I thought about titling this post, “Google Glass: The Beginning of White Flight from Smartphones,” but instead I’m going to propose a new term, status flight, to describe what happens when elites abandon a status symbol that’s lost its signifying power after becoming too quotidian and ubiquitous. This isn’t to say there aren’t some real “white flight”-type elements here; accessing the Internet via mobile phone is more common for Black and Latina/o usersthan for white users, for instance, and it’s no coincidence that the first Glass-related Tumblr I saw was White Men Wearing Google Glass. (There’s now a Black Men Wearing Google GlassTumblr too, though as I write this, it features only one picture of one man; White Men Wearing Google Glass presently has 27 pictures, though Sergey Brin appears more than once.) At the same time, I worry about extending boyd’s “white flight” metaphor too far; I also want to capture the simultaneous race, gender, and class dynamics that feed into this phenomenon. While class dynamics are a part of what boyd describes in her paper, this seemed to be lost on some readers of my App.net piece—so though I’m ambivalent about using a new term, I thought I’d test this one out. Status flight therefore describes when people of higher status (in this case, privileged white technophile men) dissociate themselves from something that has become too closely associated with people of lower status (in this case, pretty much everyone else).
There are plenty of people out there, I’m sure, who will see the digirati’s enthusiasm for Google Glass as plain old Brand New Gadget Fetishization, nothing more. But technology isn’t neutral, and neither is its fetishization; Google Glass is no exception.
Status Flight and the Gendering of Google Glass