While the Cloak Bag seems to have won universal praise, I have mixed thoughts about it. First off, take a look at what it does:
Okay, harmless enough, right? The inventor bills its design as anti-crime, hiding its cargo from "people who might be eyeing your camera in sketchy areas." That I don't have a problem with (though the old-school New Yorker in me would argue that you oughtn't be shooting photos in "sketchy areas").
My issue with the bag has to do with how people might actually use the bag. In the past few years I've seen a disturbing trend in NYC that I'll illustrate with three examples:
1. I'm out walking my dogs. Someone talking into their smartphone passes me and says into their phone "Ohmygod canyouhangonasec?" then turns, holds their phone out, and takes a photo of the dogs and my legs. No asking, no eye contact, nothing, then they turn and continue with their conversation. This happens to me maybe two to three times a month.
2. Hordes of European tourists walking through Chinatown, where vendors are running colorful fruit stands, vegetable stands and fish stands. The tourists take out their DSLRs, stand right in front of the vendor, and shoot both the stand and the vendor—and are sometimes pretty in their face about it.
These vendors are working, this is what they do for a living. Can you imagine a Chinese vegetable seller strolling into a French law firm, and just walking around taking photos of people at their desks? What do you think the reaction would be?
3. A hipster girl is walking through Brooklyn on a summer day. A bunch of 50ish Dominican dudes are sitting in front of their buildilng playing dominoes and chewing the fat. The girl takes out her DSLR and starts shooting photos of them from different angles, walking around them as if they're zoo animals that she's going to hang on her wall, or maybe Facebook to friends that live out of town to show them "cool local color."
4. I'm helping a photography crew wrap up a shoot at the studio. As I go to untape the background edge from the floor and roll it up—a procedure that requires me getting down on my hands and knees and doing, like, manual labor—the blonde model runs over and takes a selfie, positioning me on the floor in the background cleaning up the backdrop. I guess your involvement in a photo shoot looks cooler when you have someone doing "work" in the background.
My point is that now that everyone has cameras, I'm amazed at how freely people will photograph other people (or people's dogs) without asking, and apparently purely for their own amusement. It's off-putting, selfish and self-entitled behavior.
That's perhaps too much for me to project onto this one bag, which I should assume was designed for an innocent purpose; the inventor's story sounds sincere. And one of my ID professors used to say "Look, if you design a car, someone will use it to rob a bank," meaning we oughtn't factor potential misuse into our designs.
I see his point, but the thought of people using the Cloak Bag to photograph others, without their knowing it, creeps me out. The behavior exists and I worry the bag will just feed into it.
What say you? Should we factor potential misuse into a design, or is it not our job? And do you think it's okay to photograph people without asking?