How Google Hacked Our Imaginations with #IfIHadGlass


In just about every James Bond and Batman film, there is a segment where Q (or Morgan Freeman) introduces us to a few new gadgets. At first, the hero looks over the objects quizzically, but then the handler demonstrates how to use them, unlocking their mystery and inviting both the hero and the audience to imagine how the tool might become integral to the story about to unfold.

Google Just Made You Batman

If you’re a tech junkie like me, you might have noticed that Google is attempting to become our own personal Q in its efforts to promote Glass, the futuristic/super-nerdy looking eyewear that present a user with a heads up display and an always-on camera.

Just like Q, they first showed us the strange looking device (pictures of impossibly good-looking people wearing the hideously unfashionable glasses), then they demonstrated a few basic uses (queue the demo video with spunky music below), and finally – and most importantly – they created a social media campaign inviting people to use the hashtag #IfIHadGlass and imagine how Google Glass might become integral in the story of their life.

The Importance of Imagination for New Technology

Google recognizes that the success of Glass has very little to do with how many features it has, and everything to do with embedding the product in our collective imagination. They know that if you want to get the entire world to buy something that no one is asking for, you can’t start with specs, you have to start with story.

Before people buy things, they have to “see themselves” with the product. For example, if you try on a new cardigan and you look ridiculous, you probably won’t buy it. But if the mirror reflects a more awesome you, then you’ll probably bring it home. With technology, we too need to “see ourselves” using the device, and the image we create in our minds needs to show us overcoming some obstacle that would be difficult without the gadget. Without that story in place, we’ll never feel compelled to buy.

Creating an Alternate Ending

Tell Me a StoryIn his great new book Tell Me a Story, Scott McClellan writes, “A story is progress, action toward an outcome. Characters without a pursuit do not make for a [good] story” (29).

The problem for Google is that when we first look at Glass, we’re not quite sure what the “outcome” is or how Glass gets us there. My life seems fine, we say, why would I want to look like a cheesy character from Argo?

Google is saying, “Yes, yes. Ask that question. Ask it again and again and again, until you find the answer. Once you do, you’ll love it.”

If we try to imagine what it will be like to use Google Glass, and we can’t come up with anything, Google looses big time. But if they can coax us to keep imagining and keep trying to tell and hear better #IfIHadGlass stories, then one day the once strange product will become a normal, unquestioned part of our larger cultural myth and we’ll consider it as necessary as a microwave or mobile phone.

Reclaiming the Narrative

There is nothing particularly troubling about all this. But as always there is a danger lying around the corner, and that when we spend a lot of time focusing on what the product can do for us, we sometimes allow the product to takes over the story we were originally trying to tell. Instead of using Glass toward some larger pursuit, the acquisition and use of Glass becomes the outcome.

We’ve probably all caught ourselves doing this on occasional. For example, we all bought cameraphones to remember those great moments in life, but then we found out that sometimes the goal of “capturing the moment” gets in the way of the moment itself. Or imagine a pastor who wants to tell people about the surpassing beauty of Jesus, but then becomes enamored with bigger and bigger screens and more and more downloads.

The goal of this post is not, of course, to bash on cameraphones, podcasts, or Glass, but to give us the chance to rethink on the place of technology in our lives and in the stories we are trying to tell with our lives.

What is the true outcome toward which we are striving? Do our tools help us overcome conflict to get to that goal, or somewhere along the way did acquiring new toys become a chief pursuit?

Published by

John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary, and at night I write Bible software for countries whose leaders could be called "overlords." This one time, I wrote a book about technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at

19 thoughts on “How Google Hacked Our Imaginations with #IfIHadGlass”

  1. I watched about half that video and the only thing I could imagine myself doing is getting dizzy and throwing up if I watched anybody else’s Google glass experience. Seriously, I’m dizzy.

  2. Hey John,

    I may be hijacking a bit to post here, but I didn’t seem to be able to email you directly.

    I’m a pastor in Michigan, and I have recently become intrigued by the concept of the cloud in general and the chromebook in particular. I love the concept of being able to do what I need to do, and generally do it better (through improved communication and collaboration) without the need for resident software. The biggest gap, from my own perspective, was the inability to use my Bible language software. (I have used Silver Mountain for years, fwiw, and been very happy.)

    I wanted to thank you and offer kudos for your “bible web app” and the concept behind it.

    That’s pretty much it.

    And, umm, maybe I could use the google glass and facial recognition software while I’m preaching to update attendance records . . .

    1. @kempin04,
      Just saw your comment. Not to long ago I wrote a post on my site about the theological questions that might come up with the adoption of the Cloud and related technologies (Installing the Digital Veil). I would love to hear your thoughts!


  3. Neil Postman has an analogy along the lines of what you’re saying about giving forethought to your use of a new technology: When you put a drop of red dye into a glass of water, you do not get a glass of water with a drop of red dye in it; you get a red glass of water. Likewise, when you introduce a new element of technology to your life, you do not get your life plus that item, you get a different life. Think before you drop that dye in.

  4. Imagination helps make knowledge applicable in solving problems and is fundamental to integrating experience and the learning process. Some people imagine in a state of tension or gloominess in order to calm themselves. – J. Kale Flagg

  5. with every piece of new technology we are giving up a little piece of our own beings.
    soon there will be no sense of wonder..

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