Seeing Through Glass

"Issue": 020

I wake up on my vacation house on the moon. Taking a sip of coffee, looking at Primary Earth 1. I pull out a clean slate of glass and open Twitter. Paul Graham is still tweeting about his kids.

I recently tweeted that everything is television. This led to a comment that turned me on to Marshall McLuhan. “Television extending the tactile sense” There are so many great nuggets in that short clip, I’m still processing some of them as it applies to today and the always on at once at all times world we live in today.

I was then thinking about the construction of cameras at large, and was reminded of this quote.

If you point a camera at a Black person, on a psychoanalytical level it functions as a White gaze. It triggers survival modalities that we have. It doesn’t matter if a Black person is behind the camera or not, because the camera functions as an instrument of the White gaze.


Finally, I took a walk to meditate on the nature of consuming and capturing moments with my peers. And how all of these forms, without the serendipity of bumping into each other on the street, begin with the mediating force of my device. During the interaction we use this same slate of glass to bond over different points we are able to surface into our setting. And finally, it ends with a kiss on the cheek and a promise that we will be in touch. Made possible through the cool extension of self that Steve made for us.

When I lift my phone to capture an image of my girlfriend, I have removed both of us from that moment. It is an act of destruction followed by manipulation and stored for future displacement. A sense of performance in understanding that this image may live far beyond this moment. Remembering a constructed view of digital self to then recreate for this moment.

Glass, as a material, has a unique way of fostering these moments. As identity is a reflection of self made aware through interaction with others, we become keenly able to understand the role we feel comfortable in given the context.

If we believe that we will continue to create and host experiences across a reality continuum, then it is safe to assume that we will be constructing these realities through the mediating nature of glass. It becomes important to meditate on how we use glass to construct a view of self, a view of others, and the sensations we seek when we place ourselves within that crowd of otherness.

Constructing Self

This morning I went through all of my Facebook photos and was repulsed by the images of a younger self. Just looking at this hyper preppy freshmen at Penn, was an out of body experience. And although I’m grateful these memories are captured and stored somewhere, it made me an even deeper believer in Snapchat + Google Photos as an ephemeral sharing tool + private memories.

Last year I wrote a piece about how we consume self, “You The Sun”. A lot of my writing centers around digital identity and self, and how this may evolve through new products.

Most recently, I’ve been meditating on avatars and voice. What’s interesting about voice is the loss of glass as the mediating material. And after a couple conversations with really smart peers… I actually am less convince that voice will happen within the next 1 - 2 years. But I will save this for a later piece.

I think Snapchat currently owns the conversation of how we think about self, through the serving of lenses to actively manipulate this visual while still being based in ephemerality. We can have a sense of play with the distortion we see on screen, but the safety of knowing it will be gone. The knowledge of non-permanence in regards to our own image, as the freeing mechanism to distort that very thing.

Where avatars get exciting, is how the glass separates two selves. The greatest act of control and manipulation because it is at a distance. It doesn’t need to be applied on to you, like a filter. Instead, it serves as a playground. Similar to a role playing game. I can ascribe different layers of meaning to this characterization existing in this instance.

Watching Others

I’ve probably watched Mad Men all the way through about 20 times at this point. Not only do I believe it is the best show ever to grace tv, but I can truly turn myself off while watching it at this point. Which creates an incredible space for me to relax in.

One of my favorite things that McLuhan says in that video is along the lines that watching a program leads to, in that moment, the loss of private individual identity.

An idea that keeps resurfacing as I write is being stuck on one side of the glass, and the nothingness we can assign to self as we consume.

So then our identity becomes, momentarily, replaced by that very thing we are consuming. I release myself to Mad Men, or to believing I am with Emma Chamberlain, or simply viewing my friends in a group-chat I’m not in the mood to participate in right now.

Perhaps we choose to consume those around us because being ourselves all the time is unbearable. Maybe through this consumption and relation we can release the individual sense of pressure that builds daily.

Being In The Crowd

Two weekends ago I went to AfroPunk with some friends and was witness to some incredible performances. But the set that will remained burned in my mind will be moshing to Danny Brown. There was a moment where I was tossed directly horizontal while in midair. Truly amazing.

When we become aware of the crowd, it is a conscious decision to release awareness of self. TikTok is not about self, like how Instagram is about self, it is about the For You feed. The collective summation of what is happening on TikTok. And although it is algorithmic curated. It is based in the principles of using shared memes as the template for creation.

Through glass I understand where the vibe of the crowd is. I can direct this glass back at myself, to create a reflection of the crowd through my mimic’d recording. And I pray to find myself pleasing on glass of those in a dispersed and faceless crowd.

Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.

Much love.