Being cranky and snowed in on the east coast, I was ready to remain skeptical when talking to Robert Hernandez, USC Annenberg journalism professor, about his work with Google Glass and what news orgs could do with them. But his determination to explore what he calls ‘post-mobile’ tools and how journalists can use them convinced me. I (almost) want a pair, once they’re more stylish and I don’t have to talk to them, which will happen, according to Hernandez.
“When have we as an industry ever benefited by dismissing or feeling above an emerging technology?” he asks.
From the internet itself, to blogging, or micro-blogging, or mobile, you’d think we’d have learned our lesson by now. The debate shouldn’t be about when it’s going to catch on or how dorky they look or how people don’t want to talk to themselves to find information. It’s about getting in there and finding out how we might start to use the technology.
Google Glass isn’t the best iteration of itself , but the ‘post-mobile’ world is inevitable, he says, “and if its inevitable what are the features that you want?” He’s calling it post-mobile or micro-content:
I was going to call it ‘light content’ but I know haters will think of ‘fluffy’ content. The premise of Google Glass is that it doesn’t affect your life…it’s not an immersive thing, it’s about eliminating the time, those seconds, of pulling out your phone and unlocking it and searching. Is that good or bad? I’m not going there.”
He’s right. Think about when Twitter came out and we all rolled our eyes over 140 characters.
I contacted Hernandez because of a bat-call he put out on Twitter for a media partner to team up with him and a class he put together of Google Glass users and computer science students. He was scrambling to put together an application for the Online News Association’s Hack the Curriculum Grant. Although he’s an ONA board member, the requirements that you had to have a media partner and work with ‘live news events’ — not hypothetical content — were still a bit of a “wet blanket,” he told me. He’s working that out, with potential partners of all levels coming out of the ether, and his class will be brainstorming and working on Glass apps with or without the grant. He told me the class will be two-fold, students will work on brainstorming apps for journalism creation and for distribution. The creation side is more limited, he says:
There’s bigger possibility in distributing content on Glass — what does the article look like, what does a video look like, what does a breaking news alert look like? That to me is the most exciting part, but we’re going to do both…We’ll brainstorm, what does an NPR app, a CNN app, according to us, look like? We’ll design them, not code them, but design as prototypes and hopefully spark interest…With the media partners, we can take advantage of their live content and eventually talk about creating a platform for creating ideal, optimized for Glass content.
While they won’t be coding apps for existing news organizations, they will work on creating new news apps, and they’ll code and launch those.*
He likens the class to the team of engineers and developers he led over at SeattleTimes.com, where he was director of development before coming to USC Annenberg five years ago:
I’ve been framing this class as where I’m going to bring these skills around the table and have them work together. I’m not going to dictate to them ‘you’re going to do this app.’ What interests me is how can we pose the question and brainstorm the question and then answer that question…It’s like we’re a jam band, riffing off of each other.
You can follow Hernandez’s adventures in post-mobile @GlassJournalism, a Twitter account he’s set up specifically for the class. There’s also a Tumblr with some experiments and experiences using Glass in the real world.
So, let’s hear it: what do you think about the terms post-mobile or micro content? Is your newsroom ready to get on the Glass bandwagon and innovate? Tell us in the comments or tweet us @10,000Words.
*An original version of this post made it sound like they weren’t going to code or launch any of the apps they brainstormed. It’s now been corrected to make a distinction between existing news apps and “new news apps”
.@karenfratti Thanks! Tweak: we’ll design/prototype existing news org apps but not code/launch those. BUT we will code/launch new news apps.
— Robert Hernandez (@webjournalist) February 14, 2014