I’ve had Google Glass for a few months now. I’m still very much in love with it. But, the novelty has worn off. I no long have the sense of something shiny and new. I’ve settled into it, and now it’s more like a very expensive comfy shoe. I’ve formed habits around it. It’s just a part of my life now.
Some of those habits are surprising to me. I was eager to get Google Glass primarily as a way to more easily and quickly take pictures of my two boys. I’m a stay-at-home dad, and a web designer, so the overlap seemed pretty obvious. My younger one, in particular, is fascinated with the cell phone, such that I can’t effectively take pictures or video of him with it. He just stops whatever cute thing he was doing to focus on the phone. And I do use it a lot for that purpose. It’s very convenient for taking pictures. What has surprised me is how the very convenience of taking pictures has radically changed the way I think about photography itself, and therefore the kinds of pictures I take.
Glass makes taking a picture as easy as scratching your temple. And it then takes the photo and puts it on your “timeline”, a series of images in a line which shows up on Glass and is extremely easy to flip through. When I first started to use Glass I thought of those photos they way I think of photos on my phone — I was focused on how to get the photos off of Glass and into whatever useful form I ultimately wanted to the photo to be in, that is to say, saved on my computer, uploaded to WordPress, posted on social media, loaded into a digital frame and so forth.
But, as I’ve been using Glass, I’m more and more often taking pictures only to be stored in the “timeline” so I can call it up later. In other words, I’m using photos to take “notes”. And not even the kind of notes that you file away for later. I use photos like the kind of notes you stuff in your pocket and then throw away at the end of the day. I take pictures of my car so I can remember where I parked. I take pictures of price tags in the supermarket so I can comparison shop. I take pictures of billboards and company vans so I can remember the phone number or web site of a company I want to follow up with to do business (like, a plumber, for example).
The digital camera generally revolutionized photography by making it essentially free to take a picture. It used to be that you were economical when taking pictures, because each one would cost some small amount of money to develop. At your son’s birthday party you might take a dozen or two photos. At less special occasions, you might take one or none. With digital photography, many of us moved to the process of the professional photographer of taking dozens or hundreds of photos with the idea of culling them to save one or two really good ones.
Glass has made taking photos even easier by making it not only free but making the act of photography nearly frictionless. No more pulling the phone out of the pocket and launching the camera app. Even that ten-to-fifteen second effort is gone. Specifically, it’s now even easier than jotting something down on a piece of paper or the back of your hand. And in so doing, photography becomes a new ubiquitous form of keeping temporary, throw-away information that it never was, even on the cell phone.