Not White Men Wearing Google Glass

14 people who aren't white men wearing Google Glass -- and why that Tumblr is so problematic

by Jason Gilbert

The hot new tweetable Tumblr of the moment is "White Men Wearing Google Glass," which consists of, as its name implies, photos of white men wearing Google Glass.

Like any fashionable Tumblr, White Men Wearing Google Glass has been widely shared on social media; has been celebrated by technology celebrities and written up on all of the major news websites; and has spawned a dozen thoughtpieces about what its popularity "means" for Google (correct answer: nothing), with a few writers suggesting that the Tumblr will negatively shape public opinion on the stylishness of Glass and render it a dud at release.

Ignoring for a moment these doomsday predictions, there is a lingering strangeness about the success of White Men Wearing Google Glass. The site functions on two broad implications, one of which is dependent upon the second: The first implication is that only white men are wearing the early editions of Google Glass; the second is that this white male exclusivity makes the technology somehow different from or inconsistent with the other technologies. Both are wrong.

The first part is provably false, though it hardly feels worth proving. Below, I've collected a slideshow of photographs that could be called Not White Men Wearing Google Glass. It took me about 15 minutes of Google searching to compile. Whoever runs White Men Wearing Google Glass -- an as-yet unidentified author -- is more of an opinion columnist than an objective documentarian in the strict sense, intent on making Google Glass look as geeky as possible (though to my former Huffington Post colleague Mike Sacks -- looking good, my man).

Now, to be sure, that you can find unflattering photos of people using certain pieces of technology does not correlate with that product's success. Some people snap photos with their iPads and look like total chumps; some people (perhaps all people) appear ridiculous holding the Galaxy Note up to their tiny faces. Both devices have proven huge triumphs for their respective companies.

Mocking Tumblrs
are fair, and often hilarious, game. Truth is, though, you could make this identical Tumblr for any new, highly-anticipated-by-the-technorati device in the world if you really wanted to. For example, any journalist who has ever covered a Launch Day event at an Apple store or -- God forbid -- surveyed the eager beavers who camp outside of Apple stores knows that the demographic heavily skews white and male. The next time Apple releases a product, you could make White Men Who Got The iPhone 6 Super Early just by executing a Getty Image query, I guarantee it.

So, no, it's not just White Men wearing Google Glass, nor is Google Glass the only product whose early purchasers are mostly white men. If anyone is indemnified here, rather, it is a familiar, more insidious target: the white male hegemony that largely dominates technology culture in America. The models of Google Glass you see everyone taking selfies in were made available only to those techies and journalists who attended Google I/O, the company's annual developers conference; this year it was held in California, which probably didn't help Google reach very many non-white non-males (that's a statistic: you can look at the under-representation of women in STEM jobs, or glance at any technology website's masthead for confirmation.)

If the makeup of Google I/O's attendance was similar to any other tech conference in the world in the last seven years or so, then it was mostly white and male, and thus it was mostly -- but not all -- white men who received early shipments of Glass. White men dominate technology in America; white men land on Tumblrs with the swag they received for attending conferences.

"Ha ha," we laugh, when we look at this Tumblr, "isn't it funny that a majority of the people who have early access to a potentially transformative technology are white men?"

And that's the way it would have been at any other tech conference, whether thrown by Apple or Google, by Netflix or TechCrunch, for a wearable face computer or a pocketable smartphone. You may still think that Google Glass looks stupid, but there is much more (and much deeper, more problematic) stupidity defining the device's early adopters.


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