This week I attended an SLA Toronto article night, hosted by John Shewfelt – “Google Glass and Libraries: The Beginning of the End or the End of Irrelevance?” – a topic on the bleeding edge right now, and one that’s sure to cause ripples as the technology becomes increasing ubiquitous.
To kick off the conversation, John asked us to read two articles on the topic:
- Mark Hurst. “The Google Glass feature no one is talking about.”
- Eric Ravenscraft. “Here’s Why All the Google Glass Skeptics are Wrong (And a Few Ways It Might Fail Anyway).”
We got together at the Dora Keogh Pub on the Danforth to discuss implications, opportunities, and potential threats this emerging technology presents to librarians. Here are some (beer-stained) notes from the evening:
First off, an informal poll: Is Google Glass going to take off?
The initial run of 8,000 Google Glass items has already sold out. Is this a sign of early success? Or is it just the technophiles and industry wonks scooping them up, and there is still much disinterest/reservation from the general public?
Issue of surveillance as Google Glass content is being created, it already belongs to Google! How will this affect:
- Public protests/civil disobedience
- People’s behaviour (not just online but… anywhere. On the bus, at the pub, on vacation, at your cousin’s wedding): Will people self-censor? Or, will younger generations simply not hold such foibles against one another, because everyone has something embarrassing online?
- How will people counter Google Glass surveillance? Will fashion trends develop specifically to shield people from surveillance efforts? Something along these lines?
The information that Google owns and organises will be become increasingly essential to the functions of government, civil society, economic growth, and business models. How will we react?
- Will Google someday simply be appropriated by the government and deemed a public good?
- Will there be a “Battle of the Operating Systems”, an H.G. Wells-esque division of OS users? The Apple evangelists (aka, the Eloi) versus the Google gruts (aka, the Morklocks)? (Full disclosure: I am an Android user. As well, I have never read this book, watched this movie, or really even heard of H.G. Wells. There, I said it.)
And what about privacy issues?
- Identity theft will be even harder to combat
- If someone with Google Glass walks into a library, what are the implications?
- If children end up online via Google Glass-captured videos, how does this affect the privacy of minors? How will we manage the issue of disclosure agreements with so little control over what’s being recorded in the library? (Or worse… the gym change room? Or the pharmacy? Or your therapist’s waiting room?)
- …. and what about copyright issues? (argh) Will publishers start printing books on a yet-to-be-invented paper that prevents people from capturing content via the Glass?
While none of these issues are new – the problems Google Glass presents on the privacy and surveillance fronts are incrementally worse versions of existing issues around smart phones – they’re still scary. And the ease with which one can be recorded covertly makes these issues all the more pressing.
Okay enough of those depressing scenarios – on to the fun stuff!
Opportunities for libraries:
- Better-leveraging “layers” data to create augmented reality within the library
- Using augmented reality to embed bibliographic data/book reviews/author commentary/”if you like, this you might also like….” functions that appears when a Google Glass wearer is browsing the bookshelves (sorry but I don’t buy the argument that print books will disappear within 10 years. So yes, people may be state-of-the-art finding tools to access information contained in a zillion-year-old-technology. So there).
- The possibility of creating tours through heritage/museums/cultural sites, that guides the user via augmented reality and embedded rich media
- Possibilities for “heat maps” of library collections (print and digital) to see where people go to look at materials the most, new ways of tracking circulation/usage statistics
- Leveraging RFID and accelerometer technologies to improve collections circulation and identification
- Citation management: integrate with Zotero or other citation management systems, to allow users to capture a print resource or bibliography, convert it to digital format, and save it all to a central web-based CMS?
- implications for eLearning?
Some afterthoughts from article club attendees:
“I like talking about stuff before we have to react to it.”
“Let’s plan for the potential not the right now.”
And post-discussion, the same poll: Is Google Glass going to take off?
No: 50% – But all “no’s” included the caveat that this mounted-display technology will be big; Google Glass may just be ahead of its time.
All in all, a really fun night that gets away from the practical day-to-day problems facing libraries, to let us explore the technological opportunities of tomorrow. Thank you John and SLA Toronto for hosting it!