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This chapter discusses the implications of wearable technologies like Google Glass that function as a tool for occupying, commodifying, and profiting from the bio- logical, psychological, and emotional data of its wearers and those who fall within its gaze. We argue that Google Glass privileges an imaginary of unbridled exploration and intrusion into the physical and emotional space of others. Glass’s recognizable esthetic and outward-facing camera has elicited intense emotional response, partic- ularly when “exploration” has taken place in areas of San Francisco occupied by residents who were finding themselves priced out or evicted from their homes to make way for the techno-elite. We find that very few trade and popular press articles have focused on the failure of Glass along these dimensions, while the surveillance and class-based aspects of Google Glass are fundamental to an accurate rendering of the product’s trajectory and the public’s emotional response to this product. The goal of this chapter is to foreground dimensions of surveillance and economics, class and resistance, in the face of unending rollouts of new wearable products designed to integrate seamlessly with everyday life—for those, of course, who can afford them. Ultimately, we believe more nuanced, intersectional analyses of power along race, class, and gender must be at the forefront of future research on wearable technologies. Our goal is to raise important critiques of the commodification of emotions, and the expansion of the surveillance state vis-à-vis Google’s increasing and unrivaled information empire, the longstanding social costs of which have yet to be fully articulated.


Noble, S. & Roberts, S. T. (2016). Through Google-Colored Glass(es): Design, Emotion, Class, and Wearables as Commodity and Control. In S. Tettegah & S. Noble (Eds.) Emotions, Technology & Design. pp. 187-210. San Diego: Elsevier Academic Press.

Previous Versions

Oct 30 2015