Category Archives: Week 13: New Media: Case Studies

week 13: new media implementations- google glass

Google glass is a product designed to augment reality. It has been defined as “a wearable computer” (Wikipedia). The device makes use of both still and motion camera technology, as well as voice activation technology, a global positioning system, wifi, Bluetooth, et cetera. Time magazine has stated that “Augmediated reality serves to both augment and mediate our surroundings.” Google glasses mediate our reality by providing information about what we experience with our eyes immediately upon our perception and receptiveness to our visual clues. Google glass is almost intended to be a wearable smartphone, or the smartphone version of glasses, because it requires the Android operating system to function, and developers are looking at making Android applications for the device

The concept of mediation as it relates to photography and videography is an interesting one. Many people today are infamously known for holding their iPads, iPhones, and other smartphone or tablet devices up to their face, consistently, in order to capture the moments of their lives. Google glass takes that concept and creates a new way for users to experience and capture their worlds: through the lenses they wear on their noses, literally. A prime example of this are the photos via which one man experienced New Years’ Eve.

PHOTO BY BRIAN ANTHONY HERNANDEZ, MASHABLE

Google glass users are able to record and document events as they see them, instead of through another medium, such as a phone or tablet. Although the glasses are in fact, another medium just the same as a phone or tablet, in this case, the glasses are a wearable object, making them just one step closer to semi-instantaneous mediation of life and its experiences. Due to the fact that glasses are an incredibly personal accessory (and often, a necessity) for many people, the fact that Google glasses are an object that is worn versus carried in a pocket or purse, as well as the fact that the glasses are an object designed to be worn over the eyes, makes using them and experiencing life through the glasses almost automatic.

Another example of mediation with Google glass is when a Bride wore them when she walked down the aisle to meet her soon-to-be-husband at the altar. She herself was quoted saying, “My husband and I have a love for technology. We wanted to use Google Glass to capture the most intimate moment of our lives… All my friends told me they were so emotional that they actually forgot [I was wearing the glass] walking down the aisle. This was an experience I never want to forget” (Mashable). Wearing the glasses enabled her to record her wedding as it occurred without necessarily even perceiving that she was doing so. The basic concept of glasses as a whole is that they are designed to alter/better our perception of reality without us necessarily being cognizant of the changes being made.

 

 

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Works Cited:

Eye Am a Camera: Surveillance and Sousveillance in the Glassage | TIME.com http://techland.time.com/2012/11/02/eye-am-a-camera-surveillance-and-sousveillance-in-the-glassage/#ixzz2pyBzj5lc

http://mashable.com/2014/01/01/google-glass-new-years-eve-times-square-watch/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Glass#Camera

http://mashable.com/2013/12/29/google-glass-bride/

https://support.google.com/glass/answer/3064128?hl=en&ref_topic=3063354

Google Glass – Good or Bad?

Week 13 – Somaiya Sibai

Google Glass, a technological innovation that’s almost out and ready for consumers, is expected to be the next big thing in the world of communications. Reactions to it started as soon it was announced almost exactly a year ago (April 4th, 2012), and it seems that people are either very excited and supportive of the idea or very critical and against it. But what is really new in Google Glass? And what does it add to the plenty forms of media and communications we already have and depend on today? Has it really added “new” functions and forms of mediation than the ones that already exist, or is just the methods? And how are people viewing it today?

Sergey Brin, the co-founder of Google, mentions during the TED talk embedded below that the one of the main vision’s for the Glass project was to enhance the way people interact together. He questions whether the act of looking down at a smart phone is the ultimate way in which people would like to interact in the future. He then explains how Google Glass would eliminate this, and would allow people to look directly in front of them and at one another while at the same time collecting information and using media applications. Furthermore, he talks about the absence of the “sense of feel” in the use of touch screens, when all one feels is the rubbing of a piece of glass, and hence we would better off if we could be “hands free” to use our hands for other things we can actually touch and sense. Also, he talks about “freeing” the eyes and ears through the way it is designed.

So reflecting on this vision, we can understand why Google Glass can be such a powerful media artefact. The functions of Glass are not new in themselves, and almost all of them exist today in our smartphones and mobile devices, such as navigation, social networking, photography and video recording and sharing, web search, etc. According to Glass’s Wikipedia page, it is a device that displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format, that can interact with the Internet via natural language voice commands. So the functions are still pretty much the same. The new thing however, is the method and approach to using those applications. The Google Glass liberates the user’s senses as Sergey Brin explains, allowing them to interact better with the real world and maximize their sensual experiences. It allows a layering of information, by letting the user to be in touch with the real world in real-time, AND the digital world at once. For example, using Glass, we can take videos and photos of our own personal perspectives (what we see as the real world) and share them with others. Such an action cannot be done otherwise with usual cameras or mobile devices. 

CNET released this interesting video that illustrates the top 5 uses of Google Glass:

However, and as the video above mentions, such a technology poses a risk on the small space of privacy we still have a left today. This is the reason why many people today oppose it and are even lobbying against it.. An example is a London-based group called “Stop the Cyborgs” composed of graduate students who launched a campaign in which they created a “No Glass” logo.

Shop owners are putting up the logo in their shops already. “If it’s just a few geeks wearing it, it’s a niche tool and I don’t think it’s a problem,” said Adam, one of the members of the group. “But if suddenly everyone is wearing it and this becomes as prevalent as smartphones—you can see it becomes very intrusive very quickly. It’s not about the tech, it’s about the social culture around it.”

Here’s a couple of funny video parodies on Google Glass which might suggest why Glass might not be a very good idea after all:

References:

Google Glass, Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Glass

J. Angelo Racoma. “Stop the Cyborgs” Launches Campaign Against Google Glass. http://www.androidauthority.com/stop-the-cyborgs-google-glass-176968/

Considering the e-book

Jen Lennon

Technologically speaking, e-books aren’t super complicated. The use of a screen interface is something that has already been established for other purposes and through multiple devices. The digital ink is interesting, but it really just replicates regular ink. But it is the combinatoriality of the physical book, with the pages and dark script mixed with a touch screen and memory and interactivity that makes the e-reader a mediation of a former book. In a physical book, if you lose your bookmark, your book won’t remind you where you left off. If you lose it and go to buy a new copy, it won’t have the same notes you made in your old one. That computer-like memory and storage adds a new dimension to the reading experience through what’s behind the black box.

E-books are interesting because it’s allowed for the digitization of multiple ancient forms: storytelling, historical sharing, or even propaganda or religion imparting. On a social level, this is an amalgamation of these old-as-time art forms put into a small piece of technology. But thinking about that another way, it’s not all that remarkable considering the evolution the form has already taken from cave drawings to scrolls to tablets (the physical ones) to the physical book. E-books, if anything, took the leaps and bounds achieved through the physical book and expanded on that with the inclusion of the screen interface and digital ink. But socially, e-books also remove the need for certain societal interactions: the trip to the bookstore or the library. Users rely on reviews for book recommendations, or for an algorithmic equation to suggest something, as opposed to a bookseller or librarian or stranger in a store. 

In many ways, e-books perform exactly the same as a physical book. The ink, as it has improved, looks more and more like regular ink. With the Kindle, at least, they are trying to front-light the device much as those old-school clip on reading lamps worked when we were kids. The organization stays the same – you have just as much ability to jump ahead or go back as you do with a physical book. They can be lighter, depending on the book, but it’s still something you typically hold with your hands and read with your eyes. They perform the same function – they are there for you to interact with. It’s not going to do much for you without your participation.

However, e-books allow for reproduction to occur instantaneously. It allows for social sharing of books – you can lend a friend a book through the device, much as you would in person, but you can share with multiple people at the same time. Some have software capabilities that transcend the e-reader and can go to other sorts of portable devices as well as to computers and laptops, allowing you to stay on the same page across devices and the ability to see the notes you’ve made on one device onto another. It’s instant gratification, as well. In the past, getting a story into someone’s hands was a laborious process. It took physically hand-copying word by word, or it meant printing new pages and binding them. It was a complicated publication process with hoops for authors to jump through and agents and publishing companies who stood as gatekeepers. It meant going to a bookstore, in the hours when they were open, and looking for something new or even ordering online and waiting for the book to come. Now, it’s a touch of one button. It’s self publishing. The cultural institutions are different now and have merged with technological ones. While seemingly none of this changed the content (though, there’s something to be said for people buying things they might be too embarrassed to buy in a store OR for the amount of typos on e-readers), the reading experience has evolved again. And it is the merging of the old, or even ancient, with the new that is making this experience unique from its predecessors in these certain ways.

Apogee

“Apogee”
Elizabeth-Burton Jones
Week 13

Introduction:
Music has various meaning to various people. It has the ability to change the listener’s mood or introduce the listener to a different culture. But, in order to get the music to the masses a producer has to record the music.

Traditionally, recording music was a task that included a lot of expensive equipment. It was a big deal. One could not simply create a nice track without going to a studio and recording the music with the producers equipment. However, today recording music comes in different ways, shapes, and forms. Now, “everyone” has the ability to record. By making recording a universal platform and cutting out the middle man, everyone can produce and publicize their own music (good or bad). 

Out of all of the “Record It Yourself” microphones, I chose the Apogee Mic. But before we delve into this case study, let’s get some background information.

Very Abridged History of the Microphone:

Universal definition: Throughout this case study, when I am talking about the microphone and the evolution, I am talking about the technology according to this definition:

“The microphone, (coined by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1827), in its simplest form consists of a membrane that vibrates as sound waves hit its surface. The membrane is attached to a coil of wire that floats around a small magnet. As the coil vibrates back and forth, in response to the sound waves hitting the membrane’s surface, an electric current is induced in the coil that is proportional to the sound wave. This electric current is passed to an amplifier that will greatly boost the input signal and send this on to the speakers in a much louder sound wave. In essence the speaker works on the same principal as the microphone, but while the microphone membrane is small, the speaker membrane is much larger, and capable of moving a larger mass of air which through amplification translates into an larger version of the input signal. A microphone by definition has two meanings: it is an instrument for intensifying weak sounds. And it is a device for transforming sound waves into electrical impulses.”

Microphones do not come in one shape or size. They are varied depending on the use. For instance, a person could use a microphone amplifying their voice when giving a speech, or they could use a microphone when they are at their local karaoke destination.

When recording music, there is a traditional structure code that is usually associated with the microphone. This “code” sets up a blueprint to how the microphone will look and how it will function.
Here are some pictures of the “Evolution of the Microphone”.

  

Now that we have some background information about the microphone, we can look at my Case Study. 

My Case Study: The Apogee Microphone. 

The Apogee Mic is a microphone that you can connect to your computer and record music.

Apogee Introduction

What does it do?
Basically, the Apogee converts music to a digital form.

This is what the Apple website says:
“Apogee’s MiC digital microphone for iPad, iPhone, and Mac provides a direct digital connection for crystal-clear recordings of anything from acoustic guitar, vocals and percussion, to voice overs, interviews and iPhone videos.

  • Studio-quality cardioid condenser microphone
  • Apogee PureDIGITAL connection for pristine sound
  • Gain control knob for easy input level adjustment
  • No configuration, just plug in and record

Made for use with GarageBand and Logic software

What’s Wrong with Analog:  


I am usually not a fan of the jump from analog to digital, however through this course I have realized that it is hard to avoid the transition, whether it is recording a performance on YouTube or recording a performance via the Apogee. 

To help explain the analog to digital conversion www.apogeedigital.com breaks the conversion into multiple steps.

“A Step-by-Step Look at Apogee Technology
Step One: Analog excellence

Analog design excellence is the first critical step in realizing world class digital audio. Poor analog design and cost-cutting measures result in diminished audio quality. Everyone has heard the saying “garbage in, garbage out.” Delivering bad analog audio to the digital converter will always result in bad audio out of the converter. Great-sounding analog audio is the first step, but it is not the last.

Step Two: Getting from A to D

Digital audio conversion is the process that samples an analog audio signal and represents that original signal with 0’s and 1’s. Like a motion picture camera that captures action at 24 frames per second, the sound is “photographed” or sampled between 44,100 and 192,000 times per second depending on the chosen sample rate. The sample rate determines the highest frequency that can be captured by the converter. Digital audio samples can be captured with word lengths ranging from 8-bit to 24-bit. A larger bit size results in superior definition and increased dynamic range. “

The website goes on to mention other steps and clears up any questions about the Apogee.

What’s in the Box, the Blackbox:

This image “deblackboxes” the Apogee. If we look at this image and pair it with the historical information in the beginning of this blog, we can see the continuous nature (dialogism) of the technology.  

 

Is the Apogee for me?
With all of this information, the Apogee appears to be a wonderful tool to give everyone access to recording music. It seems relatively easy to use. 

The Connection:

I believe the history and use of the Apogee covers so many topics that we have covered over the semester. However, in this post, I have mainly covered the nature of combining all of the evolutionary technologies of the past and fusing them together to create the Apogee. This covers so many topics about dialogism and hybridity.

With regards to the social and cultural meaning, I think this is an interesting topic for debate. Just like many mediums, music is questionably divided between a higher form and a lower form. Accordingly, these ideas stem from different cultural and social views. Therefore, it is relative.

Even with the cultural encyclopedia in mind, the relativity still prevails because everyone is not as well versed in the cultural encyclopedia of musical recording. I guess one of my questions involves the Apogee’s ability to change the definition of home recording. Recording from home is stereotypically viewed as a lower form of recording vis-à-vis the “big studio” version. Therefore, with these advanced forms of home recording (like the Apogee) will we be forced to edit the chapter (in the cultural encyclopedia) about the standards and prestige of recording? Will the symbolic nature change? Will it change the course of the “system map”?

By making the recording world accessible to every artist changes the music world. We have crossed the musical digital divide and currently I am not sure where we stand. With pages like YouTube and companies that will place your music on iTunes, there have been a lot of bad examples of the usage of the available technology. However, there are equally impressive examples on how the recording music from a home studio can be a new way to access traditionally   distant music.

 

Additional Question:

By cutting out the middle man when recording and making recording a universal platform, does this tarnish the prestige of making a record? 

Resources:

http://store.apple.com/us/product/H8309ZM/A/apogee-mic-microphone

http://www.apogeedigital.com/products/sound-amazing.php

http://www.acesandeighths.com/microphone_evo.html

 

The Communicated Culture of Google Glass

Google Glass is one of the most hyped up products that has yet to hit the marketplace. By providing people with an accessible form of augmented reality, Google is truly pushing society forward into the techy future many have been fantasizing about for decades. Although a number of interdisciplinary theories are relevant to Google Glass, is especially important to note the object’s communication and culture component, as well as how Google Glass fits into society as a medium. Additionally, we should note how interfaces affect the functions of both of the previously mentioned components in order to create the sense of augmented reality.

Communication and Culture –

On the communication and culture front, Google Glass exemplifies how powerful Google the company is in its entirety. People are drawn to Google Glass not only because of the object, but because it is associated with Google. Carey said, “the archetypal case under a ritual view is the sacred ceremony that draws persons together in fellowship and commonality.” This sense of commonality is visible in the promotional materials Google released to hype up Glass. The object itself is not portrayed as much as the experience of using it.

Google Glass aims to not only promote the use of an object, but inherently promotes institutionalizing Google by permeating direct human interaction. Again, to quote Carey, “It sees the original or highest manifestation of communication not in the transmission of intelligent information but in the construction and maintenance of an ordered, meaningful cultural world that can serve as a control and container for human action.” Google Glass allows people to communicate with one another through the use of an object, and in doing so categorizes each human interaction by making one hyper-aware of things that could be communicated. In facilitating this kind of interaction, Google Glass allows people to notice the digital aspect of their cultural world more than they may have otherwise.

 The Medium is the Message –

Going off of the notion that Google Glass itself facilitates a mediated sense of interpretation and communication, McLuhan’s assertion of the medium being the message continues to hold up in modern times. Like the many other forms of media that precede it, Google Glass has a set of inherent characteristics that would shape the user’s sense of reality and communication for better or worse. 

The most noticeable characteristic would be the fact that although the object allows you to share your view of the world with others, it also forces you to personally categorize every human action into a specific function of the glasses. So while it may be easy to send a visual snapshot of what you see to your friend, you still can’t fully share the experience of seeing what you see and must somehow transfer your communication into the square camera box of the Google Glasses. Additionally, the glasses themselves are a kind of metamedium that reinforces existing media functions and their messages. People on the other end of the line of a Google Glass interaction seem to still be dependent on some existing form of media like a television, computer or camera.

Interfaces – 

All in all, Google Glass seems to reinforce the importance of screens as an interface between humans and technology. The surface level interface of Google Glass is the entirety of the hype about the object because it puts a new shape onto something that is already familiar. That being said, as mentioned in the media being the message of the glasses, the user would be restricted to Google’s interpretation and style of interface interaction, so it will be interesting to see how users will be able to craft their own interpretations of how to use the object. Additionally, as mentioned in relating the culture of Google to Google Glass, the interface will reinforce a feeling of the Google culture because it will be easy to see who is using it and who isn’t since glasses like this do not generally exist. In general, the apps that Google Glass provides to people are not that different from things that already exist on smartphones, so it will really be the culture of the interface that makes Google Glass the phenomenon that it strives to be.

 

Google Glass: neither utopian or dystopian, but a small, combinatorial step

by Alexis Hamann-Nazaroff

Google Glass –I’d never heard of this specific product until this class assignment, but of course, I’d run across the general idea.  Augmented Reality is a staple of science fiction fantasy scenarios.  I watched the official demo video and noticed that in this case, my first reaction is less the technophile, over-the-moon-with excitement sort, rather, it fills me with a sense of dread – a lump in my gut telling me that Google Glass will bring on a life of detachment from reality, and of inescapable technology-addictions.

Neither the excited nor the doom vision is really an appropriate reaction to this technology.  To get a grip on these reactions we should ask: What of Google Glass is really new?  How does this technology interact as a node in the contemporary network of media technologies and technological position in everyday life?  What social/cultural functions does this interface mediate?

–       Google Glass does not (as far as I can tell) execute any functions have not already been developed in aps for smart phones over the past few years.  Just as the smart phone was mostly not new, but a combinatorial device already available in cell phones, cameras, personal computers, music players etc., making these functions more practical, so Google Glass takes the search for practical one step further.  These functions are now hands free, and voice activated.

–       Google is not the first company to come up with the idea.  Like I mentioned before, the abstract concept has a long history in fiction.  And even actual functioning prototypes were created before Google, for example the iterations of the “Digital Eye Glass” created by Steve Mann in the 1980s and 1990s.  The reason Google Glass can be marketed as revolutionary is that Google has a lot of clout and power through its social positioning.  What Google says will be heard loud and clear (that what a no-name computer inventor may say is less audible has nothing to do with the quality of product he invents and everything to do with his lack of social power.)

–       Google Glass can come out and be accepted as an exciting new invention today in a way it could not have a decade or even a few years ago.  Technology doesn’t take leaps, it takes small, combinatorial steps.  We understand how Google Glass could fit into our lives because we are socialized into fitting smart-phones into our lives.

The Book (for lack of a proper title)

Yiran Sun

The Technology

The e-books are not particularly technology-heavy artifacts. In fact, its only central technology is the e-ink display, which works by relocating black and white pigments through clear fluid in a plastic sheet when charged negatively or positively. The other important part is the chip on the circuit board, which processes information and tells the e-ink display sheet which part is to be charged in what ways. On top of these are features like USB/WIFI/3G connections, the battery, the touch screen and the light guide, but none of these are essential to the e-books, especially the last two.

The traditional paper books, on the other hand, incorporate technologies such as papermaking and binding. While books in earlier times were hand copied, the mass-produced version of the artifact came with the implementation of the printing technology (the substrate).

Central to both the e-books and the paper books lays the ancient function of inscription, which have been implemented in technologies like the backlit display, the papyrus, the parchment, the ink, the clay tablets, and so on.

All of the above-mentioned formats of books are highly combinatorial in technologies, as is the case with almost all media. None of the formats is “one” particular technology innovation, despite how some marketing campaigns have attempted to make them appear.

The Mediation

Besides the technological combination, the e-books also combine both the book function and the screen function.

The book function is formed when the ancient inscription function has been implemented through social institutions such as religion (scriptures), law (codes) and education. Because these social institutions form the backbones of the society as we know it today, the book function has gained much power and prestige as the medium of transmitting and preserving human knowledge.

The screen function itself is not as old as the book, but it has its root in the representational surface function, which is perhaps as old as human cognition. It is also empowered by social institutions like the state and university (which gave the screen its initial legitimacy). Most of its power, however, came from the hardware and software that lies behind it. Software then, gained its power through the people who create and use them, through human generativity.

The Interface

Most major e-books on the market today strive hard for creating immediacy through the imitation of traditional paper-based books. They share a similar size, a similar layout, even a similar page-turning mechanism. Humans have been socialized into such kind of representation of symbols and knowledge/ideas through various implementations of the representational function and the book function, and have developed the mental model to navigate through the system (in this case, to know where to expect things such as index and text content across different technical means).

Affordance wise, like earlier paper books, e-books at its current stage does privilege text over images over video contents because of technological limitations (the residual image caused by pigments that float in the middle and the low refresh rates). However, with technological progress and further combination with other technologies, that would no longer be the case in the near future.

Google Glass Case Study

Google Glass Case Study

by: Sara Levine

I had not encountered Google Glass until very recently (in other words, when Professor Irvine mentioned it) and was surprised to find that there have already been a number of articles and video parodies in existence despite the fact that not many people have come into contact with the product. However, the news features surrounding Google Glass do not delve deeply into the product’s function as a media artefact.

The Ultimate Black Box

How does Google Glass work, exactly? If an interested potential buyer visits the Google Glass website, she or he may not find a definitive answer. The promotional video shows how “cool” the product is and demonstrates what it will be able to do, but it does not include technical details. Head-mounted displays (HMD) are not particularly innovative, but Google Glass seems lighter and sleeker than previous models. Its minimalist design suggests that users will not have easy access to the hardware behind Google Glass. If it breaks, it won’t be a simple case of cracking open the frame and checking “under the hood,” so to speak. There is a great deal of mystery surrounding the marketing behind Google Glass, and I would expect that its users will not be bothered with specifications unless it malfunctions. If potential buyers do some extra research outside of promotional materials, they may find that several developers have broken down most of Google’s recently released specifications into more comprehensible explanations. The explanations provided on mobilexweb.com are written for users who are fluent in code, but they also de-blackbox parts of Google Glass that had previously been shrouded in mystery.

Media in Media

Manovich wrote that a metamedium uses “already existing representational formats as their building blocks, while adding many new previously nonexistent properties. At the same time…these media are expandable – that is, users themselves should be able to easily add new properties, as well as to invent new media (Manovich 23).” Bolton and Grusin wrote that “each month seems to bring new evidence of the voracity with which new media are refashioning the established media and reinventing themselves in the quest for immediacy (Bolter and Grusin 267).” So, is Google Glass just another recombination of “new media,” or a “metamedium” that has the potential for growth? It has been hailed by TIME Magazine as one of the “Best Inventions of the Year 2012,” but it seems as though Google Glass has been lauded for technological innovations that it cannot lay claim to. Google Glass is not, for example, the first instance of Google software. It seems to be a new recombination of software and media forms that Google has already introduced. It also contains the technology used in film, photography, audio, GPS, voice recognition, and Internet access.

Software

On the other hand, Google Glass may have the potential to become a “metamedium” as Manovich described it. At the time that I am writing this blog post Google has released details about API and sample code for users to start experimenting with and build their own programs for Google Glass software. The “Glassware” website contains a few sources for developers, as well as introductory videos for several different programmable aspects of Google Glass. Additionally, there is a “Playground” for developers to test out code in if they have not yet been able to get their hands on Google Glass. Consequently, there is the potential for users to “add new properties” and create new software for Google Glass.

Google Glass is marketed and presented to users as software. Manovich wrote in “Software Takes Command” that “We live in a software culture – that is, a culture where the production, distribution, and reception of most content – and increasingly, experiences – is mediated by software (Manovich 19).” The majority of users will only be interacting with the very surface features of Google Glass’ interface. Those who are well-versed in code may use code to manipulate the software, but that seems to be the deepest level of interaction possible. Manovich gives the example of a digital photograph taking on different properties and functions depending on the software that it is displayed with. Google Glass may be just another piece of software in an increasingly software- and app-based world, but its presentation sets it apart from others.

Absence of Augmented Reality

Google Glass sits in front of the eye and is hands-free. This means that it is controlled by the user’s voice. It is meant to be intuitive, so that the technology can be instantly accessible without the need to manually turn anything on or off. “…what best explains the distinctive features of human intelligence,” writes Andy Clark, “is precisely their ability to enter into deep and complex relationships with nonbiological constructs, props, and aids (Clark 5).” As “natural-born cyborgs,” we may already possess the ability to enter into such a relationship with Google Glass. It seems that our natural propensity for combining our mental functions with electronic tools is facilitated by placing the screen directly over the eye. I was going to write about augmented reality technology here and more specifically about Jurgenson’s “Digital Dualism versus Augmented Reality,” but one of the specifications that Google recently released states that Google Glass does not currently contain augmented reality technology. Mobilexweb.com’s breakdown stresses that Google Glass is not simply a “replacement” for mobile or desktop computing. However, the absence of augmented reality seems to reduce Google Glass to remediated software on a screen in front of users’ eyes. An augmented reality feature would support Jurgenson’s stance that the digital and physical are enmeshed rather than separated in a dualistic point of view. It could be argued, however, that the placement of the Google Glass over the eye supports Jorgenson’s argument as well. Even if it is not augmenting the user’s reality, the user is still combining the two realities by using Google Glass in reaction to physical events (taking a picture, recording sound, etc.).

Context

Discussion and speculation surrounding Google Glass is only just starting to pick up, but it is interesting to make note of some of the context through which Google Glass is emerging. Google Glass has been in development for some time, and is only just now being exported to those who are on an exclusive list of “Glass Explorers.” Despite the fact that Google Glass is not yet widely distributed, the existence of the sample code and other forward-looking features indicate that Google is preparing for an explosion of demand for this product. Reactions to Google Glass have varied widely. Some believe that it will further alienate us from “the real world”, while others are excited about the possibilities for hands-free computing. Whatever the outcome, Google Glass’ entrance into the market as a media artefact will certainly be notable.

References:

Bolter, J. David, and Richard A. Grusin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1999. Print.

Clark, Andy. Natural-born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. Print.

“Developing for Google Glass.” Breaking the Mobile Web. N.p., 16 Apr. 2013. Web. <http://www.mobilexweb.com/blog/google-glass-web-mirror-api-html5>.

Dvorak, John C. “Why I Hope Google Glass Flops.” PCMAG. N.p., 15 Apr. 2013. Web. <http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2417784,00.asp>.

“Google Glass.” — Google Developers. N.p., n.d. Web. <https://developers.google.com/glass/about>.

“Google Glass API Documentation Now Live, Glassware Sample Code Provided.” Engadget. N.p., 15 Apr. 2013. Web. <http://www.engadget.com/2013/04/15/google-glass-api-documentation-now-live-glassware-sample-code/>.

“Google Glass.” Google Glass. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.google.com/glass/start/what-it-does/>.

“Google Glass Playground.” Google Developers. N.p., n.d. Web. <https://developers.google.com/glass/playground>.

“Google Glass.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Apr. 2013. Web. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Glass>.

Jurgenson, Nathan. “Cyborgology.” The Society Pages. N.p., 24 Feb. 2011. Web. <http://thesocietypages.org/cyborgology/2011/02/24/digital-dualism-versus-augmented-reality/>.

Manovich, Lev. “Media After Software.” Journal of Visual Culture (2012): n. pag. Web.

Manovich, Lev. “New Media from Borges to HTML.” Introduction. The New Media Reader. By Nick Montfort and Noah Wardrip-Fruin. Cambridge, Mass. [u.a.: MIT, 2003. N. pag. Print.

Price, Emily. “Google Glass Ready to Ship for Some Explorers.” Mashable. N.p., 16 Apr. 2013. Web. <http://mashable.com/2013/04/15/google-glass-ready-to-ship/>.

Rivington, James. “Google Glass: What You Need to Know.” TechRadar. N.p., 10 Apr. 2013. Web. <http://www.techradar.com/us/news/video/google-glass-what-you-need-to-know-1078114>.

Ok, glass, post a blog.

Wanyu Zheng

At first, I thought Google Glass was a smartphone terminator – consider how many functions/components it has taken from a smartphone: messages are sent via voice control, information is displayed on the glasses like screen, and pictures/videos are captured by a first person view camera. Time Magazine recognized it as one of the “Best Inventions of the Year 2012”, yet this pair of glass would not be much of an invention, but an assemblage of existed media. Wait a second, isn’t this re-mediation? When McLuhan pointed out that all media were extensions of men, did he realize that all media would also be extensions of media themselves? I am hoping that Debray’s Mediology method will help me in the following analysis.

Dissection: Re-Mediation

The picture below shows an earlier version of the design of Google glass. And now it is as light as a few ounces but is implanted with a hands-off HD camera, a touchpad on the side of Glass to navigate, an oval speaker on the inside of the battery pod, a transparent LCD which could show information on the plastic cube in front of the user’s right eye. The interaction between the Google glass technology and human works mainly through the voice commands – which will certainly remind us of “siri”. It has support for Wi-Fi and blue tooth, and even allows USB charging and has 12 GB memory that syncs information to Google Cloud. Insofar these technologies may sound advanced, but none of them seems surprising or innovative to me, since I have experienced similar things earlier on an iPhone. If so, why are people crazy about it? What gives the assemblage device so much significance? 

 Surveillance and Capture: Freedom or Panopticon

A major difference between the Glass and an iPhone is that the hands-free camera on the Glass is from first person point of view, so that what we record is what we see, and we are able to capture the world ahead of us more frequently. With the constant capture, the Glass appears to be a dangerous one. We can hardly be aware of whether we are being monitored, and may fall into a panopticon like what we’ve learned in 506. The “hands-free” is now making us action-limited, and even mentally stressed.

Augmented Reality: Alone Together Again?

A few weeks ago I discussed the bad sides of Facebook, one of which argues how social media makes people so addicted to it that weakens our interpersonal relationship/communication. Sherry Turkle, the MIT scholar called this situation “Alone Together”. As for Google Glass, while it provides us more effective and efficient information, it also brings us more info-glut. The augmented reality function makes the Glass possible to become a “good-helper” of human beings – like the saying “Human’s idleness will bring us to the new technology”, but I doubt that whether we are truly closer to the reality. Like the Google Arts Project, Benjamin would say the loss of aura is a good thing, since it allows us to be creative and share information to wider audience. However, imagine that I am standing in front of the metro entrance, instead of stepping in to check the next train, I ask my Glass first: “ok, glass, when does next blue line train come?” At this point, are we closer to the real metro, or being more drifted apart from it by the technology we love? If I can ask the Glass to translate Chinese to English, is there any need for me to learn English at the first place? This comes to my big concern: Google glass is likely to drive us apart from the real world and from each other. We don’t want the Glass to have negative effects on the human-human interaction while we are busy with the human-technology interaction.

Interface – A Glass Without Glass

One funny thing about Google Glass is that it is called “glass” but only applies the frame of a real glass, not the original function, concept and material of glasses – it won’t protect your eyes. This design pattern happens all the time in other kinds of digital media. A photo editing software is called “Photoshop” while it barely has anything to do with buying or selling photos; an E-book always has zoom-in function while we can never zoom-in with our fingers when reading a real book. In the new media/ digitalized world, the interface is not only a channel for us to communicate with the product, but also an alternative interpretation of the real things. This points to the new meaning making of new media, which I’ve found really fascinating. Google Glass may have the chance to become a symbol, a cultural representation in the post-Google era.

Now it seems to be an endless topic to talk about. I’ll have to pause and say: “okay, glass, post a blog.”

 

References:

http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/gadgetbox/google-glass-specs-revealed-one-day-battery-life-bone-conducting-1C9374243

http://www.techradar.com/us/news/video/google-glass-what-you-need-to-know-1078114

https://www.google.com/glass/help/#getting-to-know-glass

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Glass

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Era of its Technological Reproducibility (1936; rev. 1939).

Regis Debray, “What is Mediology?” Le Monde Diplomatique, Aug., 1999. Trans. Martin Irvine.

Marshall McLuhan, “The Medium is the Message,” (Excerpts from Understanding Media, The Extensions of Man, Part I, 2nd Edition; originally published, 1964).

http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/CCTP748/CCTP748-syllabus.html

 

 

 

Case Study 1: E-Books

 

The purpose of the book has always been the same: to read and become absorbed in a series of text and/or pictures. Just like the MP3 came along as a “new” and “revolutionary” technology in the popular culture sphere, e-books and e-readers are often donned with the same terms. But what makes them new or revolutionary? Is describing e-books as a technology even sufficient? Not entirely, if you analyze the e-book and related items such as digital ink, e-paper and thin film substrates from a theoretical, post-modernism, and digital media background. As Sterne said:

“If there is such a thing as media theory, there should also be format theory.” (2012, p.7)

Analysis of the Technology Functions:

Saying the e-book is a technology is simply not enough. It is a system of technical functions that aim to please the end-users, which is simply allowing them to read the text.  The most ostensible variations in the technology systems of a traditional book and an e-book is the format. Although Sterne talks in-depth about the format of an MP3, his analogies can apply to the book as well. According to Sterne, “format denotes a whole range of decisions that affect the look, feel, experience, and workings of a medium. It also names a set of rules according to which a technology can operate.” (2012, p. 7).

The format of the traditional non-digital book (no presence of digital ink, or electronic apparatus) involves the physical quality of paper itself, the binding, and the option of a hardcover or paperback. This traditional technology provides the user with an experience of touch and an individualized  memory function (one can fold the pages as an impromptu bookmark or one can use the index in the back of the book). For the e-book, its format allows the user to still hold the device the same way a traditional book would be held, but feels different (a smooth exterior, sans paper) and a built-in memory function for jumping to pages or using the index. There may even be a highlighting option, meant to replicate the function of highlighting text a reader would do with a physical writing utensil.

Analysis of the Mediations Functions:

No matter the format, the book transmits meaning through its mediation function. Just like Apple did not “invent” the MP3, Amazon nor other e-book manufacturers did not “re-create” the purpose of the book. The fundamental function (to read) is still here. The Kindle, Nook and other e-readers’ main function is to provide avid readers with new options, as we are in an increasingly growing convenience-based society.

Like the MP3, e-readers have the affordance of taking up less physical space. Ten physical books require more effort to carry than 10 books uploaded to an e-reader. To touch upon Manovich’s ideas, what really makes the e-book an e-book is its employment of software. Here, the software is working 24/7, whereas for the traditional book, the software was only used to produce. The e-book’s software must constantly be running to work for the user and be stored in compatible file formats. Nevertheless, e-books and traditional paper-based books still require information processing from the human  – e-books are intended to mediate the author’s messages, thoughts, and analyses in the same way a book would 20 years ago.

Analysis of the Interface Functions:

The e-book is no panacea for traditional reading issues. For example, if you’re reading a physical book in a crowded place and reading an e-book in a crowded space the reader may still grapple with outside noises and distractions. One would still be in dismay say, if he or she accidentally dropped her book or e-reader in a river. Granted, the monetary value of an e-book’s interface is probably more than a regular book. The value of the interface is still inherent, but it’s the way the book’s properties are presented that function differently.

The book is a cultural artifact whether or not it is in the form of an e-reader or it is a 50-year old paperback with a withering cover. In the near future we will see more presence of bendable screens, e-readers with greater capacities and digital ink becoming as relevant as the 2000-year tradition of paper-based books.

References:

Sterne, Jonathan MP3: The Meaning of a Format (Durham, NC: Duke University Press Books, 2012), “Format Theory” (excerpt).

Sterne, Jonathan “The MP3 as Cultural Artifact,” New Media & Society 8, no. 5 (October 1, 2006): 825-842.

Google Glass: A “New” Reality?

By Catherine Cromer

It is because our brains, more than those of any other animal on the planet, are primed to seek and consummate such intimate relations with non-biological resources that we end up as bright and as capable of abstract thought as we are.

It is because we are natural-born cyborgs, forever ready to merge our mental activities with the operations of pen, paper, and electronics, that we are able to understand the world as we do.

The above quote by Andy Clark has never been so relevant as our technologies truly have become  an extension of ourselves  not only physically through our senses, but by holding our memories, thoughts and pieces of  our identity. The notion of “natural-born cyborgs” has never been so obvious than when one looks at the new Google Glass. The hype  buzzing around the internet and tech worlds describes the device as the next step in the fusion between the “real” world and the digital world, ultimately what many media reports are deeming a “true form” of augmented reality. However, upon further attempt to deblackbox this the Google Glass, it appears this technology is not as novel or innovative as many have made it out to be. 

The medium of a wireless invisible interface is a hot topic among a number of technologies and based on the theories of communication and mediums McLuhan, is an evolution of the integration of human and technological integration. McLuhan expresses the need for us to look at “the function of technologies under the paradigm of extensions of man,” asking us to look past the image or item that is front of us, or in the case of Google Glass, on us. The medium of Google Glass is continuing our pattern of discarding the noise to create an experience that is harder than ever before for critics to define as solely digital as the digital has become the real and the real the digital. Taking a picture or recording video from a first person perspective prevents any division of what many think of as two separate worlds. 

Furthermore, when you look at the history and development of the Google glass and similar technologies, the utopian/dystopian uproar among opposing sides seems like the typical old versus new arguments that are often found in evolving technologies. For example, before going to work   at Google Babak Amir Parviz wrote a paper, giving a greater deconstruction of the technology and its production called self-assembled crystalline semiconductor optoelectronics on glass and plastic.” Google Glass suddenly sounds a lot less exciting or innovative. The title within itself is a recognition that the technology should not be seen as a miraculous device by grounding it in scientific language that makes it seem simply as computerized eyewear

This image above taken from Steve Mann’s article “My Augmented Life” presents a deblackboxed diagram of how Google Glass works with basic knowledge of light refraction and computer science. The social impact and narrative that Google has created with their commercials is a way that the human symbolic faculty gives new technologies meaning. 

Also of interest is the idea of surveillance and the meaning that many critics have ascribed to Google glass as an invasion of privacy and step to far from Google. However this “invasion of privacy” that people claim Google Glass will perpetuate is already happening. Many of us are aware that Google and Facebook collect data on us and many of us complain, but just the same, many of us now recognize it as a necessary evil to make our lives easier and to continue to use the technologies and web services we want. While there are several arguments between the notion of utopian versus dystopian uses, the blog site “The State” says it well:

This data is already out there, being collected daily. It will not spontaneously arrive with Google Glass, nor is it limited to the massive data combine that is Google itself. Each and every one of us has already given up more data than a bus full of Google Glass wearers could collect. -Adam Rothstein, www. thestate.aw

Our life is now lived through data and as Clark proposes a number of times throughout his writings, is a extension of the human cognitive process the same way in which we now use our computers and smartphones as a part of our identity, and the ways in which people used to rely on pen and paper to express themselves and their identity in the world through letters, diaries and stories.

http://www.wired.com/business/2012/04/epicenter-google-glass-ar/

http://www.thestate.ae/looking-through-glass-into-mirrors/

http://spectrum.ieee.org/geek-life/profiles/steve-mann-my-augmediated-life