John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Shut off their techno-goggles without them knowing how, or why.
Omer Shapira is a software artist who makes neat stuff like a four-dimensional video game and a machine that creepily narrates recent cyberattacks (what The Awl has dubbed the "Internet Terror Phone").
Shapira sometimes presents his creations at the semiannual exhibit of NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, which gathers the school's makers and geeks to demonstrate the latest in tech-art awesomeness. But lately, the 29-year-old Brooklyn resident has noticed a different sort of attendee at these events – Google Glass-wearing interlopers, who ask the students various permutations of the question: How do you plan to monetize these inventions?
This brazenness annoys Shapira. He wonders: Are they recording me? And then, For what purpose? Those wanting to hear more of Shapira's thoughts should read his gloriously profane Medium rant, titled "Nobody Goes to Art School to Make Money, so Fuck Off." Here's one of his choice opinions: "[I]f you’re recording the conversation without asking for permission – you're just an asshole. That shouldn't surprise you if you've had Google Glass on your head in any other social situation, but now you’re literally suspect of trying to steal an idea."
Via email, Shapira shares a couple of experiences with the eyewear that led him to write his manifesto:
At the last ITP show, I presented a 4D video game with a lot of non-trivial math involved. About a minute through my explanation to a showgoer, I noticed someone who appeared to be filming the screen the entire time. He then asked me some questions, including when the release date for this is. It was very obvious he was looking for 'inspiration' for something that he has the resources to release faster with. This is something that happens in shows every now and then. With Glass it happens significantly more often.
A while ago, when this device was in closed beta, a CEO of a very big magazine publisher (we all work in media, so I'm not going to name names) recorded my entire technical discussion with him about some plant-embedded capacitive sensor I was working on with a friend. I only realized this after we were done (when he stopped the recording). During the entire conversation, he was acting as if I was wasting his time – I only realized in retrospect what really happened. I'd like to say that's what this technology does to people, but it may be a chicken and egg issue.
Enter Julian Oliver, a Berlin-based artist who specializes in making devious data gadgets – a grenade-shaped recorder that leaks information from private meetings, for instance, and a device that jams cellular-network access within a 25-foot radius. (Best not try obtaining that last one, as it's probably outlawed in your country.)
Oliver heard about Shapira's issues with Glassers, and something must've struck a similar chord because last week he released an evil little script to frustrate their voyeurism. "GLASSHOLE.SH" is meant to load on a small computer you hide at your work or art exhibition (Oliver suggests using a BeagleBone Black or Raspberry Pi). Once covertly installed, it scans the local network for Glass users and then kicks them off, without so much as a polite goodbye.
For comedy, the script is peppered with little barbs against Glass, including this sweet ASCII art:
Full disclosure: I know as much about Linux and coding as I do the internal anatomy of a dwarf lemur. I'm also not sure if the script works, or whether it's 100 percent legal. (Anybody possessing such knowledge should feel free to comment below.) Shapira believes it looks serviceable, though. "The deauth packet (aireplay...) is an old trick (popularized by Julian)," he says. "For legal reasons, I can't tell you whether or not I've tried it, but I've definitely seen those lines of code work."
Shapira wants people to know he's not against Glass, just the folks who use it with questionable manners. It's an "amazing piece of technology," he says, that sometimes unfortunately "voids any chance of honest communication in a space where it is present." He finds it surprising that Oliver, who has exhibited at the Tate Modern and won prizes at Prix Ars Electronica, deemed it worthwhile to explore his cantankerous complaint. But he's happy to have played a part in the latest salvo against the wearable vandal bait.
"All I did was to be angry on the Internet™, and he related to my rant and did that..." he says. "I'm honored."