Spark 148 - May 15 & 18, 2011

On this episode of Spark: Stealth Social Marketing, Haptics, and Obsolescence. Click below to listen to the whole show, or download the MP3 (runs 54:00).

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You can also listen to individual stories below.

McLuhan in May

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Photo by centralasian

This year marks the centenary of Canadian icon Marshall McLuhan's birth and for the month of May we're looking at the digital world we live in through the lens of McLuhan's four laws of media. Everyone's doing it, right? (Alright, so maybe it's just us). This week we're tackling the question: What does the medium make obsolete? If we take the "medium" to be the current digital age we are in, then the answers are all around us (and are up for debate) from the loss of skills like handwriting and spelling, to to the loss of touch as a sensory experience (ironic in this touch-screen world). What do you think? Have our digital devices rendered some things in our lives unnecessary? And is that a good or bad thing? Let us know! (Runs 2:08)

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Stealth Social Marketing

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Photo by bmiphone

Most of us are used to the pervasive ads that appear everywhere we go online, and maybe you click on them and maybe you don't. But in the social media world there is another common advertising technique that is a little more devious - persuasion through friendly deception. We get the inside story from a former stealth marketer who created several hundred fake online identities for an online marketing company.(Runs 9:24)

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In Praise of the 30 Second Ad Spot

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Photo by Paul Stevenson

Social media is pretty much the new normal for advertising. Thinking about McLuhan, advertising, and obsolescence, it's almost like marketing with the participatory, many-to-many medium of the internet makes the old broadcast one-to-many medium of TV advertising obsolete. Could we be looking at the death knell of that warhorse, the 30 second TV ad? Not according to Grant McCracken. Grant is a cultural anthropologist and a writer and he tells Nora that when it's done right there's still a place for the venerable old 30 second ad spot. (Runs 10:57)

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Whole Brain Emulation

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Photo by Anders Sandberg

Have you ever wished you could make a copy of your brain? Keep it around in case something happens to the original? Some researchers say this technology is complex, but possible. And one of them is Anders Sandberg, with the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University in England. Anders tells Nora that creating sentient software is a very real possibility. (Runs 8:56)

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Microchips for the Brain

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Photo by DoubleM2

Since we've got the human brain on the, ahem, brain, research being done at Toronto Western Hospital caught our eye. Scientists are developing a microchip that interacts with brain tissue and could one day make epileptic seizures obsolete. Nora dropped by the lab to meet Dr. Peter Carlen, a neuroscientist who runs the lab and Roman Genov, an associate professor of electrical engineering from the University of Toronto who is part of the project. (Runs 6:19)

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C'mon Get Haptic!

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Photo by emilydickinsonridesabmx

The Spark team has been talking a lot about the things our current digital world has made obsolete, or at the very least, scant. I wondered if texting has all but obliterated the teenage love letter. And Nora wondered about the future of touch. Specifically she wanted to know: if we can deliver media and information virtually, are physical media obsolete? Or is there something about us as humans that still craves the physical, the weighty, the tactile? So she called up Mark Paterson. Mark teaches at the University of Exeter where his research focus is on the sense of touch. Fittingly he's also the author of the book Senses of Touch. (Runs 9:19)

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