Google Glass: the New Symbol of Tech Disgust

Jacob Harper  |

While the Occupy Movement as a whole has pretty much completely subsided, the intense class schisms between the have and have-nots that inspired it certainly hasn’t gone anywhere. Despite the failure of the movement, the tension between the groups remains taut as the gap between the One Percent and the rest of America remains wide.  

This wealth disparity is perhaps no more apparent than in San Francisco, the cultural and infrastructural hub of the Technology boom. And the division between the haves and have-nots in San Francisco is perhaps made no more clearly apparent than having or having not one key piece of technology: Google (GOOG) Glass, the tech behemoth’s beta experiment with wearable tech.

Google Glass is not cheap. The web-browsing glasses retail about $1,500 apiece, and since its April 2013 limited launch has remained available only to those selected to participate. Since then, the popular perception of this exclusionary mass-beta tested product has been rather interesting. This is not because it has become the Apple (AAPL) iPhone 2.0, a product that initially seems too hoity-toity and expensive but will eventually becomes a major economic and cultural force. Nor has Google Glass sparked an Occupy 2.0, with Google Glass-wearers being tarred and feathered in the streets, or at the very least become the subject of an indignant spoken word piece.

What’s made Google Glass interesting is that it hasn’t inspired envy or protests. It’s sparked ridicule.

Glass wearers have begun to cultivate a bit of a perception as being a part of a tacky nouveau riche, a member of a clueless gentrification class who can’t see the ridiculousness that’s literally right in front of their face. And to be sure, that ridicule has sometimes grown into outright hostility, notably an incident in San Francisco where a woman in a bar had her Google Glass destroyed by fellow patrons who had been heckling her wearable tech.

Rightly or wrongly, Google Glass has become the clear symbol of dissatisfaction with that tech upperclass, a marker for the representatives of the gentrifiers and One Percenters riding tech’s boom and giving little back. In short, by becoming the easily-identifiable symbol of the tech elite, Google Glass also became the easily-identifiable symbol of hatred for the tech elite.

Such is the problem with wearable tech. Tech’s got to be cool. And right now, Google Glass, in becoming that symbol of gentrification and elitism, is definitely not very cool.

This is not to say that Google Glass could not recover. But it’s got a serious image problem, to say the least. And while Google is far from responsible for the wealth gap in the country, they’ve certainly given those most upset at that societal ill a tangible symbol to latch onto. And ultimately, they’re helping galvanize a backlash that reaches much farther than the Google Glass invitation list.

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