Monday, September 19, 2022

Is Privacy Possible in the Metaverse?

Everyone's talking about the Metaverse, a through-the-looking-glass meld of virtual, augmented, and online worlds in cyberspace.But few are discussing its delivery system—smart eyeglasses and headsets--and if these will reshape the public sphere into a goldfish bowl. VR’s immersion substitutes one reality for a dreamier version. A dream, or perhaps a privacy nightmare.

What is a reasonable expectation of privacy in public: In a car? On a porch?

Very quickly, smartglasses will redefine what’s public, as we’re surrounded by those who record audio and video and stream this as they pass by. Facebook says don’t worry, theirs has a little light to alert passersby. Common sense says some people will patch over that. What if someone puts smartglasses next to the bed, turned on. How will such recordings be used and stored? These serious questions deserve study before the devices become widely used.

Opaque or clear, Rx or not, stylish or not, glasses that compute are the future of visual aids. Smartglasses are “smart” because they’re computer- and phone-enabled. They come in three varieties: Augmented- (AR), Mixed- (MR), and Virtual Reality (VR).

AR and MR smartglasses overlay a hologram on your lenses or on a transparentscreen, or even on your retina. Both types accomplish this by using minicameras to survey surroundings and situate you.

The wide-angle lenses, processors, and holographic projectors miraculously fit into something like a standard-sized eyeglass temple, paired with a computer or smartphone. MR smartglasses aim for interaction with surroundings. VR glasses transport you to a new reality by obscuring your sight. They’re vacations hanging on your nose, therapy without the couch.

Smartglass applications are exploding. Surgeons operate while streaming images to a classroom. Skiers use head-mounted displays to monitor speed, elevation, and weather. Hunters wear them to factor in wind speed when taking aim. In such glasses, how will society function when everyone is tuned in and won’t come out?

The impulse to immerse ourselves in another world is centuries old, but by 1930, science fiction had already VR glasses: “You speak to the shadows and the shadows reply…would that make real a dream?” wrote Stanley Weinbaum in Pygmalion’s Spectacles. Then there was the early ‘60s Sensorama, sitting in a cabinet you watched a film while experiencing vibration, smell, and sounds. Unfortunately, odors drifted from one scene into the next, creating an unappetizing Smell-o-Rama. Mention smartglasses and people think of Google Glass. Google expected its “Glass Explorers” to be technology leaders. Instead, they got thrown out of bars for surreptitious recording. Legal problems mushroomed. Scientists demonstrated how the device could capture passwords at an ATM, by filming finger shadows as people tapped in numbers.

Since Glass was withdrawn, dozens of devices have been hung or strapped on. New uses emerged: checking floor plans, testing designs, and advertising. Product placement is coming. One day a ten-foot-tube of toothpaste could float before your eyes.

Yet, smartglasses have a lot to offer: reminders to take medicine, reading aids to the blind; help on the job, and much more. Smartglasses could the first computer widely worn. But not so fast. Tolstoy wrote that in an unequal society, “as ours is, every victory over nature will inevitably serve only to increase that power.”

Beyond privacy, what concerns me most are the powerful dissociative effects of the metaverse, as represented in the film Ready Player One, where people in VR gear dance alone in their apartments and children play with pre-programmed imaginary friends. When we disassociate, we forget who we are as individuals and as a society. With this comes the inability to believe our eyes. We call this “seeing things.” “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears,” Orwell commented in 1984. “It was their final, most essential command."

Left behind in the real world could be the qualities which distinguish humanity as a species: concern for nature, empathy, mutual understanding.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!💀 I hope all you Glassers have a fantastic time today and this weekend!! Let the spirit of Halloween rush through you!!👻

Monday, March 19, 2012

Review of A Route 66 Companion at Publishers Weekly

A Route 66 Companion

Edited by David King Dunaway. Univ. of Texas, $19.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-0-292-72660-4

Route 66 has a long and interesting history, and Dunaway--the recipient of Berkeley's first Ph.D. in American Studies--has done a fantastic job selecting works of literature about "America's Main Street" to tell its dynamic story, supplemented by the editor's own invaluable commentary. The pieces span all genres, from poetry to memoir to detective fiction to SF. The first chapter tells of the early years, when in 1858 Lieutenant Edward F. Beale surveyed the prospective route for a wagon road with a caravan of camels. That path became a railroad in the 1890s, and finally a highway in 1926. From there, the selections are split into sections focusing on a different regional area of the famed road. In "Plains 66: Oklahoma and Texas," the autobiography of Will Rogers--the man for whom the route was named--is excerpted. Also included is a selection from The Negro Motorist Green Book, a text detailing establishments open to African-Americans in the 30s. In the New Mexico and Arizona chapter, Mary Toya writes of growing up in the "Indian Camp" in Winslow, Arizona, where families lived in boxcars and were not permitted to leave their homes at night. A selection from Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath is included in this chapter as well. "66 is the path of a people in flight," he wrote. The California chapter has many great pieces, but Sylvia Plath's poem "Sleep in the Mojave Desert" is a definite standout in this all-around remarkable anthology. Illus. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 03/12/2012

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February 2012

2012 opened quickly. A few days after it began, I was packing up the car for that fifteen hundred mile drive to San Francisco. Which I really don’t mind, for it gives me a chance to look over the year and understand a few things that I might not have seen while I was living through it. The power of retrospection.


This summer, I found myself among the great faculty at Berkeley as a Knight Digital Media Fellow. This was an intense workshop with almost every software usable in multi media thrown at us at once. The crowd was a distinguished one from major institutions including everything from the National Geographic to Al-Jazeera. At the end, we promised to work on at least one piece, which I am now finishing. Then in the fall, I had my keynote to give in Denmark and some radio teaching there; and, even further, I then gave a keynote in Sao Paulo, Brazil, at the fifth international conference on music and media. It almost knocked me out, listening to Portuguese for 6-8 hours/day; but my Portuguese improved some. It’s always strange to be loosed on your own into a vast foreign city like Sao Paulo. The best part was that I got to see my son Alexei in Rio, for a week or so. We hiked, wandered around, helped settle him in a bit and buy groceries, and had some magical moments on a balcony overlooking the famous christus statue. Rio is astonishingly beautiful and its beaches are very accessible and fun. Alexei was just getting started on his Brazilian adventure, and he was kind enough to let me enter his world as it was just forming.



So between Denmark and Brazil, it was a Keynote year, and one of significant travel. I am just glad that these opportunities for the long work I have done.


Going back to Berkeley as a student triggered memories of my times there which were not entirely pleasant. The campus is beautiful, but the competitiveness among the graduate students was disconcerting when I was there. Not as bad as Harvard Law School where they say you always have to bring extra pencils to the exam because if you drop one, the person next to you is sure to step on it. But I remember my now-deceased professors grilling me and holding up impossibly high standards, as we struggled to read a book/week/class and write something intelligent and groundbreaking. Well, too late. They gave me my degree, and I’m roaming the world. But those memories of seminars at which students left in tears still haunt me.


Finally back in San Franciso, where the food and entertainment is of higher quality at higher cost. I’m staying in a tiny little house which manages to be both quiet and desirably located in the Irving Avenue district. But it is tiny. I’ll get used to it--kind of like a hotel room with a kitchen attached. But any place in San Francisco offers great possibilities for adventure and offbeat behavior. Both of which I enjoy.


Over and out for now,


David

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Choice Magazine Reviews Singing Out

In the December 2010 issue of CHOICE magazine, the American Library Association's publication covering the latest in academic publishing, there is a favorable review of "Singing Out: The Ballad of Pete Seeger." An excerpt from their review:

"Each chapter tells its story through quotations from Dunaway's interviews with a wide variety of people and commentaries from the authors. The scheme works well because of the fascinating opinions and insights that many famous artists and distinguished scholars from different times and places bring to each topic." p. 509-510

Monday, July 25, 2011

Denmark

I'm in Denmark now. Great trip. Updates soon to come!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Knight Digital Media Center Fellowship --

Over the past week, I've been involved in an intensive project with an amazing team of designers and journalists at the Knight Digital Media Center at UC Berkely. We spent multiple 14 hour days developing a multimedia project about an establishment in Oakland, CA that offers "Holistic Veterinary Care." You can see the product of our work in this embedded YouTube clip.

It was a great experience, and I met some wonderful people--some of my fellow KDMC fellows work at places like the New York Times, Al Jazeera, and Time Magazine. Although we worked long hours, I'm coming away from this project energized and in possession of a new set of skills.