Lately, here at Spark, we've been thinking about "tools on tools": online tools built on top of other, more foundational tools, that don't work without such foundations. I'm thinking here of something like Xobni, a productivity plugin to manage your Outlook, or Flipboard, which turns your friends' social media news into a lovely magazine format for the iPad, or innumberable quizzes and games designed to be used within the world of Facebook. Useful, or just neat technologies, which nonetheless are tied to a bigger technology. It's a trend we've been noticing for a while now, but last week, when Facebook went down, we started thinking about some of the implications of building tools on top of tools, especially when the foundational tool is a closed system. That's where Jer Thorp comes in. Jer is a data artist and educator from Vancouver, who is also 'data artist in residence' at The New York Times. I wanted to talk to him about why this is about more than niche-y geek trendspotting. It has a lot to do with the kind of online world we want to create and support.
A shorter version of this interview will air on the October 3rd and 6th episode of Spark, but you can hear the full, uncut interview below if you download the MP3. [runs 14:29]
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