How Lady Gaga's Insane Polaroid Glasses Could Help eBooks

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Lady Gaga is nuts, as we all know, but she's also savvy. So, when she and Polaroid unveiled a pair of sunglasses with a built-in camera and outward facing LCD screens, it took me by surprise. Why would anyone want to wear sunglasses that showed photos and videos? (I mean, anyone aside from Lady Gaga herself.)

But maybe she was on to something in her own bizarre way. Maybe our objects need better and more dynamic screens for other people to look at. Take a look at Dominic Basulto's meditation on creating emotional attachments to digital books:

The early adopters will always embrace digital content, on whatever device is offered to them. It's the middle- to late-adopters who need an additional emotional connection to that digital content before they will embrace tablets and e-books. The current approach to "flipping pages" on a tablet is a cute start, of course, but there's more that can be done to create emotional attachments to digital objects. In fact, I would argue that one of the reasons why people love physical books is that they announce to other people -- friends, guests, or the nosy onlooker -- that I am a Book Person.

Maybe broadcasting what you're reading is a more important part of bookness than we've given it credit. Right now, as Basulto points out, the reading device (Kindle, iPad) dominates the signal you're sending about your reading. But what if there were a Kindle edition with an LCD screen on the outside. You could show off whatever book cover you wanted to.

It seems silly. It seems vain. But maybe Gaga really was onto something. (This is a mockup, obviously.)

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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