Unstimulated: Google Glass

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 by angelarovak

Hello, everyone, I am Angie and I am a stimulation junkie. I have been for most of my life. During my youth you would be hard pressed to find me anywhere but the recliner by the TV, with my laptop balanced on the footrest, the radio blaring, mastering a Nintendo game while simultaneously chatting and texting on my phone. I fall asleep with the TV on and make sure to have the fan running for noise after the sleep timer detonates. Often I have the television on mute while I read. With all of this anecdotal evidence I had high hopes that the extra screen twinkling in my eye through Google Glass would feed right into my addiction. But I was wrong.

I want to experience the childlike excitement I felt over the advent of the Xbox Kinect for Google Glass, but even before trying them out for myself I was skeptical, not roused. After wearing them, connecting them to my Google+ account, exploring the features, all I can feel is disappointment. The features aren’t novel, it just moves the projection of my smartphone (and not nearly all of its capabilities) onto the panorama of my vision. Perhaps after the applications begin to sync with Google Glass capabilities I may enjoy it more, but this item is unlikely to join my store of gadgets and gizmos.

Google Glass seems like the most logical step forward in our 24/7 existence where no matter where you look the screen moves with you. There is no chance of missing out when it automatically engages your vision. Although you will only see a facsimile of the world behind the glowing box. It falls neatly into Jonathan Crary’s observation of our “unending demand for the externalization of one’s life into pre-made digital formats” (104). But there is something I find particularly unnerving about the externalized digital world onto my eye, into my line of sight.

The MIT Encyclopedia of Cognitive Sciences notes that neural pathways in the human brain “change as a function of visual experience” (as qtd. in Singer 107-8). It seems that Google Glass would be the next stage in invading our vision and altering human biological wiring. In this chapter Ben Singer lays out the argument for how modernity, circa the late-19th and early-20th centuries, vastly changed how humanity perceived external stimulus, locating much of the shock of modernity in the physiological reaction to visual input. The takeaway: we adapted. I can see individuals and whole populations using Google Glass and adapting, even if that means a reconfiguration of neural pathways to compensate for the additional visual stimuli. But do we want to? I believe the questions raised in both Singer and Crary’s texts revolve around limits and our willingness to move beyond them for the sake of modern technological “progress.” I, the self-professed stimulation junkie, draw the line just shy of Google Glass. For now.


Crary, Jonathan. 24/7. New York: Verso, 2013.

Ben Singer. Melodrama and Modernity. New York: Columbia UP, 2001.


One comment on “Unstimulated: Google Glass

  1. Lori Emerson says:

    fascinating post Angela – your point about how any new technology rewires our brains and changes us neurologically gave me pause… how exactly will GG rewire us? I can’t imagine right now except to come up with a more extreme version of what we already have. I’ll be curious to hear too about whether you find that the reading in our class makes you want to reign in your stimulation addiction or perhaps just understand its dimensions better?

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