[Photo taken while walking in the Missouri State campus wearing Glass] Sometimes I get a great idea and don’t have time to write about it at that moment. This is one of those times. It’s probably no secret that I was part of the Google […]
If yesterday’s post could have been called “excited about new things” or “anticipation,” this one might be “people be crazy” or whatyou looking’ at Willis?” I caught a teaser on the local news about a local restaurant that is banning Google Glass use and that brought the whole technophobia issue home for me. I still don’t have Google Glass yet, but it is due to be delivered Friday.
Apparently, enough people are creeped out by what they see as the possibility for increased ease of surveillance via Google Glass that Google has done a press release. A typical article based on the press release is this one from PC Magazine that warns, “Don’t be creepy,” while the news release from Google the later stories are based on is more about Glass Etiquette. So, I am reading where people (journalists) say to wear it and where to take it off and I’m feeling a familiar feeling about this, although that feeling is not a comfortable one. This feels like every last time I was an early adopter. People be crazy.
I remember having a cell phone in 1990 or 1991 when I was a Realtor. I did not get the Motorola brick because I wanted a phone that would fit in my purse, so I paid more to get a reasonably-sized one. It was about half the size of a portable phone handset. The most maddening thing that people would do was to say, “Aren’t you afraid I’m going to call Europe with this?” or Better watch out–I may call France!” I really got tired of that. Did they hover over people using the phone in their house, their landline, checking the number of punches or times the rotary dial rolled round? Of course not. I started saying, I could do the same with the phone in your house. Does that worry you?” That would generate the famous blank stare. How could it be the same when it was so different?
So, since wearing Glass looks different, it must be different. Of course it isn’t really, at least not in the ways that are generating fear. It does not run on brainwaves. It will not do streaming video, although I think it would be easy to find a workaround for that. I honestly can’t think of a single thing it does that a smartphone can’t do, but it is not the same as a smartphone. We are in that moment now where the iPad used to be. Some people expected it to be a computer replacement while others saw it as a smartphone that couldn’t make calls. It is neither, and I still have a hard time explaining why the iPad is my go-to tool for teaching and the best companion for conference travel. It is the moment of remediation, where new tech is judged by what previous technology did and then judged wanting because it is not the same.
I like new things. I like trying new things out. I think that no one knows what Glass is good for yet, and that the answer won’t be one sentence long. One thing I do expect is that it will be an extremely personal device, something that stretches its abilities to fit the user’s needs in a similar way that smartphones do with their apps. Glass has apps too, and I have some ideas about what I want it to do. This degree of tech/human hybridity will make some people uncomfortable. As Donna Haraway points out in The Cyborg Manifesto, creating discomfort is natural for a cyborg, and at that time, she was not thinking then of actual human/tech hybrids. Join that discomfort with the awful clueless geek stereotype and things like bizarre bans happen.
I am hoping that since I am using the prescription frames, I will not stand out as much. I am also hoping that this is one time that the gender issue will work in my favor. I may appear less threatening with my white-streaked hair, my makeup, and just being female. I know quite well that I do not appear to be what I am, which is a Ph.D. -wielding university professor who specializes in Computers and Writing, especially social media. Those who don’t know me are likely to think that confessing technology discomfort or saying “Isn’t it amazing what kids today can do?” will put me at my ease and create a bond. Even though their words make me flinch, I’ve learned to be nice and hide it. That will help me now, because Google Glass plays into generations of cyborg fear.
It also doesn’t help that the United States is currently in the midst of a wave of surveillance fear. Of course, the real time to act on that fear was right after 9/11 when so many of our rights were snatched away in the name of national security. For me, the real surveillance fear for Glass is not for the people near the Glass user, but for the user her/himself. It is an incredibly intrusive device that probably should have a disclosure tag on it saying “Check your personal privacy at the door. We now own your hide. Love, Google.” However, once again, when was that battle fought? I have nearly full Google integration and I don’t care. Is Google that interested in me personally? No. As a member of an aggregate? Possibly. Once again, I am going into this with my eyes open and want to think deeply about my private/public self as a matter for reflection and research. To do so while maintaining my own privacy as inviolate is unreasonable and undoable.
Google is known for long betas and this is one time I think it is justified. The next step past Explorers seems to be in the mold of how Gmail grew. I got an email inviting me to send in names for an invitation, just like the beginning days of Gmail. I think that is a good way to grow a project like this rather than to offer it for sale while how it can be used it still being worked out. Here’s to slow growth and increased public familiarity.
Geoffrey Sauer on Eserver writes an excellent post, Net Neutrality and the Digital Humanities, that details why the recent decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to prevent the FCC from enforcing “net neutality” policies is a threat to more than […]
I allow laptops in my classes, and really, would have a hard time justifying a different stance. Besides, with the cost of books these days, I find that especially in lit courses, students are taking advantage of free public domain ebooks for the classics, something they can do on a laptop if they don’t have an ebook reader such as Kindle or simply don’t want to juggle both a reading device and a laptop. It or my newer favorite, the iPad, is also the preferred way to take notes for many and a notable resource for looking up things on the fly. Not everyone loves the laptop in classes though, and I have to admit,that just like the student paper and the window, a laptop can be an excuse for inattention, one that can be harder to detect that the traditional ones.Most instructors recognize the signs of inattention, and know how to handle that in general. This is just a more specialized case. Yes, classroom management by walking around is the go-to solution, but with enrollment caps rising, sometimes the room is too packed to effectively walk around.
So, that is the problem. Here is how I address it in my syllabus:
Classroom Etiquette: Although it’s not likely that something inappropriate or offensive to others will be said in the context of a university classroom, online or in person, it can occasionally happen inadvertently. That is far more likely online where visual and oral cues are (usually) missing. Since this course has a significant online component, students need to be especially aware of online etiquette and avoid transgressions such as “flaming” or other acts that are usually defined as trolling. In other words, I expect all class members to behave with decorum. As a class, I’d like us to discuss the expectations you have of each other and of me in my role as facilitator. Intellectual debate is a healthy thing and is encouraged in the spirit of collaborative knowledge making; however, tone, especially online because of the lack of context cues is something we must keep in mind as teachers and students. Finally, during class time, your fellow class members and I deserve your attention. With that in mind, please refrain from texting, checking Facebook, or other not class-centered electronic activity during class.
I underlined the policy sentence, and I think the rest is important as well since so many of us use some form of discussion board. I like this statement because it points out that their inattention is not a you vs. them issue; it is a respect issue for the entire class. Those who go off task and ignore the good discussion from their peers are not showing them the respect they deserve.
So, what can you do? Set the ground rules day one. Let them know that you not only can check their screen and demand their attention during class, that you will. Be lighthearted. Let them know that you don’t want to snoop, but that you and their fellow class members do have a right to their full attention.
Aside from that, I call on those who seem suspiciously intent on the laptop, especially if others next to them are too. The old “What do you think of that, Celeste?” method is good too. One I especially like is to have the student look something up for the class–you know–one of those let me look it up and get back to you moments. This way you can get an answer (or not) during class and at the same time give the transgressing student a chance to change his/her attitude by doing something positive. It is also an opportunity to give the whole class places to look for answers outside of Google. Have the student use Jstor or direct them to an academic’s blog. Oh! The opportunities when a classroom is not blocked off from the world by four walls!
I do walk around and look at their screens though, and get them used to the idea that what is on their screens is not private during class time. Sometimes I won’t say anything, but will close the laptop and keep walking. I do say something later, though, when I can talk to them privately. After all, the point of going to a university is to be engaged in learning. There is no engagement without purposeful attention.