On this episode of Spark: Personalization, Perfect Playlists, and Privacy. To listen to the whole show, download the MP3 (Runs 54:00).
Just this year, Google Street View has expanded to over 20 countries, including the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia -- and as of last week, Antarctica. Yes, you can now check out penguins on Street View. But there's one major Western European country that is still missing from Street View: Germany. That's because of it's strict privacy laws. In fact, in order to comply with local law, Google has let German residents opt-out from the service and blur their house. The last day to opt-out is October 15, and Google will launch Street View in Germany before the end of the year. Nora spoke with Spark contributor Cyrus Farivar, who is Deutsche Welle English's new science and technology editor, and lives in Bonn, Germany. (Runs 8:49)
When Google Street View first came out, what was the first thing you did with it? Check your current home? Of course. And then? A lot of us satisfied our deepest curiosity, and typed in the address of our childhood home. The next thing we knew, we were right there, in our past. Here is the Spark take on that. (Runs 5:48)
What does it take to make the perfect playlist? Is it the rhythm of the music? The flow of the songs? The semi-autobiographical narrative that emerges when you put "Mama Said" by The Shirelles immediately after "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida?" And here's another question: if you had a playlist contest, and compared an expert DJ to a computer algorithm, who would win? Well, that's exactly what Paul LaMere did. Paul works for Echo Nest, a music intelligence company. He also writes the excellent blog, "Music Machinery" which is all about the intersection of music and technology. Right now, on that blog, Paul's running an online survey, pitting playlists created by a human being (Bill Goldsmith) against computer-generated playlists. So who does the better job? Here's what Nora found out. (Runs 8:35)
It's been a long road, but Canada's North is slowly joining the ranks of the world's broadband users. At first, private companies shied away from setting up shop there. Communities are small, far flung and difficult to reach--not exactly a prime moneymaking venture. But in 2010, people in the North are feeling more connected. George Sirk of Victoria, B.C. recently traveled through the Arctic and spoke with people who live there about their experience of the Internet. (Runs 5:08)
Nick Bilton is the lead writer of the New York Times Bits blog, so he's spent a lot of time thinking about our technological future. Right now in the present, it's like everyone is at a different place when it comes to the way we consume media, and the tools we use to do that. Nick's new book I Live in the Future and Here's How it Works talks a lot about the coming changes to how we consume media and how our social contacts will have a much bigger role in how we find information that's relevant to us. (Runs 7:28)
On this edition of Spark, we've been talking about the way our social networks allow us to tailor our cultural experiences, and what this will mean as the tools we use to consume media become more customized and personalized. There was a time when things happened - like the first moon landing, or the final episode of MASH - where we all watched together. The next day there were the proverbial watercooler conversations because it was a shared cultural experience. That just doesn't happen anymore, at least not in the same way. We watch things when we want, not all at the same time. Spark columnist Anand Giridharadas argues that this is a sign that mass culture is in decline. Here he is in conversation with Nora. What follows is her talk with Joanne McNeil who writes the Tomorrow Museum blog about the future of the arts. Joanne has a lot to say about how we can use the web to create these cultural signposts. (Runs 13:09)