Maybe it’s Not a ‘Design Problem’

June 26

Maybe it’s a concept problem. There’s a story about how Google is going to try and fix the ‘design problem’ of Google Glass.  Critics have described Glass as a solution in search of a problem. The problem may in fact be the product itself.

I am neither in thrall to devices nor appalled by them. I think about them the same way I think about everything else. That is, what are the benefits, what are the costs. How the devices look is of some interest, but in soon-to-be-disposed-of devices, the stakes are pretty low. It was a rather brief moment when I thought a person consulting a personal device in public looked futuristic and appealing. Now it looks more like a low-grade drug addiction. But whatever. I wish I still believed that the communications revolution actually would elevate public discourse and politics, but I don’t anymore. Oh, well, life goes on. So far devices haven’t done as much damage to the nation as automobiles. So far.

But Google glass? I don’t understand why people talk about this only from the user’s point of view. Maybe it works for something useful or maybe it’s just a headache-maker. Maybe it’s ugly and maybe it isn’t. People wear lots of ugly things.

But whatever Glass is for the user, it’s just insulting to anyone in the vicinity. You can’t get around the fact that it’s a video camera aimed at other people. How can you expect anyone to engage you in a normal conversation when the whole time they’re wondering if you’re having secret jollies making video? It’s no different than if you were aiming your phone at them the whole time. As a product, I don’t know if it has a purpose. But as a behavior, it is, in fact, ugly.

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog.
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Tom Toles | June 25