Glass in Berlin Means Privacy First

Berlin is a tech-friendly place but Glass may actually cause you more disrepute than stardom.  You have to be aware and learn this city’s (and country’s) carefully cultivated privacy rules and boundaries, as I did in a most interesting way during my stay.

With a wave from the famous bouncer’s hands, Sved Marquardt admitted me into Berghain, Europe’s top electronica club and one of the first places I’d visit in Berlin.  After hours in line, two new Turkish friends arranged my black jacket around my head and neck, enhancing a mysterious, hardcore allure. As we approached, my heart began to pound and goose bumps rose on my skin–not from the cold but from the pent-up anticipation. I bit my lip to hold back any expression and looked Sved directly in the eye imagining Glass memorializing his two lip rings, face tattoos and nose piercing.

Where was Glass?  Hidden inside its case in my bag after being explicitly told in line that if I approached Sved wearing Glass, I’d be banished.  Berghain has a strict ‘no photo’ policy and for good reason because this club specializes in protected spaces for unbridled human activity.  I don’t need to elaborate; it’s a wild place, a space for permissiveness once you are granted access.  Like in Germany more generally, the club is also a place of rules.  Rules enforced maniacally to protect people from intrusions and extrusions.  Wearing Glass would shatter those rules.  While Glass represents an over abundance of sharing and constant connection to many in many places, it’s intrusive at Berghain, a particular place for opacity, privacy and freedoms prohibited outside.

If I had used Glass inside Berghain, it would have not only been disrespectful to the club, its owners and everyone inside but to the potential of Glass. Glass is an incredible technology, however, when used in inappropriate settings or to merely provoke press (like this guy), it becomes obnoxious and not used for what it was built for: the betterment of the human race.  With technology, we must learn to respect other people’s boundaries so that in turn, they can respect the technology.

With hard lessons from this city’s (and country’s) past, Berliners actively manage the boundary between privacy and the public gaze. Berghain is one location where this all becomes more (in)visible. Thus, Glass which symbolizes the ingress of personal scrutiny into private places with the potential for all there to be made public easily and simply, is not instantly appealing to this cautious cohort.

“Why is privacy so important here?” I asked one man. “It is because as a country, we know what it feels like to not have privacy. We know the pain of not having privacy, therefore, we will do whatever to keep it.”

As my time in Europe concludes, I find it fitting that my journey opened with exuberance for Glass in Spain where the titanium perched on my nose inspired friendly inquiries and “cool” receptions.  But as I traveled through the heart of Europe and away from the periphery the journey itself became darker and more nuanced.  Glass is just one of many lenses through which I need to see the world and myself.  Good advice as next up is Asia.

HUGE thanks the 3% Conference for making this possible 🙂

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