O.K. GLASS, GO GOOGLE!

Sonya Google Glass picSo here it is—a skeptic (me) wearing the Google Glass! Are you aware of what this newest leap into newness can do? Like your smart phone, it can take pictures and video, show your email, conduct searches, use GPS, receive phone calls, share pics with friends and more — faster than a smart phone and all on voice command. And how do you see all this? There’s a little square piece of glass connected to the frame over your right eye. But you don’t have to look up at it—you just look straight ahead and you can read and see anything you ask for!

Of course saying I’m a skeptic makes you now look for reactions: Does it really work? How does it feel? Is it comfortable, easy, fun?  What does it do to you as you wear it? Would you want one?

Well, let’s start by saying it is mind-boggling! I don’t care how sophisticated you are and how many gimmicks you’ve already played with, this one is a lulu. It really does do what I said it did. Just think about the freedom—you’re not holding anything! By just plain looking straight ahead you see whatever you requested. And what a sense of regal power you get when you summon it and say (or bellow) “OK Glass, take a picture” or “ OK Glass, who was Vercingetorix?” (bet you’ll look that one up!) Another goody is that when you take pictures, others are not aware of it, which really matters in foreign countries where there can be bad reactions to the old point and shoot style.  It feels light and totally comfortable on the face and you don’t have to fish for your phone whenever you get a call or to look something up or read emails.

Most of all- it’s such fun! It’s like playing pretend except it works. How many remember the old comics with Dick Tracy’s magic watch that he talked into? One of those is coming soon from Apple, I hear. So the Glass plays right into- actually surpasses -the games we’ve all been playing with the rush of equipment that keeps rolling toward us, topping each other , faster and faster.

OK – the negatives. In the first version you can talk but can’t hear well on phone calls (2nd version already has an ear bud to fix that.) It does get commands wrong and some things are not as easy to access as smartphones. You do have to learn how to do everything on it but some of it is counterintuitive. And of course it’s not yet available to anyone except those who won the first lottery by describing why a Google Glass would be useful, important, meaningful, helpful in their work or lives. And even those lucky winners had to pay $1500 for the privilege of being the first explorers.

But what’s really funny is to scan the internet to read what is being complained about as other negatives. Here are some quotes:

“They can make interacting with someone awkward.” WHAT? And burying your face in a smartphone is conducive to interacting with others???

More “negatives”:

“Makes you question whether the Glass wearer is focusing on you or their ever present screen” Again, have you noticed interactions at restaurant tables or between young people—are they tuned into you or tuned out and into a device??? Also “there’s an ever-present temptation to tune out the world around you.” Well, friends, that’s the daily activity everywhere now as we substitute the interaction with a device for any so- called time consuming one-on-one human contacts.

So far Google is handling the technical negatives in a most creative way. The first group of Glass Explorers is a constant source of feedback and criticism and being built into a special community. They get monthly Glass Support emails with the latest questions and what’s-news and where the Glass hangouts are in their area are.  They send new instructions about what’s now possible as they refine and add onto the systems. And Version 2 is on its way.

Bottom line: Another step away from the atavistic, old,  human systems of communicating personally – verbally, visually,  physically- and onto our next lives as carriers and progenitors of mechanical, robotic, controlled and edited forms of reaching each other. Who knows what permanent effects this will have on the future of our species… But it surely is magic, and fun.

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Put Down That Smartphone and Look at Me!

Hearing the inventory of Steve Jobs’ ground-breaking innovations, it made me think of what effect his genius has had on how we now relate to each other. What have we gained?

We can now make magic — we can bolt right over those old time/space barriers that made connecting with each other take time and physical effort. Now we can communicate with each other instantly, effortlessly — no seeing/hearing/touching/talking necessary. Our words fly through space and land just where we want them to with just the tap of a finger. And while we’re with one person we can even answer another’s demands and reach them too — putting the live, visible person we’re with on hold.

But what have we lost?

Communication science tells us that first impressions — the input that helps us learn and discern as we judge people — are made up of 55 percent experiencing your body language, 38 percent your tone of voice and that only 7 percent is your words. Seven percent of total information about anyone is what cell phones give us as we contact each other! Even less since we use acronyms — not even whole words.

So what is our new magic making us miss ?

Each other. The delight and surprise, the troubling demands, the enigmatic and fulfilling contacts we used to make with each other. The challenge of learning how to scratch the surface we all present. To recognize the human traits we all share. To experience each other, to see and learn how others are handling life and its issues — by looking and listening to them.

From the beginning, we used to invest ourselves personally in communicating. From painting pictures in caves to drums and smoke signals to developing language so we could get more specific to creating rites and rituals, plays, dances, songs — we were driven emotionally to reach out and affect each other, to share how we felt. To confirm and find solace in the commonality of our human condition.

It worked for centuries. As we moved on, we still treasured what had been said and done before because we continually recognized that the outreach of all the arts kept answering our questions, giving us other approaches to what we all still continued to live through and care about. And we kept seeking out the personal relating and responding, savoring the talking, the sharing — the contact. In every society, at any time in history, there were always family get-togethers, community celebrations, participation in events and intimacies with fellow humans. We saw and felt each other, reassured by the recognition that we’re not alone. That we do share the space and the life we all live.

Until now.

Yes — we still gather in groups. We still have family get-togethers. We still meet and eat with friends and colleagues. But the drive for contact? Eye contact? Verbal contact? Vocal contact? Reaching out to make personal, human contact? That’s fading. We’re now satisfied to share through little hand-held mechanical devices and solo finger exercises. Human contact is becoming theoretical. If the little device shows letters on a screen that means we’ve made today’s kind of contact. And it’s enough. Much easier and faster than talking. Safer too, since we can reconsider, edit and rewrite before reaching out. But what’s getting short-circuited in the creation of this unquestionably genius device? The looking, seeing, smiling, frowning, raising a voice, laughing a laugh — all those native people-gifts that we used to use for pleasure. And to instinctively judge, react to, understand and feel the human contacts we made.

Young people’s acronym-filled messages are now simply asking, “Are you still there?” waiting for the screen to say “Contact — I’m here.” We all use the new technology to fulfill more than just work tasks. The screen also answers “Who knows me?” “Do I matter” “Am I a player in the big game?” But the basic substance of life and how we live it is still human — not mechanical — and these extraordinary inventions are also starting to dry up our original communicative talents that always made reaching out to each other — though a little more time consuming — such full, rich, meaningful experiences.

So — what have we gained? Speed and ease and freedom in completing the circuits; in making technology do our bidding, short-cutting all the tiresome, time-consuming ways we used to use to accomplish our tasks. That’s good.

But what are we losing?

Those native human gifts we all own. Finding the individuality, the one-of-a-kindness that we can only discover by looking and listening, by interacting and processing live, at once, while we’re in real, personal contact with each other.

So — what am I asking for? Especially from the younger ones among us who grew up addicted to those devices. Put down those cell phones and go for being present. When you’re together with others, park the phone. Look. Listen. Perceive. Tune in. Treasure and use those inherent human instincts we used to be so good at when we needed to sense friend or foe, danger or joy, surprise or discovery. Notice. Touch. Breathe in. Feel what happens between people. Find out what we share before we lose those skills altogether. Discover what else you can learn about yourself and living – -not just the fact that we can now also make contact by tapping away.

THE ART OF BUSINESS AND SOCIAL NETWORKING

In the age of social media, getting “connected” is easier than ever. But what about connecting live — in a roomful of strangers?

This blog post is about talking to people you don’t know — about striking up a conversation with a stranger — like at a new job, a cocktail party or a business function. This one challenges us with “How do I get started?”, “What do I say first?”, “What would make a positive impression?”

So let’s explore what gets us scared and look at some new approaches that can smooth the way.

Here’s the scene: You’re going to a cocktail party relating to your business or profession and you want to connect. You walk into a room filled with people who know each other and you don’t. (The principles we’ll talk about are the same whether it’s social or otherwise).

Feeling different, left out, a little lost, you’re nervous about being awkward, pushy, sounding —- or being accepted. That’s the first obstacle. And here’s Principle 1: Accept your feelings! They’re natural, common to us all! Don’t fight them and lecture yourself. Just think, “Nervous? Sure. That’s OK. Now —”

Principle 2: Take a breath and Make A Move! Nothing will happen if you just stand there. You’re looking at people – motivated by the same systems you are. We all like to be noticed, made to feel important, selected, and yes— even asked for a little help! Makes us feel powerful, wise and useful. SO—walk up to whoever looks appealing to you and disarm them by telling the truth (a surprise to most everybody).

“Hello—I’m —– (name) , a stranger here, feeling a little outside of things. I don’t know anyone but I would surely like to. How are you connected to this organization?” There’s the secret! ASK A QUESTION. Why? You’ve given them all kinds of power— asked about their expertise, raised their status, showed interest in them and gotten them to talk to you. Connection!

Principle 3: Listen for clues! What they tell you presents hooks for how you can enter into their conversation and make your own little dent. Connect to what they say— find where you can fit into their statement. DON’T go off onto the wonders of you or try to top them. That’s threatening and too self-serving. You’re there to make a link or a friend. Let them lead—you’ll get your chance, I promise.

Bottom line: Rely on the things you know you’d like when you’re reaching out to others. No airs, no acting, no trite, clever little openers. Be honest. Open. Authentic. It disarms and surprises folks. And it makes you recognizable. Being yourself will give you the courage to step forward and start.

So- take a breath and just do it!