On this episode of Spark: Dialects, Devices, and Distraction. Click below to listen to the whole show, or download the MP3 (runs 54:00).
You can also listen to individual stories below.
It's the first show of the Spring, and Nora's excited to start cycling to work again. But...it means she can't listen to podcasts on her walk to work. Enter: the Tunebug Shake. A tiny gadget you strap to your bicycle helmet, turning it into a speaker. Constable Hugh Smith is a Toronto police officer and a national examiner for the CAN-BIKE program. Nora goes for a demo ride and then speaks with Constable Smith about the distraction factor in biking with headphones on. (Runs 5:34)
Since we're on the topic of distraction, if there's any one person who has studied all aspects of it, that's Clifford Nass. He's a professor at Standford University and an expert on how multitasking effects our brain. Although being a multitasker is seen as an asset, Nass talks to Nora about our tendency to multitask to distraction, as more and more products are coming out to distract us further and make us think we need to use them. (Runs 8:46)
Ever notice how seeing someone sitting in the blue glow of their computer screen can seem sorta beautiful? Well, Gabriela Herman thought this enough times that she's gone ahead and done something about it. Gabriela is a photographer in New York City who has us fascinated with her portrait series called Bloggers. It's just like it sounds, a series of portraits of bloggers in the glow of their computer screens while they write. Nora speaks with Gabriela about her work. (Runs 8:20)
Machine translation have been around for a long time and are continually improving. Which is great if you need something translated quickly from Italian or Hindi. But what about those languages that are less common? In Canada's Arctic, there are several Aboriginal languages that are at risk of dying out this generation. Well, right now in the North West Territories, a device called the Phraselator is helping to change all that. Spark contributor Philippe Morin lives and works in Inuvik, and recently he got to see the impact of the Phraselator first hand. (Runs 5:43)
Around Spark lately we've been interested in how dialects appear in the online world. We recently came across Noah Smith, an assistant professor at the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Melon University. Noah has done some interesting research into how and where regional slang shows up on Twitter, and how that slang can be used to accurately predict where someone lives. (Runs 8:25)
So we can use slang in tweets as a kind of geo-locator, but what if we went beyond slang? One day, linguist Rick Aschmann had an idea for a hobby - it was to plot a map of all the English dialects in North America by using Youtube clips and Wikipedia. His dense, massive, fascinating, and a little bit confounding online Map of English Dialects in North America has caught the attention of a lot of people across the continent who want to help him. (Runs 10:06)