Google Glass Banned at Professional Anthropology Conference(s)

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“While the road may be rough,  the views are amazing.”

Today I woke to find that I could no longer share my research findings on using Google Glass for anthropology (specifically archaeology) at my fourth professional conference this year.  FORTH. Let me explain the journey below…

“Everything is achievable through technology”

I passionately love exploring the unknown. I mean it’s one of the top three reasons why I became an archaeologist and I’m sure this isnt unique to me. Exploration is and always will be an inherently dangerous endeavor filled with sharp rocks and traps. You will want to stop but you dont; you never do. You press on and discover. My goal as a scientist is to push the boundaries on our understanding of the world around us through the investigation of emerging technologies. As Howard Stark said, “Everything is achievable through technology” and as a species humans over time have  sort of been achieving amazing things through better understanding and utilization of technologies.  As an Academic Google Glass Explorer and first practicing anthropologist/archaeologist with this technology, I feel a there is a responsibility that falls to me to ethically and responsibly evaluate this technology–which I’ve done to the ‘-nth degree–, share findings with my colleagues in as open a way as is possible, and finally start a dialog between everyone about new technology implementation. I’ve found however, that there are plenty of new and very sharp rocks that are more than willing to impede my progression; these rocks are called “the Legal department.”



So how has it come to this?

"Whatcha' thinkin' about Joe? The future and stuff. I sure hope everyone accepts me..."
“Whatcha’ thinkin’ about Joe? The future and stuff. I sure hope everyone accepts me…”





Why have I been banned from (or rather potentially able to still attend, albeit not while wearing Glass…or the entire point) various Anthropology conferences? Simple: I began by being as I always am–‘ethically proactive’–and didnt assuming that it was just OK for me to walk in the front door with this technology; that regardless of the way other anthropologists may have experimented with wearables in the past in public spaces (hidden in hats or elsewhere on their person) that permission should be obtained first–especially in these early stages of social negotiation of space. 

And while physically Google Glass is no different than a smartphone (its actually less powerful by an order of magnitude) for some reason I continually find that I do need to inquire if there are use policies for this technology outside of the normal cellphone parameters.

So by simply asking first if it was OK to attend the venue; to share my device and findings with the rest of my communities BEFORE attending, I have been prohibited from attending without special dispensations–essentially I’d be under supervision by Executive Boards the entire time–is beyond insulting or necessary. By being ethical and following the guidelines I have essentially “ethics” my way out of four conferences this year. By allowing those within our organizations to (fittingly) Google…Google Glass, and find one of the many sensational articles written on its Antichrist-like privacy-annihilating powers, I opened the door for them to ask their legal teams what they should do. Subsequently I’ve received a number of “No. You cannot attend X,Y or Z conference and use Google Glass (special dispensations aside, apparently) in public. We dont understand this technology and we dont understand its ramifications yet on our profession.” If only you had allowed me to come to your conference… 

And while this is highly annoying to my current forward-progression within my profession, an effect has occurred. If I couldnt hear “Oh sure, join us! We’d welcome your research experiences with this new tech!” then the next best thing I wanted to hear was “we dont understand, but could you help us to?” which I am beginning to hear. They had to ask and talk and consider that the future–this place where everything is achievable–is no longer coming or “just over the next horizon– it’s already here.


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