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Spark from CBC Radio
Spark on CBC Radio One Nora Young helps you navigate your digital life by connecting you to fresh ideas in surprising ways.
5 days ago
506: Revolutionizing the culture of work
Employees in the tech sector are organizing, demanding a more democratic workplace with goals that align with their own. And, how to truly shake up the workplace so workers are empowered to innovate.
Apr 9, 2021
Repeat: Social Tech
(This episode first aired in December 2020, and has been updated to reflect that.) As we interact more - and more often - with our digital technologies, those interactions tell us a lot about who we are. How we can analyze behaviour on social media for mental health insights. And, taking cues from early childhood development and behavioural observation to build and train better robots.
Apr 2, 2021
(This episode first aired in November 2020, and has been updated to reflect that.) For all the good they give us, our personal tech has also become a major time suck. Between work from home and doom-scrolling through social media, are we wasting time, or is this the "new normal" for spending it? And if we are going to be spending this much time online, can we improve online public spaces with better design?
Mar 26, 2021
505: Civilization - Correspondence
Whether it be via carrier pigeon, smoke signal, telegram or text message, humans have corresponded in some way since they first walked upright. On the 50th anniversary of the first internet email, we look at how the act and art of letter writing has evolved — and where it might go. The death of email has been predicted for a long time. Yet, it's still with us. Will e-mail ever be replaced? Productivity expert David Heinemeier Hansson, the co-founder and CTO of Basecamp, talks about his love/hate relationship to email, and its future. Can the way the ancient Greeks and Romans corresponded inform how we communicate today? Antonia Sarri is a researcher in the department of ancient history and archeology at the University of Manchester, and an expert on Greco-Roman letter writing.
Mar 19, 2021
504: Glass, innovation and the invention urge
An indepth look at the history of glass and a broader look at the circumstances that push us to innovate even with much older technologies.
Mar 12, 2021
503: The psychology and economics of 'Niftymania'
NFTs could significantly shift the economics of being an artist by creating equitable structures so artists can participate in art markets they've traditionally been excluded from. And, how the psychology behind NFT valuations brings to mind 17th century post-plague tulipmania.
Mar 5, 2021
502: Disaster prediction with machine learning and social media
Technology allows us to predict most disasters, so why are we still so unprepared for them? How machine learning and social media response can help shape future disaster response.
Feb 26, 2021
501: Civilization 6 - Obsolescence
It's no secret our devices are designed to become useless, forcing us to upgrade whether we want to or not. But where did the idea of planned obsolescence come from, and does it have any benefits? This week, we examine obsolescence: its history, how it manifests today, and the ethics of creating disposable devices in a future of scarcity.
Feb 19, 2021
Repeat (updated): FLUX
(This episode first aired in September 2020, and has been updated to reflect that.) The human brain is always changing, and that constant state of flux helps us adapt to our ever-changing world. What would happen if we built our technologies and economic systems so that they function like our brains?
Feb 12, 2021
500: The Future of Distribution
The internet is a distributed system that's resilient and powerful because of that distributed nature, but much of our industrial era thinking is focused on centralization. We take a look at new opportunities for distribution from food to information.
Feb 5, 2021
499: Next-Gen Social Media
Is your head spinning from all the new services on social media? We've got your back. From de-platforming the former US President to the rise of new audio-based platforms like Clubhouse, to niche social media that appeal to online extremists, tech commentators Navneet Alang and Takara Small fill us in. Plus human geographer Mark Whitehead shares the somewhat surprising reasons most people quit Facebook.
Jan 29, 2021
498: The Spark Guide to Civilization, Part Five: Privacy
From walls to WhatsApp, privacy is a collective responsibility, says Carissa Véliz, who researches the relationship between power and privacy. And, we take a historical look at privacy and its connection to technological change, with David Vincent.
Jan 22, 2021
How pandemic online shopping could be putting your data at risk
Throughout the pandemic much of our shopping has switched to online, which means retailers can gather a lot of data about us newly online shoppers. What are the ethics of getting — and using — that data? And if 'data is the new oil,' do retailers even want us to go back to the store?
Jan 15, 2021
496: Disruption in the classroom (and beyond)
When genuine disruption happens, it can create chaos, but it eventually becomes the new normal. What does the pandemic have to teach us about tech and education? And, understanding the long-term trajectory of disruption.
Jan 8, 2021
495: Indigenous Futurisms
Stories about the future can offer insight into not only where we're going, but who we are. Thing is, traditionally, our most iconic images of the future are, for the most part, whitewashed and male-centric. Over time, the people in fictional future worlds have become more reflective of the world around us, but how do Indigenous Peoples fit into futuristic narratives? And not just in science fiction, but also in the tech world? + Grace Dillon, Ph.D., editor of Walking the Clouds: An anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction, professor of Anishinaabe and European descent in the Indigenous Nations Studies Program, in the School of Gender, Race, and Nations, at Portland State University + Dr. Lisa Richardson, strategic lead in Indigenous Health at the Women's College Hospital + Jason Edward Lewis, Professor of Design and Computation Arts. He is a digital media artist, poet and software designer. Founder of Obx Laboratory for Experimental Media. Director of the Initiative for Indigenous…
Dec 31, 2020
A Spark Pandemic Retrospective - Touch, Trust, The Alchemy of Us
Over the past year, we've had to reimagine our relationship with our technologies—and each other. This week, a look back at stories from early on in the pandemic that examine what we've learned about communication, and why in an online era we still need physical touch.
Dec 24, 2020
A Spark Pandemic Retrospective - Where do we go from here?
2020 has been a long year, full of challenges, as well as opportunities to do things differently. We look back at the progress we've made in everything from transportation, to retail to working remotely. And we think about the steps we still need to take to stay safe, so we can ask: Where do we go from here?
Dec 18, 2020
494: The Spark Guide to Civilization, Part Four: Attention
We have been lamenting our loss of focus and blaming our short attention spans on technology for ages. But are our attention spans actually dwindling - or is it just that there are just so many things clamouring for our attention all the time? Thomas Hills, professor of psychology and director of the Behavioral and Data Science master's program at the University of Warwick in England, provides a historical overview of attention through the lens of tech and innovation. TikTok has been a key part of Toronto artist Hima Batavia's pandemic experience. It started with dance moves and moved towards engagement with social justice issues and into a variety of communities she never would have learned about if not for TikTok. Sarah Sharma, associate professor of media theory at ICCIT/Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto and the director of the McLuhan Centre for Culture and Technology, talks about the tech and media "solutions" to our current relationship with time, and what th…
Dec 11, 2020
493: Virtual Reality 188.8.131.52
Many activities have moved to our screens and online over the course of the pandemic, but we're still much more likely to invest in an ergonomic chair than a VR headset. So what still stands in the way of wider adoption of virtual reality? Bow Valley College has rolled out brand new virtual-reality training for their practical nursing program. Nora MacLachlan, Dean of Health and Community Studies, tells us how VR helps students develop empathy and practice more real-world disease processes for respiratory illnesses. Then, veteran airline pilot David Culos shares how he's using his unexpected sabbatical from flying planes during the pandemic to develop flight training that integrates elements of VR and AR. Finally, researcher Stephanie Llamas gives us a primer on VR, reviews the history of challenges in the industry, and discusses what the future may hold.
Dec 4, 2020
492: Social tech
As we interact more - and more often - with our digital technologies, those interactions tell us a lot about who we are. Can we analyze behaviour on social media for mental health insights? Researchers Munmun De Choudhury and Koustuv Saha discuss their latest study of the psychosocial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as gleaned from Twitter. Plus, robots already work on factory floors, in dangerous situations, and even cleaning our floors, but to truly interact with us humans, they're going to need to understand our world. Mark H. Lee, author of How to Grow a Robot, talks about building robots that "get" us, using... childhood development psychology! And: Better robots and AI require designing technology that doesn't actively harm humans. Can we get robots to learn things by letting them observe humans? Roboticist Odest Chadwicke Jenkins talks about training machines by (human) example, and how to avoid built-in racial bias in robotics and build more ethical AI.
Nov 27, 2020
491: The Spark Guide to Civilization, Part Three: Nostalgia
Throughout the pandemic we've seen a resurgence of retro hobbies like bread making, tie-dyeing clothes, and going to the drive-in. Why is nostalgia our natural response in times of crisis? And, fasten those jetpacks! A look at the surprising nostalgic pleasures of our past visions of the future.
Nov 20, 2020
Escape can offer a reprieve from daily COVID life. But if you can't physically go anywhere, immersing yourself in fictional worlds - like the ones of online games - can help with the social isolation of the pandemic. We talk to University of Saskatchewan professor Regan Mandryk about how videogames can help us relieve stress and connect with others during the pandemic and beyond. Plus, Spark producer Olsy Sorokina talks about the appeal of Animal Crossing. And, while fictional worlds can seem like escapism, fiction often offers us insight into truth that daily reality denies us. Stephanie Lepp uses deepfake video tech to create fictional epiphanies and moments of personal transformation by public figures like Mark Zuckerberg and Alex Jones. As use of the technology extends beyond political disinformation campaigns, what are the ethics of using deepfakes to enlighten rather than deceive?
Nov 13, 2020
Repeat: Truth decay
(This episode first aired in February 2020, and has been updated to reflect all that's happened in the world since.) How do we know what we know? In a digital landscape where social media dominates, and most people don't trust mainstream reporting, how can we be sure what we're seeing is actually real? It's a question technology journalist and Atlantic magazine staff writer Alexis Madrigal has contemplated a lot, and he's finding a lot of noise among the signals of truth. So what does this mean, more broadly? Social psychologist Arie Kruglanski says that humans need a shared concept of "truth" in order to have societal cohesion. And when that shared concept dissolves, bad things happen. Arie explains the collective risks of our unshared realities.
Nov 6, 2020
For all the good they give us, our personal tech has also become a major time suck. We lose hours of our waking lives to online experiences, especially in the past year, when our worlds became almost as tiny as the screens in our hands. Between work from home and doom-scrolling through social media, are we wasting time, or is this the "new normal" for spending it? And if we are going to be spending this much time online, can we improve online public spaces with better design? In her new book, Time Smart, behavioral scientist Ashley Whillans argues that if you improve your "time affluence," you'll lead a happier life. She offers some practical tips on how we can use the pandemic disruption to improve our relationship with time. Deb Roy, Executive Director of the MIT Media Lab and the MIT Laboratory for Social Machines, discusses how we can improve existing digital spaces. And Spark Senior Producer Michelle Parise shares her experience with what she calls "Nightly Doomscroll Avoidance."
Oct 30, 2020
488: The Spark Guide to Civilization, Part Two: Ventilation
Past pandemics have been a huge influence on the way we design our cities and our homes. So what can the history of this relationship between public health and public spaces teach us during the COVID-19 pandemic? Sara Jensen Carr explores these lessons in an upcoming book, The Topography of Wellness: Health and the American Urban Landscape. We also talk to architect Terrell Wong about how we can return some of the fresh air back into our homes and offices without decreasing energy efficiency or increasing hydro bills. And materials scientist Aaswath Raman explains how to use ancient natural cooling technology for more efficient thermal regulation.
Oct 23, 2020
487: We love robots
Humans have long been fascinated by the idea of automatons. But increasingly, robots are also just reality, as more work is automated - especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, to accommodate physical distancing. This week: a look at the new rules we need to prepare for a world of automation. During COVID-19, robots deliver groceries and medicine and disinfect public spaces. And sure, automation is great for routine, repetitive tasks - but what about things that require more nuance and social context, like caring for a sick patient? Roboticist Julie Carpenter discusses the social impact of rapid robot deployment during COVID-19 on humans. When it comes to robotics and AI, the dominant narrative is that automation will replace any jobs that can be made routine. Frank Pasquale, lawyer and author of New Laws of Robotics: Defending Human Expertise in the Age of AI, argues for a different future. He thinks the future of work involves collaboration between AI and human skill, in ways that ca…