You Can Be a Cyborg without Being a Techhole

Techholes

I stumbled across an interesting article posted this morning called Don’t be a techhole: A common sense guide to tech courtesy. In this piece, the author highlights a few capital offensives for users of technology that to me, seem like common sense. For example, he advises people to avoid using their iPads as cameras, especially in public settings like concerts where they might block others’ views; he also suggests not using your speakerphone in public (no one wants to hear your conversation amplified), not holding a “hands-free” device while driving, being mindful of the noises your smartphone/computer is making, etc. The author was compelled to write this article – coining technology offenders as “techholes” – after hearing about Google’s recent list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for consumers experimenting with the new Google Glass technology. Apparently, some users of the futuristic devices are being real “glassholes,” causing Google to put its foot down and define what appropriate (and inappropriate) behavior looks like.

Glassholes

If you’re unfamiliar with Google Glass, it’s a wearable computer currently being developed by Google X, the same company pioneering research on self-driving cars and glucose-monitoring contact lenses.

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Google Glass

Glass, which has many similar features as the everyday smartphone, allows users to connect with the Internet using voice commands and to see the results in front of them, hands-free. Considering the extent to which this new technology allows us to become more cyborg-like than ever, I suppose it makes sense that some would need an etiquette guide explaining how to appropriately use this new technology in a variety of situations. For instance, Google recommends users do explore the world around them, take advantage of different Glass features, and become a part of the digital community. However, they suggest to avoid being a glasshole by doing the following: don’t “Glass-out,” don’t “Rock Glass while doing high-impact sports,” don’t “Wear it and expect to be ignored,” and my personal favorite, don’t “Be creepy or rude.”

OD-AW929_TECHET_OZ_20130502165555Still, some people have already experienced issues assimilating this new device in everyday situations, like this guy, who wore his Glass into a movie theater and spent 3 hours being interrogated by FBI officials, accusing him of piracy. Come on now.

All of this comes down to a question of etiquette. Many of the points made by the techholes article and the Glass guide might seem like common sense to those of us who use technology considerately, especially while in public. Nevertheless, this article got me thinking about our discussion of how technology doesn’t become integrated into society without consequence, but that technology is created that then changes who we are as people. With that in mind, maybe it isn’t such a bad idea to consider the idea of explicit etiquette guides for our changing times. If we aren’t mindful of this, maybe manners will fall to the wayside, especially for people who are less inclined to be considerate in the first place.

21st Century Etiquette

IMG_4510 We’ve all had our fair share of laughs at some pretty ridiculous signs promoting etiquette. For example, and I wish I were making this up, I came across this sign in a bathroom stall in Welles. I naturally took a picture of it and sent it to some friends with the text, “Thank God for this. I’ve been wondering what to do with my toilet tissue for years.” I don’t want to know what some ladies were doing that made it necessary to add this lovely decoration to the stall doors, but it happened, and it means that somebody’s manners were lacking. I suppose if people exist who can’t figure out what to do with their toilet paper, maybe they need some help with more advanced 21st century skills, too.

Consider these images I found doing a simple search:

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Small print: “It’s a beautiful world all around you, be a part of it…”

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Even Milne Library has signs upstairs warning students that they’re entering a cellphone-free-zone, and every movie you’ve attended in the last 5-10 years likely had some kind of public service announcement warning viewers to turn off their devices. Wikipedia has its own page entitled Etiquette in Technology, and multiple authors have written books on 21st century manners. This one by Emily Post, called Manners for a New World, even includes chapters devoted to technology use, addressing such critical, burning questions as, “When is it okay to unfriend someone on Facebook?”

Draw your own conclusions about what all of this means for our society. Part of me wants to laugh at the fact that we even need to be told what’s socially appropriate, but then I stop laughing when I remember classmates who do nothing but text throughout class, or girls taking weird selfies in public bathrooms. Are we hurting for some Digital Etiquette, 101? What do you think?

6 comments

  1. Gabe says:

    In some countries you can’t put toilet paper in the toilet. You put it in the trash bin nearby. So someone from another country could genuinely be putting toilet paper next to the toilet without being purposely rude. When I was in China a Chinese person told me they thought Americans were rude for porting toilet paper in the toilet and clogging them up. Sometimes it’s about context.

    • Profile photo of Katie Allen
      Katie Allen says:

      This is a valid point that I hadn’t considered, so thanks for adding some cultural perspective. Maybe you’re right, that the issue was of differing toilet paper practices leading to confusion. 🙂

  2. Profile photo of Rebecca Miller

    My younger sister is in the wind ensemble at Cornell, and they recently tried a new thing where they all read the music on Google Glass (so….no stands, no passing out music, a lot less work). Apparently it was this weird disaster for a lot of reasons, like the inability to mark up the music, the difficulty with finding your place when you got lost, etc. But anyways, I just liked the image of this whole orchestra up on stage wearing weird glasses without any stands or music….how would the whole aesthetic feel and social protocols surrounding a concert setting change? I feel like with the emergence of this type of technology we’ll have to reconsider a lot of different settings and scenarios and how it’s appropriate to navigate them.

    • Profile photo of Katie Allen
      Katie Allen says:

      Becca, that’s so interesting! I was picturing that scenario too, where musicians would just be sitting there staring into their Glasses without any stands or music. It would definitely add a technical element to something that is usually strictly artistic in the traditional sense. Though it seems like this is not a possibility just yet, in the future, I can envision Glass being an everyday piece of technology that most people have. Imagine how odd it will be when someone’s Glass breaks or gets lost, they’ll feel even more “naked” than we sometimes do with our smartphones. Except in the future, our faces will literately be naked, so I bet it will feel even worse!

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