Nov 14, 2010 | 54:00Spark William Gibson, Lumberjack Chic, and the Last IP Address Audio
Spark William Gibson, Lumberjack Chic, and the Last IP Address Nov 14, 2010 | 54:00(Spark 127): Way back in the early days of the internet, engineers had to come up with a number for how many IP addresses we would need. It was more or less a case of one IP address for every computer, so they picked a number they thought was big enough. Well, that number is about to run out. With so many digital devices these days, any one person could need 3 or 4 or more IP addresses. So they're disappearing. Fast. So what does that mean for us? Spark producer Dan Misener goes deep into the bowels of the internet to find out. We've been talking a lot lately about who we are online and how that affects who we are at work. Now that most of us have a personal on-line presence, businesses have to manage the legal risks of social media, and that's why social media guidelines are being adopted by almost every firm, business, organization, and institution there is. As well as keeping a watchful eye on what employees are saying and doing out in the world, many organizations also recognize the value of social media as a tool - for marketing and outreach. In both cases, the result is a set of restrictions for what employees should -and shouldn't- say on-line. So what does this mean for the individual? Does the idea of "free" speech still exist in a world where our personal and professional on-line selves are more and more combined? Nora speaks with Vanessa Grant is a Business Law Partner at McCarthy Tétrault, one of the leaders in Technology Law in Canada. At the heart of the issue of social media use and our blurred private and professional selves is one thing: context. You know, how a photo of you drinking at a party could be OK in one context, but not in another. It's context that poses the challenge of how we are now thinking about privacy. And that's why Nora spoke with Helen Nissenbaum. She teaches in the department of Media, Culture, and Communications at New York University, and she's written a book called Privacy in Context. It seems like everywhere we look lately, someone is rocking a trendy retro item from Canada's past. Have you noticed it too? It's cool to wear a retro toque, drink beer from a stubby, have a moose-pattern chair, eat a $5 gourmet butter tart. Nostalgia for Canadiana seems to be growing in design and marketing. The aesthetic of wildlife, camping, canoes, and maple leafs can be found on everything from plates to clothing to wallpaper. Some people have even dubbed it "lumberjack chic". So what's going on? Nora spoke with design consultant Todd Falkowsky to find out. He's credited with coining the term "cyberspace", and predicting and conceptualizing all kinds of things before they actually came about, including the world wide web, virtual games, virtual sex, and reality television. More than just a science fiction writer, William Gibson is considered an icon and a visionary who elevated science fiction to another level, and whose influence has permeated popular culture. He spoke to Nora about his latest book, Zero History, a story about the underground world of luxury goods. In the past several months, we've heard a lot about a rash of teen suicides in the U.S brought on by bullying and homophobia. These suicides have really made people snap into action, especially on the web, where campaigns like It Gets Better have taken off. For LGBT youth (that's Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender), the internet is really the only safe place to get accurate information and support. And for those in rural areas it can be a beacon of hope...that is, if they can get access. Nora spoke with Andrea Chiu about why the internet plays such a crucial role for LGBT youth.
Apr 25, 2010 | 53:59Spark Virtual Choirs, Virtual Mourning, and the Story of Stuff Audio
Spark Virtual Choirs, Virtual Mourning, and the Story of Stuff Apr 25, 2010 | 53:59(Spark 111): The Story of Stuff is the name of a video Annie Leonard made for the web a couple of years ago. So far, nearly 10 million people have seen it. In the video, Annie talks about where our stuff comes from: the supply chain of how it's made, where and by whom. And where it goes when we throw it out. Now, Annie has a book out that goes into more detail about all of those issues. On April 22 (Earth Day 2010), online repair guide iFixit announced that it will expand beyond Apple products, and open up its publishing platform. Now, anyone who knows how to fix anything can publish a repair guide on iFixit. The goal is to become like a Wikipedia for repair manuals: "the free repair manual that you can edit." Nora talks to Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit. CBC Radio producer Daemon Fairless embraces his DIY side, and discovers a surprising connection along the way. Virtual mourning: strangers are posting sentiments of support and sympathy to memorial pages, blogs, and online obituaries for people they never knew. We saw this during the Haitian earthquake, when Facebook groups for missing people were set up. Or on the Facebook group Prayers for Baby Isaiah James. Or Eva Markvoort's blog, 65 Red Roses, which chronicled her experience living with cystic fibrosis. Nora talked to Anabel Quan-Haase about how technology extends human empathy to people we don't know in the real world. Eric Whitacre tells the story of his virtual choir -- a group of individual singers, each sitting alone at their webcam, recording individual vocal parts for a large choral piece. The pieces are edited together, and together, they sing as a choir. YouTube says that "every minute, 24 hours of video is uploaded" it its service. So when there's more video online than you could possibly hope to watch, how do you find (and preserve) the good stuff? To try and answer that, we revisit Nora's 2008 interview with Rick Prelinger. In the world of archived video, he's a bit of a celebrity, thanks in part to the Prelinger Archives.
Oct 31, 2010 | 54:00Spark Brain Tweets, Better Buses, and Paper Audio
Spark Brain Tweets, Better Buses, and Paper Oct 31, 2010 | 54:00(Spark 125): Dustin Freeman on digital devices that act like paper. Olivier Thereaux and Mark Miller on building better bus systems. The Dalai Lama on how technology effects our happiness. Baratunde Thurston on the merits of email lists. Austin Serafin on the blind using iPhones. And Sonya Buyting on the latest in mind-computer interfaces.
May 16, 2010 | 54:00Spark Vocoders, Microfluidics, and Hybrid Leaders Audio
Spark Vocoders, Microfluidics, and Hybrid Leaders May 16, 2010 | 54:00(Spark 113): From scrambling Second World War secrets, to the Cylons, to Detroit techno music, Dave Tompkins outlines the history of the vocoder. Dave is a music writer and the author of the new book, How to Wreck a Nice Beach. The title, in case you're wondering, is based on a mishearing of the vocoderized phrase "How To Recognize Speech." How many people does it take to make a bargain? Spark producer Elizabeth Bowie looks at the recent trend of group buying websites, such as Wagjag.com, Stealthedeal.com, teambuy.ca, webpiggy.com. Elizabeth also talks to Andrew Mason, the CEO and founder of the popular group buying site, Groupon. The TED conference is an elite event that most of us wouldn't dream of going to. It costs $6,000 (even if you can get a ticket). But at the conference, they videotape all the great speakers they bring in. And since 2006, they've put video of those speakers online where anyone can watch them for free. Even if you live in the city and have no land, you can exercise your green thumb by growing plants hydroponically. In New York City two young women are doing just that with what they call window farms. We asked reporter Jon Kalish, who has a penchant for do-it-yourself projects, to check it out. Frederick Balagadde works in an area of research called microfluidics, which deals with the behaviour of fluids on a micro scale. He's working on the idea of making a medical lab on a chip, and TED has recognized him for his innovation in this area.
May 23, 2010 | 54:00Spark Facebook Privacy, Video Game Localization, and Universal Translators Audio
May 30, 2010 | 54:00Spark Text 2.0, Reputation Management, and Facebook Privacy Audio
Spark Text 2.0, Reputation Management, and Facebook Privacy May 30, 2010 | 54:00(Spark 115): A book is a great technology, isn't it? Words on a page open up a world of imagination and ideas. But what if the experience of reading could be more dynamic? What if text knew how it was being read? Ralf Biedert is with the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence. He's working on a project called Text 2.0, technology that tracks your eye movements while you read. Nora goes for a GPS-assisted bicycle ride, only to learn that in some instances, paper maps can be more effective than GPS navigation systems. According to research by Toru Ishikawa at the University of Toyko, "GPS users traveled longer distances and made more stops during the walk than map users." There's always been a sense of adventure when driving out into the great unknown. And much of the classic road trip is all about staring at the yellow line in the middle of the asphalt for hours and making up your own fun. But what happens when technology starts to change that? Mathew Katz is a Canadian reporter living in Carbondale, Colorado, and he recently took a different kind of road trip -- one with constant web access. If you worry about your younger relatives oversharing on social networking sites, a new study says they're probably doing a better job of monitoring their online reputation than you are. This week, Mark Zuckerberg announced changes to Facebook's privacy settings. To find out more about the changes, and to get a response to recent concerns about Facebook and privacy, Nora talked to Debbie Frost, Director of International Communications and Public Policy at Facebook. Technologies have context, and design solutions only make sense when you understand the social context they're in.
Recently, interaction designer Carolina Vallejo created a project called Design for the First World: The Rest Saving the West. Designers from the developing world help the developing world with its problems -- low birth rate and an ageing population, obesity, integration of immigrant populations, and commercialism.
Jun 6, 2010 | 54:00Spark Copyright Reform, Responsive Architecture, and India's Unsung Inventors Audio
Spark Copyright Reform, Responsive Architecture, and India's Unsung Inventors Jun 6, 2010 | 54:00(Spark 116): When it comes to comments at news sites, how do you promote thoughtful, productive online discussion, and discourage trollish, abusive comments? Nora talks to Kaila Hale-Stern of Gawker Media, and Joshua Benton from The Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University about media websites, comments, and the value of anonymity. Under current Canadian copyright law, it's illegal to rip a CD to your MP3 player. Or to record a TV show on your PVR. This week, the government introduced Bill C-32, which would reform Canadian copyright. Nora talked to Peter Nowak, CBC.ca's senior science and technology writer, for the details. "It's so easy, your mom could use it." What's up with that? Why do writers and marketers equate tech that's easy with "tech for moms?" Nora wrote about this last month, and follows up with members of the broader Spark community for their thoughts. Nora visits the studio of Canadian experimental architect Philip Beesley to talk about Hylozoic Ground -- an enormous, computerized, crystalline forest that moves in response to visitors walking through it. Philip will represent Canada at this year's Venice Biennale of Architecture. He talked to Nora about the trend of responsive architecture. Anil Gupta is searching for India's unsung inventors. More than twenty years ago, he founded something called the Honeybee Network. Anil works to bring the innovations of people from urban slums and isolated villages to the wider market.
Jun 20, 2010 | 54:00Spark Virtual Street Corners, Responsive Architecture, and the Future of Public Libraries Audio
Spark Virtual Street Corners, Responsive Architecture, and the Future of Public Libraries Jun 20, 2010 | 54:00(Spark 117): For a long time, libraries were repositories of a scarce good: information. But now, information online is everywhere, at least for those with access to the Internet. So, public libraries need to think about being valuable as public space, as community hubs, and as places to help navigate the seas of data to find quality information. One approach to this comes from the New Library in Almere, The Netherlands. It takes many design cues from retail bookstores. Nora talked to Chris Wiersma, the director of the New Library, and Erikjan Vermeulen from the architecture firm concrete about the library's design. Then, for a Canadian perspective on the future of library design, Nora talked to Gerry Meek, CEO of the Calgary Public Library. John Ewing is an artist based in Boston, and earlier this month, he launched Virtual Street Corners. It's a pair of interactive video screens in two different neighbourhoods: Coolidge Corner, Brookline, and Dudley Square, Roxbury. Each corner has a display, a camera and a microphone. When you look at one video screen, you're actually looking at a completely different corner in a completely different neighbourhood. It's like a digital portal. Nora talked to John Ewing about the project. Each year in the UK, 3.5 billion pieces of chewing gum are disposed of improperly. And that's something product designer Anna Bullus is trying to change. Anna has created Gumdrop, a chewing gum disposal bin that's made of used chewing gum. You might think that Gumdrop is just an inventive, kinda wacky idea, but beyond the issue of chewed gum, it's an example of something that's actually a big design trend these days: upcycling. Nora talked to Anna Bullus and product and experience designer Todd Falkowsky about the trend. Responsive architecture is actually already beginning to become a reality in the actual buildings around us. Lisa Rochon is the architecture critic at the Globe and Mail and she talked to Nora about Canadian developments in responsive architecture.
Jun 27, 2010 | 54:00Spark Bursts, Shallows, and GameChanger Audio
Spark Bursts, Shallows, and GameChanger Jun 27, 2010 | 54:00(Spark 118): This summer, the Canadian Little League Championships take place in Ancaster, Ontario. And this year, there's a technological twist. Instead of traditional pencil and paper scorekeeping, officials will use iPhones to score the game. The electronic scorekeeping system is called GameChanger. Nora talked to CEO Ted Sullivan about GameChanger, and to sports columnist and dad Scott Radley about the professionalization of amateur sport. Albert-László Barabási is the author of Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do. In it, he set out to explore whether our behaviour patterns are random, or whether they can be predicted. What he found is that our daily behaviours, things that we might think we do spontaneously, follow a precise set of mathematical formulas or laws. Every now and then, a verbal tic creeps into the culture. Millions of people begin to say "like" or "awesome" or "groovy." It's just how culture goes. But sometimes these tics can tell us something larger about the culture, and that would seem to be the case with what appears to be the latest tic in the English-speaking world: the word "so," and more specifically, the word "so" as the sentence-starter of choice, in sentences where it would not traditionally have belonged. Spark columnist Anand Giridharadas has given that little word some thought lately. Have you ever worried that you're losing the ability to follow a long, sustained narrative in a book? Early on in his new book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr describes experiencing exactly that. Are our online reading habits changing the way we think?
Feb 22, 2010 | 34:37Spark Crowdsourcing Questions: Friend or "Friend" (Full interview) Audio
Spark Crowdsourcing Questions: Friend or "Friend" (Full interview) Feb 22, 2010 | 34:37Nora interviews Danah Boyd and William Deresiewicz about the nature of friendship online -- whether social networking has changed what we mean when we say "friend," and how digital tools like Facebook and MySpace ask us to define, categorize, and list our friends. Danah is a Social Media Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Fellow at the Berkman Center, and the lead author of Friendship, a chapter in Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media. William Deresiewicz is a writer, and his essay Faux Friendship was recently published in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Sep 12, 2010 | 54:00Spark Big Books, Micro-volunteering, and Search Engine Misnomers Audio
Spark Big Books, Micro-volunteering, and Search Engine Misnomers Sep 12, 2010 | 54:00(Spark 119): There is a lot of controversy about a proposed mosque at Ground Zero in New York City. But here's the thing: it's not a mosque at Ground Zero. Rather, it's an Islamic Center that includes a pool, community rooms, and offices. And the proposed site isn't Ground Zero. It is in Lower Manhattan, but it's two blocks away from where the World Trade Center once stood. That didn't stop newspapers and other online media from calling it the "Ground Zero Mosque." And once those media sites were indexed by Google, it became that much more difficult to correct the record. Nora spoke to Kelly McBride from the Poynter Institute. She teaches media ethics there, and has been looking at the "Ground Zero Mosque" example and what it means for online journalism. Is it just us or are books getting bigger and bigger these days? Many of the current best sellers are clocking in at 800 to 1,000 pages long! Enough to put a good kink in your shoulder if you're carrying it around, unless of course, you've got a handy new e-reader. Nora spoke with Spark contributor Hannah Classen about the link between digital technology and today's big, fat, books. How did you spend your summer vacation? Unwinding with a big, juicy electronic page turner? Or maybe summer is more about getting away from it all...including your digital tools and toys. And what better way to do that than a good ole camping trip. Well this summer, many provincial parks in Canada experimented with having Wifi in the campground. It's a trend that's been growing across North America as many campers want to answer the call of the wild...but be able to answer their email as well. Spark contributor Cesil Fernandes wrestled that question to the mat on a recent family camping trip. Borrowing the proverbial cup of sugar from your neighbour has always come with its challenges. These days, we're so mobile we might not know our neighbours enough to knock on their door and ask. But what if you could just log on to a website, and "meet" the people in your neighbourhood by borrowing their stuff? And with the Web, information that used to be hard to find out--who has what? Is someone else using it? Is now transparent. To learn more about this trend, Nora talked to Micki Krimmel, founder of NeighborGoods.net. You've probably felt this way before. You'd like to volunteer...give back to the community. But where do you find the time? Well you can 'micro' volunteer mere minutes at a time thanks to new online tools. Micro-volunteering works by taking massive charitable tasks and breaking them into tiny parts. Parts so small that you could help by participating for as little as under a minute, so you can fit it into your busy day. First, we heard from Jacob Colker, one of the founders of a micro-volunteering site called The Extraordinaries. Then, Nora spoke with Dave Rand, an evolutionary biologist with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, all about micro-volunteering and its potential.
Sep 19, 2010 | 54:01Spark Cyborgs, Digital Sabbaths, and Super Sad True Love Audio
Spark Cyborgs, Digital Sabbaths, and Super Sad True Love Sep 19, 2010 | 54:01(Spark 120): Gary Shteyngart's new novel is called Super Sad True Love Story: A Novel, and it's been getting great reviews and making waves since it hit the bookshelves back in July. It tells the story of Lenny, a 39 year-old worried about his looks and health in a relentlessly youth-oriented culture, who falls hard for 24 year-old Eunice Park. They fall in love in a near-future New York, where the wealthy get nano-technology treatments to avoid aging, the US economy has collapsed and is tottering under war, class struggle, and a one- party state. And, it's a comedy, with lots of satirical, dystopian, and hilarious things to say about contemporary techno-culture. Ever thought of just taking a break from the constant stream of Twitter updates, emails, news feeds, and texts? Like, really really take a break and turning off all your gadgets and living tech-free for a full day. It's an idea that's come up a lot lately, as more people find the benefits behind unplugging. There are websites like Offlining.com dedicated to promoting the idea of taking "Offline Sabbath" days, or planning "No-device dinners" one day a week. Peter Rukavina has a new e-book reader. No, it's not an iPad, or a Kindle. It's not a Kobo, or a Sony Reader. Rather, Peter's new ebook reader is a human being named Shawn, who prints out Peter's books on paper. Nora spoke with Peter about combining the best of ebooks and the best of printed books. If you're like us, as you're walking around a typical downtown street in North America, you'll notice Cyborgs, everywhere! People with cell phones constantly attached to their ears, or with iPads that tell them exactly where they are and navigating where they're going next. Or what about people with pacemakers, or hearing aids or eyeglasses? All examples of the fusion of the human and the technological. Turns out the term 'cyborg' goes back to the days of the Space Race. And this month--September 2010--is the 50th anniversary of the coining of the term Cyborg! Nora speaks with Tim Maly, who writes and edits Quiet Babylon, a website about cyborgs and architects. Freelance journalist Sarah Bridge brings Spark a look at the intersection of medical technology and the deeply emotional experiences it can bring. In Sarah Bridge's family, an incredibly high number of women have had breast cancer -- four out of five of her grandfather's sisters, for example. And in her mother's generation, the disease continues to spread. As medical technology has advanced, tests for a genetic predisposition have become possible. But these tests have opened a pandora's box of questions for the women in Sarah's family.
Sep 26, 2010 | 54:00Spark Blooks, Co-creation, and Twitter Strangers Audio
Spark Blooks, Co-creation, and Twitter Strangers Sep 26, 2010 | 54:00(Spark 121): There's an old saying: "Don't talk to strangers!" But what about following them on Twitter? According to Joel Johnson there can be real advantages to following complete strangers online. He tells Nora the story of how he decided to follow someone on Twitter who was a complete stranger, and had rewarding results. Beyond the joy of discovery, there may be other advantages. Nora also spoke with Wired.com's Jonah Lehrer, who believes that following strangers on Twitter can expand our creative potential, an idea that's been researched by Charlan Nemeth, who studies the role of dissent in creativity and thought. Her research suggests that simply by being exposed to minority dissenting viewpoints (whether we believe them or not) improves our creativity. Earlier this month a small black book came across our desks. It was called Four Word Film Reviews and it's a collection of just that: four word film reviews. But before it was a book, it was a blog. It's a trend we've been seeing a lot lately - it seems like the hot thing to do in publishing right now is print out the Internet. There's even a hot name for it - "blooks". But why would anyone bother to turn their blog in to a book? Nora spoke to Michael Onesi, one of the co-writers of Four Word Film Reviews about the allure of going from part-time blogger to big-time book deal. And then she spoke with Tim Carmody, a literary historian, a blogger, and a self-described "Book Futurist" about his thoughts on the trend. The advent of digital photography has made us all really great photographers, hasn't it? It gives us the ability to shoot and shoot and shoot until we get the perfect shot. And so, we do. We do so much, that we have hard drives, USB keys and memory cards filled with hundreds and hundreds and thousands of photos. With every moment so thoroughly documented, will photographic memories even mean anything? One way to get out of your own echo chamber is through online collaboration: the kind of non-hierarchical, open, mass co-creation that happens at a site like Wikipedia. And there's been lots of speculation about how broadly you could use decentralized collaboration like that in our networked world. Author and tech and business guru Don Tapscott, had a name for it: Wikinomics. In that 2007 book, he talked about how open, networked 'wiki' principles could apply to the hard-nosed world of business. In his new book, MacroWikinomics, Don envisions it in everything from the financial industry, to education, health care, and transportation. Not everyone thinks co-creation is the greatest way to level the playing field. Lately an open letter has been making the rounds online. It's written by a guy named Brian, and he throws a little cold water on the whole collaboration idea, at least when it comes to advertising and marketing. It's hilarious, and makes a point. It also turns out it was written on the blog of an independent creative agency out of London, UK. But the advertising sector is one of the areas where people have been using the principles of crowdsourcing and co-creation in really noticeable ways. Victors and Spoils launched less than a year ago. It is the world's first ad agency built on crowdsourcing principles. Nora spoke with John Winsor, who says what they do at Victors and Spoils is try to help the client shape the creative process as much as possible.
Oct 3, 2010 | 54:00Spark Bits, Tools, and Digital TV Audio
Spark Bits, Tools, and Digital TV Oct 3, 2010 | 54:00(Spark 122): Here in Canada, we're less than one year away from the digital television transition. After August 31, 2011, most Canadians will no longer receive analog television transmissions over the air. So if you have an older set, and you use an antenna to watch TV, pay attention. Digital television promises better picture and sound, the capacity for additional programming, and a more efficient use of the wireless spectrum. An estimated 1 million Canadians will be affected by the change. But are Canadians ready for this switch? And is the move to digital even worth it? To discuss this, Nora spoke with Michael Geist and Bill St. Arnaud. We've been thinking about "tools on tools", specifically, online tools built on top of one another - foundational tools, tools that don't work without the building blocks they're created on. Think about something like Flipboard which turns your friends' social media news into a lovely magazine format for the iPad, or all those quizzes and games 3rd parties develop which are designed to be used within the world of Facebook. Neat technologies, which nonetheless are tied to a bigger technology. We think this is a real trend. One that we've already seen the downside to: For several hours on September 23rd, Facebook went down, and people couldn't access their accounts. And because they couldn't access their Facebook accounts, all those tools built on top of Facebook were down too. And that's why Nora spoke with Jer Thorp. He's a digital artist, and educator from Vancouver, and currently "data artist in residence" at the R&D labs of the New York Times. A little while ago we came across a video on YouTube of an amazing but strange cover version of the classic B-52s song "Rock Lobster". Except it isn't played by humans. It's a band assembled entirely from old computer parts and found electronics. All automated. All live. No human playing, and no editing or effects. "They" are The Bit-52's - "The World's Greatest Parts Band." We wanted to see the man behind the curtain, and it turns out he was in the Spark neighbourhood. Here is what we found when we went to the house of James Cochrane in Toronto. Ah, the public domain. Music and art no longer covered by intellectual property rights. Free for you and me on the internet! Nora has been watching a ton of public domain movies lately, and it got her thinking about whether our portable devices are fueling a new enthusiasm for classic, public domain art. Ever think about how you relate to your computer? Say, when it doesn't do what you want it to - do you yell at it, like it's a person? Clifford Nass is a professor at Stanford who looks at how humans interact with computers. He also studies how humans relate to each other. It's fascinating research. He's also the author of a new book The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach us About Human Relationships.