Google Glass: how might it transform journalism and the balance of power between citizens and the state?
Billed as the first hands-free, cloud-based wearable technology, it shows wearers information through an optical head-mounted display that appears as though its screen is about two metres in front of you.
This photo is taken from the Google Glass website.
Glass also allows the wearer to capture video and photos and instantly share to their social networks — further combining the digital and physical world, as well as the speed at which news reaches the public. An app allows the wearer to manually upload videos from Glass to YouTube.
She also expects the device will free up journalists, allowing them to convey more intimate stories as they can be less intrusive.
However, she says the device needs more work to make it more useful for journalists (including a better microphone, longer-lasting batteries and more journalism-specific apps).
(Another journalism reviewer also recommends more work: “Though it has the potential to become an amazing, life-changing tool, right now the Glass is a very raw product.”)
While developments like Google Glass raise many questions for journalists about privacy and professional practice, some argue that such concerns must be balanced against its potential as a powerful tool for citizen journalists.
An article at MIT Media Lab describes the work of Dr Steve Mann in pioneering the design of wearable computer systems. Mann coined the term “sousveillance” – watching from below – as an alternative to “surveillance”, watching from above.
Ethan Zuckerman, director of the MIT Center for Civic Media, writes that when governments place citizens under surveillance, Mann suggests that we might invert the paradigm by pointing the camera at institutions and authorities, reminding them that citizens are watching as well.
Zuckerman expects widespread use of Google Glass will make it more likely that abuses of power, natural disasters and breaking news are documented.
However, he says we need to have “an extended conversation about the balance between the power we gain from sousveillance and the constraints that surveillance puts on our behaviour”.
Indeed! It seems likely to raise an ethical minefield….
Google Glass in action
This is the official promo video: “How it feels through Glass”.
As he wrote later at his blog:
• The report above is by Melissa Sweet