This past Friday, Business Insider's Kyle Russell (above) covered an anti-eviction protest that targeted a high-ranking Google exec. While walking home, Russell put on his Google Glass, at which point he says it was torn off his face and smashed to bits.
Russell claims that he only strapped on his $1,500 Android device because he didn't want it to get crushed in his work bag—he told me just "mindlessly put it on." But the decision had quick consequences on a day of heightened anti-tech tension:
The aforementioned colleague and I were on our way to the 16th Street BART station — I'll note that I wasn't using any device at the time — when a person put their hand on my face and yelled, "Glass!"
In an instant the person was sprinting away, Google Glass in hand.
I ran after, through traffic, to the corner of the opposite block. The person pivoted, shifting their weight to put all of their momentum into an overhand swing. The Google Glass smashed into the ground, and they ran in another direction.
This is basically the Sarah Slocum story, minus all the pathological antagonism and deranged personality that followed. It's also a sign that Glass is crossing over into its own kind of stigma. Russell writes that he "can see how [wearing Glass after an anti-Google protest] might not have been the best idea." But it's not the same aloof consumer-conspicuousness that might get your iPhone snatched after dark. Google Glass isn't just a $1,500 computer you wear on your face, but an icon, an antisocial fetish. It's a decision to dress yourself up like a mascot of techie incursion, to adorn your face with an expensive toy at a time when the toy factory has never been hated more—imagine wearing a prominent "W" pin in D.C. during the waning of the Bush administration.
I don't know Russell personally, but as far as I know he's a decent guy who doesn't want to destroy San Francisco's urban fabric so that its startup community can thrive. Russell didn't deserve to have this thing destroyed, no matter what that thing was. But in 2014, it might not be too much to assume that beta-testing a $1,500 luxury device on behalf of one of the world's most increasingly hated mega-firms is a surefire way of making people hate you—and maybe, who can blame them? Russell headlined his post "I Was Assaulted For Wearing Google Glass In The Wrong Part Of San Francisco"—but is there any right part? The moment you rest the thing on your nose has become a silicon and plastic Fuck You, a proclamation of not only being able to afford housing during a housing crisis, but a $1,500 non-essential gadget, as well.
When I asked Russell if he'd wear Glass again (assuming he buys another pair), he said "I still haven't decided."