Screens and content delivery are evolving quicker than the civilized world’s take on same-gender marriage.
Blink, and you miss the latest and certainly you don’t want that because it’s not just the message that’s evolving, it’s the method. And, the methods of delivering content are in the end, just as significant as the content itself.
Computer screens, television screens, and tablet, pad and smart phone screens will all be old school soon because while you were busy blinking, you missed something terribly important.
It’s not so much what we see, it’s how we see that has the most profound impact on human interaction.
Folding screens, rolling screens (scrolls?) and screens built into eyeglasses are going to hit the shelves and engulf consumers like a rogue wave. Each of these new tech-isms creates a slew of new and unanticipated ways to experience virtual life. But like the crazy aunt in the attic, the thing most of us are loathe to discuss and quick to dismiss is how all this hardware affects us, the wetware in both actual and virtual life.
With a lessening of effort and physical constraint one can be entertained, gather and share information, photograph, film and post and maintain social and business connections. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that not that long ago, content delivery was restricted to broadcast television, radio and print.
Heck, there was a time that all content delivery was completely limited to wetware.
Mouths, ears and gesture predate everything. Then in 1468, Johannes Gutenberg conquered the tyranny of the spoken word. He invented movable type printing and in a few short decades, books were available to people whose names didn’t include a royal or religious title.
Think of books as the first Internet, the Internet Grand Daddy and ground zero for mass communication. Many people had access to the same information. Granted, that information was generally limited to the bible, but still I’d have liked to have been a fly on the wall when the first, pre-Internet social faux pas occurred.
“Hey! Johannes. Put down that Bible. You’re being rude. I’m trying to talk to you!”
Fast-forward 500 years to newspapers, Penny Dreadfuls, radio and television. Information evolved and accessibility, further increased.
Then, cable broke the grip of broadcast television. Next came the Internet, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Barring a thermo nuclear electromagnetic pulse or a cyber terrorist attack, that information and entertainment stage will never be the same. The Internet and the devices used to explore the Internet have impacted our culture in ways sociologists will be discussing a century from now.
Yet another huge shift is underway and with that shift, society had better hang on and be prepared for a whole new way to be entertained and informed …and annoyed.
Google’s latest project, Google Glass, has been released to just 1,000 consumers worldwide. The glasses are expected to be available to the general public in 2014, and Google is already carving a path with a flood of online demos. Last week Google released the official user guide.
“Google has released the first video user guide for their latest project, Glass,” explains the narrator, a gentleman with an eminently trustworthy and unflappable London accent. “The wearable technology contains a battery, tiny computer, screen, camera and a wireless link, and can shoot video, take pictures and broadcast whatever the user sees.”
Yikes. Privacy issues, anyone?
And I just can’t shake the image of Glass devotees, clustered over small tables, coffee cooling to room temperature, coffee that’s only value is that of an image to be photographed by the Google Glasses and posted to Facebook.
“Cold coffee with people I kinda sorta know … Like!”
The Glass people, eyes glazed and drool barely contained, tapping madly at their glass frames, oblivious to each other and every event “streaming” out of real life.
“Hey, look out for that bus!”
So here’s the deal. I’m rolling out the beta version of the very newest, cutting edge and latest response to this brave new technology:
Aghast! Repelled! Somewhat revolted!
I predict this latest screen holds great potential for being the most annoying new “must have” techie device, yet.
The arts of conversation and good manners are already under siege. Texting competes with and far too often usurps actual conversation, and has done so for over a decade. Most have experienced the frustration of trying to talk to someone whose eyes are glued to a tiny screen and whose attention is devoted to the micro management of tiny thumb motions.
Now, imagine attempting conversation with someone wearing Google Glasses.
Just saying …
But I know it's unavoidable, and fighting innovation is like flatulence in a hurricane. Technology is like a bowling ball hurling down an ice-coated, ball-bearing-covered hill. And consumers, especially younger ones, are unavoidable targets. I’m afraid they’ll love Google Glass. In fact, I know they will.
But all is not lost. There is hope.
In the big picture this is the same song. It’s just a different dance. And at the end of the day it’s still just means and information that’s been out there all along.
The dance is quicker but, ultimately and subjectively, less to be savored. Information is more to be consumed and forgotten, like a breakfast bar instead of eggs Benedict. Eventually, people will tire of and outgrow Google Glass. Google Glass will become the fanny packs and pen pocket protectors of tomorrow.
I can’t wait.
But, let’s just pray that the next best thing after Google Glass doesn’t involve surgery and implants.
Stay tuned … only time will tell.
Kurt Niece writes about visual arts for SDGLN. He is a freelance journalist from Lakewood, Ohio. He is the author of "The Breath of Rapture" and an artist who sells his work on his website.