and facts (or fables)
instantaneous access to right there, with no one to know they're even using it. They could change the 'tone'
usersґ information Humans will be dominated due to the permanent vigilance Wearable computing will bring alienation and loss of personal contact Source: Research Data
of their speeches as they're talking if their numbers start dropping! Same for the stock market
--imagine where THAT could go, lol." (`Ordinary people') "The Estate isn't in control on who is wearing the Glasses. It is Google data; and Google will use it to sell advertising." (NGO representative) "None of you 'tech bloggers' seem to understand that this IS NOT a product that will be aimed at the everyday Joe. Where its headed is Corporate America and law enforcement
(...) In terms of law enforcement, every cop on the beat will be wearing these one day as part of his job." (`Ordinary people') "So many positives to find in this when I approach it rationally but can't shake the visceral distaste I get when I think of a future where we're all wearing some form of these. Paranoid side of me credits George Orwell." (`Ordinary people') "So, I feel a bit sad thinking of an always-on future in society at large, when the public users of future Bluetooth earpiece type devices are the norm, not the exception to it. It still feels good to get out onto the street and at least occasionally make eye contact with people you pass, have the door held for you, make small chit chat with strangers, etc. It's already quite possible to feel alienated while surrounded by thousands or millions of people. I worry that soon it will be that much easier." (`Ordinary people')
A Klein, AS de Freitas, CD Pedron