Spark 153 - June 26 & 29, 2011

On this episode of Spark: DIY Living, Context-Aware Computing, and The Internet of Elsewhere. Click below to listen to the whole show, or download the MP3 (runs 54:00).

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The Internet of Elsewhere

                              Photo by perpetualplum

It's easy to take the internet for granted - it's always there for us, and it's fast, accessible. At least here in North America, but what about on other continents? Cyrus Farivar thinks that distinct internets have developed, based on an individual country's modern history and economic environments. You may recognize that name because Cyrus is a regular contributor to Spark, but he's also the author of the new book, The Internet of Elsewhere: The Emergent Effects of a Wired World. The book talks about the way the internet has developed differently in four countries: Iran, South Korea, Senegal and Estonia. Nora spoke with Cyrus to find out more. (Runs 11:12)

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DIY Living

                             Photo by Jon Kalish

We've talked a fair bit about the Do-It-Yourself movement on Spark. How it's moved up from the solitary tinkerer in a basement, to groups of people sharing tools and insight at hack-labs. But now some DIYers are taking their passion beyond building cool technological tools and are looking at ways to DIY their entire lives. Spark's guide to the DIY world, Jon Kalish, tells Nora about a visit he made to an impressive DIY back-to-the-land effort in California where three young filmmakers have built a utopian village with their friends among the redwoods. (Runs 9:59)

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Wine and The Semantic Web

                             Photo by alexbrn

Right now the race is on to develop search that is both more accurate and more customized. What if there was an APP that could act as an agent for you, taking all the meta-data from searchable pages, filtering and arranging them to make sense for you, and then giving you the perfect search result? You and your computer would work cooperatively to find exactly what you were looking for. This idea is called the semantic web - the ability to do search with meaning, rather than just syntax. Deborah McGuinness is a Professor of Computer Science and Cognitive Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the Chair of the Tetherless World Constellation. She tells Nora about a wine agent she's developed as an early semantic web demonstration. (Runs 8:42)

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Building Intuition Into Search


If the semantic web becomes an everyday reality, we'd have a web that would produce better answers for us. But what if you're not sure of the question in the first place? Aditi Muralidharan wanted to know if it was possible to create a search engine that will intuitively know as it's searching what you actually need. Nora speaks to Aditi about her project WordSeer - a search tool that analyzes language patterns in an effort to build intuition into the search engine. (Runs 5:57)

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Context-Aware Computing

                             Photo by timparkinson

Looking up regular ol' internet information on your cell phone is so 2010. What if you could get customized information based on where you are, who you are with, and what you're doing? It's called context-aware computing, and it would happen all on your phone so that as your context changes, it changes with you. Hossein Rahnama is a leading researcher in this field. Nora took a visit to his lab at Ryerson University's Digital Media Zone to see what the future holds (literally!) for us when it comes to responsive, contextual computing. (Runs 10:35)

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