Spark

 
 

Spark

Spark brings you the latest in technology and culture. With an eye on the future, host Nora Young guides you through this dynamic era of technology-led change, and connects your life to the big ideas changing our world right now.

Updated: Fridays
Download episodes from this podcast for: 6 months
Visit Show Site: http://www.cbc.ca/spark

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Spark 427: Robot reporters, menstruation emoji and security in a 5G world

Chinese tech giant could be a 5G security threat: There's a push in Canada and internationally to upgrade our cellular networks to 5G. But there are also potential security concerns about the leading provider of that technology: Chinese tech giant, Huawei. Christopher Parsons is a research associate at The Citizen Lab at The University of Toronto. He talks to Spark host Nora Young about what could potentially go wrong, and what it shows us about security in a networked age. ---------- Protecting your personal data: In the past couple of years, we've seen high profile breaches of customer data, cyber espionage, and interference in the election process. All of which makes maintaining our privacy and security a personal issue of protecting our data, but also, a national and international concern. While at the recent Privacy and Security Conference in Victoria, BC, Spark host Nora Young spoke with Scott Jones, the head of the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security about his thoughts on the current state of cyber espionage. ---------- Robot reporters are on the job! Human NY Times reporter Jaclyn Peiser reports on how various journalism outlets are increasingly employing "robot reporters." Plus, AI expert Jerry Kaplan shares his analysis of whether automated tech is a threat to journalists' jobs. ---------- How an emoji can help destigmatize menstruation: Until now, there's never been a specific emoji to represent menstruation. Although Unicode's newly approved "drop of blood" emoji doesn't exclusively indicate periods, many health advocates are hailing this as an important digital step in destigmatizing menstruation. Carmen Barlow, the digital strategy and development manager at Plan International UK, explains why.

Download Spark 427: Robot reporters, menstruation emoji and security in a 5G world
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Spark 426: Memes grown up, Man vs AI debate, robot decisions, hanging on the landline, and the case for paper maps

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to the US Congress, uses memes with panache, and is even teaching her fellow Democratic representatives how to properly use social media. So are memes now a serious part of the public discourse? Kenyatta Cheese, founder of the website KnowYourMeme and a blogger about internet media, tells Spark host Nora Young why he thinks memes are all grown up. ---------- Can AI be taught to mount a convincing argument ... with no time to prepare? IBM's Project Debate AI is focused on building a conversational artificial intelligence capable of engaging in continuous, stimulated debate. This week, it lost in a debate with Harish Natarajan, a World Universities Debating Championships Grand Finalist. Harish tells Spark host Nora Young what it was like to debate and defeat an artificial intelligence. ---------- Most algorithms we encounter evaluate risk in terms of making a decision, from giving you a loan to deciding where a spacecraft should land on the surface of Mars. But what about reward? A new robotic AI submersible designed to explore deep ocean trenches will consider destroying itself, if what it thinks it will find is worth it. Benjamin Ayton, one of its designers, explains how. ---------- Each year, fewer Canadian households report having landline telephones. Some countries, like Finland, plan to phase them out all together. Why do some of us still hang on to the ole landline? Spark contributor Denis Grignon brings us the story of his struggle to cut the cord. ---------- It's so easy just to use a digital map on your phone. Why bother with paper maps anymore? Author and journalism professor, Meredith Broussard, argues that paper maps facilitate "deep" knowledge, and are worth keeping in a digital age.

Download Spark 426: Memes grown up, Man vs AI debate, robot decisions, hanging on the landline, and the case for paper maps
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Spark 425: The history of the future of cell phones

This week on Spark, a special look at the mobile phone: no other technology has so dramatically changed the way people all over the world interact with each other. And it's all happened so fast-a lot of it within the lifetime of Spark as a show. We are looking back through 12 years of the cellphone as covered by Spark, from how phones affect our children and the way we parent, to the ever-present peril of notifications, to how to manage what has become, for many, a crippling addiction.

Download Spark 425: The history of the future of cell phones
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Spark 424: Pop-up office cubicles that reflect your personality, real-time political fact checking, blogging makes a comeback, cowboy drones and decluttering your digital life, 'Marie Kondo' style

A Duke University team, led by professor and Politifact founder Bill Adair, is developing a product that will allow television networks to offer real-time fact checks onscreen when a politician makes a questionable claim during a speech or debate. When's the last time you logged into your Blogger account? Or Wordpress? The overwhelming presence of social media, as well as essay-sharing platforms like Medium, have pretty much rendered the ol' personal weblog to the bin. But well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Heinemeier Hansson thinks it's time blogs made a comeback-and he's leading by example. This month, he took his popular SignalvNoise blog back from Medium, and began publishing it independently. Remote-controlled quadcopter drones are just one of the many new technological tools that some ranchers have added to their operations. Over the last few years, a quiet technological revolution has been happening in the Canadian beef industry. Spark contributor Matt Meuse headed out to the mountains of southern Alberta to see firsthand how it's playing out. We're all different so why can't our office cubicles reflect our personality? A Toronto design firm, has created a flexible, pop-up workspace that can be reconfigured according to a person's workplace personality. Architect and SDI Design Creative Director Noam Hazan discusses how it works. Brian X. Chen shares his tips about tidying up your technology physically and digitally, Marie Kondo-style.

Download Spark 424: Pop-up office cubicles that reflect your personality, real-time political fact checking, blogging makes a comeback, cowboy drones and decluttering your digital life, 'Marie Kondo' style
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Spark 423: Facebook petitions, WhatsApp and the spread of misinformation, designing the modern airport, and the lives of digisexuals.

A look at how more and more people are identifying as "digisexuals," a new term describing those whose primary sexual identity comes through the use of technology. Whether bright and modernist, or dark and brutalist, one problem all airport designers consider is the distance people have to go between the check-in counter and departure gate. A new feature, called Community Actions, lets users start, sign, and comment on petitions that are tagged with local government officials. With a spotty record on controlling political content, will Facebook manage to protect this feature from abuse? New limits on forwarding messages in WhatsApp is an attempt by the messaging app to control the sometimes dangerous spread of misinformation on the service.

Download Spark 423: Facebook petitions, WhatsApp and the spread of misinformation, designing the modern airport, and the lives of digisexuals.
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Spark 422: Instagram egg, queer video games, inbox infinity, airline ticketing, and counterfactual explantions

What Instagram's world record egg says about us: Chris Stokel-Walker says the success of the Instagram egg is a rare victory in a world where most viral campaigns on social media are now paid for. Adrienne Shaw is part of the team behind "The Rainbow Arcade," a first-of-its-kind exhibit on LGBTQ representation in videogame culture happening at Berlin's Schwules Museum. Might ignoring all your emails might be the secret to a happy 2019? André Spicer weighs the pros and cons of 'Inbox infinity' Did you ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes when you go to your favourite travel website and book a ticket on a plane? Taimur Abdaal does. And the data scientist and mathematician has unearthed a lot of interesting history about how a travel agent-real or virtual-makes it possible for you to get a seat on the correct flight, to the correct place, at the correct time, in a matter of seconds. AIs now make decisions about everything from jail sentences to job applications. But often they, or their creators, are unable or unwilling to explain just how a particular machine-learning decision is made. Sandra Wachter has a solution that doesn't involve opening the murky black box at the heart of many algorithms.

Download Spark 422: Instagram egg, queer video games, inbox infinity, airline ticketing, and counterfactual explantions
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Spark 421: Tumblr adult-content ban and LGBTQ youth, dark patterns and airline seating algorithms, e-scooter abuse and the history of the smart home

Today's internet-connected smart home gadgets actually have a long history, going back way further than The Jetsons' space age dream home. Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino is an interaction designer specializing in the Internet of Things. In her new book, she traces the history of the do-it-all techy home back to the 19th century, and explores what it takes to make a smart home that really works for today. Say goodbye to NSFW Tumblr! The social network no longer allows adult content. But that's not sitting well with some Tumblr users who came to rely on the site as a safe place for self-expression. Stefanie Duguay is an assistant professor of Communications at Concordia University. She argues that Tumblr's new rules aren't just bad for NSFW bloggers and artists, they're also bad for LGBTQ youth.Sure it's annoying when you're taking a flight and you're not seated with your family. But what if it's...deliberate? Harry Brignull is a user-experience consultant with an interest in what he calls dark patterns. Those are user interface designs that are intended to trick people. He takes a look inside the algorithms that find your seat.E-scooters were supposed to make getting around more convenient and environmentally friendly. Recently scooter sharing companies like Bird and Lime are expanding quickly all across North America. So why are so many electric scooters are being tossed into lakes, rivers, and even the ocean? April Glaser is a technology writer for Slate. She wrote a story about the problem called Bird Bath.

Download Spark 421: Tumblr adult-content ban and LGBTQ youth, dark patterns and airline seating algorithms, e-scooter abuse and the history of the smart home
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420: Health Tech Special

It's a new year and a new chance to get healthy. This week on Spark, a health tech show to help you out. How data-driven personalization is changing how people manage their own health. ----- We asked listeners about their experiences using tools that track health status. Holly Witteman is an associate professor in the department of family and emergency medicine at Laval University in Quebec City. She also has type 1 diabetes, and now uses a continuous glucose monitor.\ ----- With the growth in wearable technology, not to mention smartphone apps, it's easier than ever to count steps, monitor heart rate and more. But do all those scores really help us understand ourselves and our health? Bill Buxton, design thinker and Principal Researcher with Microsoft Research, argues that designers need to spend more time to help us learn to listen to our bodies, not just pump out stats. ----- Say goodbye to that bulky blood pressure cuff! Researcher Sheng Xu and his team have designed a flexible electronic patch, about the size of a postage stamp, that can measure blood pressure. It can potentially be used to easily monitor patients at risk of a heart attack. It also points to a future of non-invasive tools for continuous health monitoring. ----- Wearable sensors are for more than just tracking daily footsteps. They can help with monitoring early signs of medical conditions. Rosalind Picard, from MIT's Media Lab, works in affective computing: designing systems that can read human emotions. ----- Nutrition advice is often one-size-fits-all. But nutrigenetics, or nutrigenomics promises a more customized nutrition plan. Dylan Mackay is a nutritional biochemist at the University of Manitoba. Ahmed El-Sohemy is professor in nutritional sciences at University of Toronto, and the founder of Nutrigenomix which offers genetic testing for personal nutrition. We want to dig in on their research and differing views on this topic to help you make up your own mind.

Download 420: Health Tech Special
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Spark Prison Special: Tech Innovation and San Quentin State Prison

Ear Hustle is a podcast about daily life in San Quentin State Prison. The term ear hustle is prison slang for eavesdropping. Earlonne Woods, who was incarcerated for 21 years, is the co-producer and co-host along with Nigel Poor, an artist who volunteers. They discuss how the podcast builds bridges between the inside and the outside. We'll also hear about the future of Ear Hustle following Earlonne Woods' recent release from San Quentin. ---------- The Last Mile gives the men incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison business, tech startup, and entrepreneurial training. And in particular, teach them how the tech world functions. Today the program has expanded into other prisons and continues to help the participants break the cycle of incarceration. We look back at some Spark stories about the program and get an update from Aly Tamboura, one of the program's success stories, about life after his release from San Quentin.

Download Spark Prison Special: Tech Innovation and San Quentin State Prison
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419: New tech in museum, and learning from sci-fi movies

This week a look at some of the innovative approaches Canadian museums and galleries are taking to incorporate digital technology into their physical spaces. We explore the approaches of the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. ---------- In a world of technological convergence can ethical innovation survive? That's not a trailer for a new sci-fi flick but rather one of the bigger questions Andrew Maynard explores in his new book Films from the Future: The Technology and Morality of SciFi Movies. The book explores technology through the lens of a dozen familiar and not so familiar science fiction films.

Download 419: New tech in museum, and learning from sci-fi movies
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418: Deciphering ancient text, finding birds on Street View, and more.

On social media, finding out who exactly who is responsible for targeted ads for political causes, parties, or social movements isn't easy. Jeremy Merrill is one of the people behind Propublica's Political Ad Collector. Jeremy and his colleagues at Propublica have continued to monitor how political ads thrive on Facebook - who's behind them, and why regular users should care. ------ What do you think the greatest films of all time are? And how would you go about defending your choices? Traditionally, movies are ranked by by how well they did at the box office, and by how they were critically reviewed -- which leaves many influential films out. Now, Livio Bioglio, an Italian computer scientist has developed a new algorithm that yields some surprising results. ------ Cuneiform is the oldest known form of writing, and was used to tell the story of the rise and fall of Assyria and Babylonia some 5,000 years ago. And although half a million of the etched stone tablets have been unearthed, 90 percent of them remain untranslated. Émilie Pagé-Perron hopes to change that, by enlisting the aid of AI to look for patterns and reveal the stories the cuneiform texts tell. ------ Google's Street View has yielded a trove of information, from illicit activities to acts of great kindness. And it turns out the service is really good for an activity usually done offline: birding. Nick Lund, a writer for the National Audubon Society and creator of the website, The Birdist, explains his latest avian adventure: Google Street View Birding. ------ We've all gone through breakups. That's why Ridwan Madon, a student at the TISCH school for the arts, created Breakup Aid. It's a chatbot created to be a substitute for those who need a listening ear but think they may actually feel more comfortable talking to a chatbot about the trials of breaking up.

Download 418: Deciphering ancient text, finding birds on Street View, and more.
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417: Getting ready for smart cities, Google's return to china, and more.

Google has come under fire for exploring the idea of bringing a version of it search engine back to China. This has led some Google employees to condemn the company for considering the idea. We asked Scott Romaniuk of the University of Alberta's China Institute to examine some of the issues. ----- There's been a lot of attention on Sidewalk Toronto's Quayside project, but many are having trouble imagining what a smart city might actually look like. Quayside is a smart city test-bed project by Sidewalk Labs, Google's sister company. Nabeel Ahmed is a tech consultant and smart cities researcher. He discusses what the project could mean for Canadian tech innovation. ----- Are tech giants doing enough for workers' rights? That's one of the issues tech entrepreneur Saadia Muzaffar spoke about in a recent talk in Ottawa last week. Muzaffar is a tech-entrepreneur and founder of Tech Girls Can, and co-founder of Tech Reset Canada. She talks about why we need to consider the human labour behind tech conveniences. ----- Faxes seemed so magical back in the old days. But don't drop off your fax machine at the museum just yet. They're far from obsolete yet many industries still rely on the daily use of fax machines including medicine and the legal profession. Some young faxers take inside the curious persistence of the fax.

Download 417: Getting ready for smart cities, Google's return to china, and more.
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416: Questions about an app to screen babysitters, making space for non-white people in tech, hiring your own boss, and people in Sweden putting microchips in their hands.

A startup called Predictim wants to use AI to help parents and guardians find the best babysitter. With the potential caregivers' consent, the company analyzes social media files to deliver a risk assessment. But does this actually work? And what are the ethics of digging through people's social media files? We put these questions to Avi Goldfarb. He's one of the author's of Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence. ========== Intersect To is what the intersection of tech and local activism looks like in Toronto. They are a group of artists, academics, and tech professionals who aim to build a tech community by and for people who identify as Black, Indigenous, and People Of Colour. They describe it as space to learn, make, and have critical discussions on technology. ========== Being self-employed can be great, but it can also be easy to procrastinate, especially if you work at home. The solution? Pay a fee for a boss to make sure you stick to deadlines! Manasvini Krishna is a software developer. She designed Boss as a Service to help people get more done in a day. ==========In Sweden, electronic devices implanted under the skin are becoming more common and useful for everyday things. The microchip devices have been implanted into 4,000 Swedes. Per Söderström is a consultant and biohacker in Sweden, who uses his device for everything from to entering his Stockholm office office to buying snacks at vending machines.

Download 416: Questions about an app to screen babysitters, making space for non-white people in tech, hiring your own boss, and people in Sweden putting microchips in their hands.
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415: The sounds of old tech, crying on Instagram, laser shoes and more.

Conserve The Sound preserves the sound: Daniel Chun and Jan Derksen run a film design and communication firm, based in Germany. But they're also interested in preserving vanishing and endangered sounds. They created Conserve the Sound, an online museum of vintage sounds. From a rotary dial phones to a Polaroid cameras, the site documents sounds from the past before they completely disappear from our daily life. ========== It's okay to cry on Instagram: On Instagram, it can often seem like people are displaying an art directed, perfectly lit, ideal version of their lives. But now some see it as a place to reveal their full selves -- tears, warts and all. Aimee Morrison, an associate professor of English and Literature at the University of Waterloo, talks about what she thinks is behind this trend. ========== Using 'shoe lasers' to help people with Parkinson's take the next step: Freezing of gait is a common symptom for people with Parkinson's disease and causes a temporary inability to move. This freezing made walking difficult for Lise Pape's father. So she designed Path Finder to help. It's a shoe attachment that projects a laser in front of the user. The visual cue helps people with Parkinson's get moving again. ========== Productivity is Counterproductive: The focus on workplace efficiency and systemized time management goes back to the turn of the last century, but in today's tech-driven world, it has become a badge of honour, an obsession that prioritizes individual mastery of activity over the actual meaning of work. In her new book, Counterproductive, Melissa Gregg argues it isolates us and takes the politics out of work

Download 415: The sounds of old tech, crying on Instagram, laser shoes and more.
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414: Smart cities, serendipitous discovery, whale songs, and more.

---------- Last year, Toronto introduced plans for a smart neighbourhood at the waterfront. The plan is to make city living "smarter", but it's also raised questions about data privacy, public space, and the relationship between governments and private companies. Nasma Ahmed weighs in on these issues. She's the founding director of the Digital Justice Lab and is among a new group of community activists in Toronto pushing for youth to practice and learn about their digital rights. ---------- The city of Belleville, Ontario is bringing an on-demand approach to their transit system. It will allow transit users to hail a bus and meet it at their nearest bus stop using an app on their phones. A similar program has been proposed in Calgary. These programs are part of a broader trend described as Mobility as a Service. Sampo Hietanen is the founder and CEO of MaaS Global. His company lets people connect with different modes of transportation on a single platform. ---------- From fake news to trolling, there are many examples of harmful speech online. But legislation in Canada hasn't kept pace with technological change-and existing laws don't fully cover the myriad ways of promoting hate on the internet. UBC assistant professor Heidi Tworek is the co-author of a new report on how we should be dealing with harmful speech online. ---------- Oceanographic researchers collected hundreds-of-thousands of hours of underwater recordings to study humpback whales in the South Pacific. But sifting through it to isolate whale calls would take about 19 years. That's why Google comes teamed up with the N.O.A.A. to help out. Research Oceanographer Ann Allen, describes how machine learning is now helping researchers sift through this sea of audio data to help them track whale populations. ---------- The U.S. Library of Congress has an enormous collection of online material available for anyone to explore, download and use. But how to get people interested? Canadian artist and Innovator-in-Residence, Jer Thorp, created Serendipity Run, a tag-like game that ran on Twitter, to encourage serendipitous discovery. It's an example of how he uses art to empower people to take control of data.

Download 414: Smart cities, serendipitous discovery, whale songs, and more.
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413: The future of car ownership, a piano for everyone, and the decline of internet freedom

Human-rights organization Freedom House releases their annual Freedom on the Net report. Research Director Adrian Shahbaz explains how fake news, repeals of net neutrality, and reduced privacy protection have weakened the openness of the web -- especially in the United States. ---------- Chris Donahue studies machine learning and music at the University of California in San Diego. He started playing piano when he was a three years old and these days he wanted to find a way to marry his interests in music and computer science. He created Piano Genie, an AI musical tool he describes as the opposite of Guitar Hero. ---------- Even with everything from car subscriptions to scooter sharing, it seems like we're still stuck in traffic. Gabe Klein once headed up the transportation commissions of Chicago & Washington D.C. and was the VP of Zipcar. He believes our relationship with the car has to change - and that technology may be the driving force to change it. ---------- ShiftRide wants to enable people in need of a car for a short trip to essentially rent one from someone in their neighbourhood. Car owners can put an under-utilized vehicles and users without a car can get access to one. Founder and CEO Nima Tahami discusses what he calls on demand mobility. ---------- Innisfil, Ontario's transit and ride sharing partnership with Uber made headlines when it first began. A year and half later we check in with mayor-elect and former deputy mayor Lynn Dollin to find out how the collaboration is working for Innisfil and why she thinks it's good for her town.

Download 413: The future of car ownership, a piano for everyone, and the decline of internet freedom
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412: Digital redlining, election security, internet controlled humans, and more.

Digital redlining is when seemingly neutral algorithms inadvertently make decisions that lead to discrimination. Chris Gilliard teaches at Macomb Community College in Dearborn Michigan. He's studied digital redlining and uses it as a powerful metaphor to talk about the way class divisions and racial discrimination can be fostered by algorithmic decision making. ---------- It was a Hallowe'en-worthy experiment. On Halloween night Researchers at MIT let the internet and its users "control" an actor as he played an online game. How well can a hive mind work? Researcher Niccolo Pescatelli explains. ---------- How vulnerable are electronic voting machines? Well J. Alex Halderman once hacked into one in front of U.S. Congress to demonstrate their vulnerabilities. He's a cyber security expert and professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Michigan. He discusses how these voting security issues may be putting democracy at risk. ---------- Agbogbloshie, an area in Accra, Ghana. Every year, 250,000 tons of old phones, computers, and appliances are illegally brought here. About 6,000 people, including many children, live and work here. It's a polluted, blighted place. But it's also a place of community and culture. Florian Weigensamer is one of the filmmakers behind the documentary, Welcome to Sodom, which tells the stories of Agbogbloshie.

Download 412: Digital redlining, election security, internet controlled humans, and more.
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411: Instagram is becoming an advertising giant, the responsibilities of platforms, and 25 years of Wired magazine.

This fall saw the quiet departure of the co-creators of Instagram from the Facebook owned company. That's caused some to speculate that it may have something to do with the move towards more advertising. Over the last year more sponsored ads are showing up on Instagram which may not be what the founders were going for when they created the platform. Tech journalist and entrepreneur, Takara Small explains what this shift on Instagram means for the average consumer. ---------- Instagram has gone from pictures of people's food, to influencers encouraging you to drink special tea. Until now, the position of those influencers was held by people like the Kardashians with tens of millions of followers. Now, regular students with just a few thousand followers, like Jade White and Azita Peters, are advertising for brands on their own accounts. Donna Wertalik, Director of Marketing for the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech, weighs in on the trend. ---------- Following Facebook's most recent data breach, many have suggested that tech giants like social media platforms should be regulated as 'information fiduciaries' and act in the best interests of their users. Jonathan Zittrain, Director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, discusses what that would look like for platforms like Facebook. -----------In 1993, a new magazine launched with Canadian Marshall McLuhan as its "patron saint." Now Wired magazine is celebrating its 25th birthday as one of the world's leading technology and design journals. Clive Thompson, a Canadian who has been writing for Wired for many of those 25 years, joins Nora to talk about how the tech times have changed.

Download 411: Instagram is becoming an advertising giant, the responsibilities of platforms, and 25 years of Wired magazine.
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410: Music in your DNA, profiting off volunteer work, and the digital divide.

Music streaming giants are removing the curator and replacing it with data - and not just any data - your DNA. Spotify and Ancestry are teaming up to provide consumers with playlists curated by a users DNA and ethnic lineage. Deezer researchers used AI to curate playlists based on mood. But critics, like Toronto-based music journalists Eric Zaworski and Sajae Elder, think it might be kind of creepy and an invasion of privacy. ------------/////------------ When you ask Alexa a question, there's a good chance she gets the answer from Wikipedia, the volunteer-driven knowledge bank, which raises another question. Alexa, should Amazon be paying Wikipedia for that? Rachel Withers thinks so. ------------/////------------ Increasingly the digital divide is characterized by the inability to maintain access to smartphones, laptops and other technologies. Amy Gonzales is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at UC Santa Barbara. She discusses the difficulties of keeping devices connected and the inequalities that can create. ------------/////------------ Smartphones can offer life-changing accessibility for people who are blind but many people with sight loss still don't own one. Phone It Forward takes donated smartphones, refurbishes them and loads them with accessible apps to give to people with vision loss who need them. ------------/////------------ We used to talk about the digital divide as a sort of 'yes or no' issue. Is there broadband in your area or not? But the reality of internet access in Canada is more nuanced than that, and digital inequality has real consequences for individuals, for whole communities, and the overall Canadian economy. Researcher Nisa Malli talks to Nora about where we're at and how to improve.

Download 410: Music in your DNA, profiting off volunteer work, and the digital divide.
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409: AI and creativity, climate change and Fortnite, and a Twitter bot that curates FOI requests.

Ross Goodwin took an AI on a trip from New York to New Orleans. Along the way the AI used inputs from a camera, a clock, a GPS, and a microphone to make "observations" and write about the trip. The book and project is called 1 the Road and it's inspired by beat generation author Jack Kerouac's famous book On the Road. ---------- Montreal artist Adam Basanta's All We'd Ever Need is One Another works by getting a computer to randomly generate abstract images. A second computer compares the work to a database of human art. If it finds a close match, it names the computer-generated work after the human art. Cue the lawsuit for copyright and trademark infringement. Jeremy de Beer, who specializes in law and innovation, weighs in on what a case like this could mean for the idea intellectual property. ---------- Fortnite, is the most popular streaming game in history. More people watch gamers play Fortnite on the Twitch streaming service than watch NFL football. That gave oceanographer Henri Drake an idea. He created "ClimateFortnite," in which he and other climate scientists play the game and also answer questions about climate change using the in-game chat. ---------- Could this trojan-horse style of education in a gaming environment be an effective way to teach and reach people? MIT qualitative sociologist T.L. Taylor, who has focused on internet and game studies for over two decades, explains the interrelations between culture and technology in online leisure environments. ---------- Laurent Bastien is a Canadian journalist who's doing researchers a favour. His Twitter account shares nothing but cryptic links to Freedom of Information requests. The point is to avoid doubling-up on information requests by creating access to requests that have already been processed but have not been publicly released by the government.

Download 409: AI and creativity, climate change and Fortnite, and a Twitter bot that curates FOI requests.
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408: An that sees for you, tech and nature, and more.

Saqib Shaikh is a software engineer at Microsoft. He has also been blind since this age of seven, and has long dreamed of technology that could describe the world around him in real time. And now, he's made it. He explains how the Seeing AI voice assistant app describes the world around him. ----------What does a city have to do with obesity? New AI uses satellite imagery and Google Street View to show how urban design and obesity in US cities are related-without looking at a single person. Elaine Nsoesie, one of the researchers who designed the algorithm, explains how.----------Water is something that most of us take for granted. But the city of El Paso, Texas, is one of the most arid places on the planet-and water is a precious commodity. So Ed Archuleta designed a system to recycle most of the city's water-even sewage. And he says it's a protocol that many more cities are going to have to adopt as climate changes. ----------What started off as a school project became one of the world's most popular nature app - with a new observation recorded every 45 seconds. iNaturalist helps anyone identify plants and animals. Scott Loarie, the Co-Director of iNaturalist, discusses how iNaturalist combines the power of citizen science and big data. ----------Photographs can be more than just memories. The University of Victoria's Mountain Legacy Project holds the world's largest collection of current and historical mountain photos. And they return to those sites in the Canadian Rockies to retake those photos to track how the mountains are changing. Journalist Meg Wilcox joined the team as they photographed vistas that were first captured over a century ago.

Download 408: An that sees for you, tech and nature, and more.
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407: Trusting our virtual assistants, and opinions on Twitter

Our virtual assistants aren't ready to give advice Do you talk to your smart speaker? Heather Suzanne Woods is an assistant professor of rhetoric and technology at Kansas State University. She's studied how humans use language to make sense of technological change and why people seem to have a relationship with their devices. Move over Dr. Google, Dr. Siri will see you now. People are getting used to using conversational agents like Amazon Alexa around the house. But what happens when people get medical advice from Siri or Alexa? Timothy Bickmore is a professor of Computer and Information Science at Northeastern University. He's been studying how conversational agents respond to medical questions. A new opinion in the social media echo chamber could close it even tighter Disrupting our social media echo chambers with an opposing view may seem like the best way to reduce political polarization. But sociologist Christopher Bail from Duke University found it can actually entrench people's views and opinions even more. What if you could see a filter bubble on social media? Imagine if you could visualize what political polarization looks like on Twitter?based on when influential accounts tweet about politics, how often, and who they follow. Camille Francois and John Kelly have done just that. They work for Graphika, a social media intelligence firm.

Download 407: Trusting our virtual assistants, and opinions on Twitter
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406: Technology and Policing Special

This week on Spark we're devoting the entire episode to some of the technologies used by law enforcement. Some of the benefits of these tools and how they can improve police work, and also some of their limitations and the issues they raise. Josh Mitchell is a consultant with the security firm, Nuix. He tested five body cameras from five different companies and found that all of those cameras were vulnerable to hacking. Some of those vulnerabilities could allow a hacker to do location tracking, spread malware, download footage, and modify and re-upload that footage remotely. For many, Body Cams on police are one answer to police accountability. But while you'd think recording a police-civilian incident would make what happened clear, there are other issues at play. In July, a U.S. federal judge ruled that NYC officers wearing body cameras are required to turn their cams on for what's called "low level encounters". Darius Charney is a lawyer at the Centre for Constitutional Rights in New York. RideAlong is a mobile app that provides police and first responders with information on the individuals who frequently use emergency services to help them de-escalate the situation and keep everyone safe. Technology has revolutionized police work. But what are the ethical guidelines of using tools like AI and big data for law enforcement? Can it lead to over policing? Ryan Prox is the Senior Constable in Charge of the Crime Analytics Advisory & Development Unit at the Vancouver Police Department. The Toronto Police Service is planning to implement an American technology called ShotSpotter that can pinpoint when and where a gun was fired. More than 90 cities in the U.S. use the technology. Rob Maher is a "forensic audiologist". He has extensively studied methods to detect and analyze acoustic gun signals. Saadia Muzaffar is a Toronto tech-entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tech Reset Canada. She has some concerns about ShotSpotter including privacy and the neighbourhoods that will be monitored.

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405: 'Ear Hustle' brings life inside -- to the outside

Ear Hustle is a podcast about daily life in San Quentin prison. The term ear hustle is prison slang for eavesdropping. Earlonne Woods is incarcerated in San Quentin and is the co-producer and co-host along with Nigel Poor, an artist who volunteers. They discuss how the podcast, made entirely inside the walls of the prison, builds bridges between the inside and the outside. Everyday seems to bring a new data breach. In his new book, Click Here To Kill Everybody famed cybersecurity expert, Bruce Schneier, says we ain't seen nothing yet. Security challenges are exploding in our hyper-connected era. Schneier explains why, and what we should do about it. Do you remember a time when there were no notifications? Today, most of us are buried in an avalanche of beeps, whistles and pings -which we probably try to ignore. Hence the rise of "anti-notifications", which tell us what we're missing out on. UX designer and writer Adrian Zumbrunnen explains why.

Download 405: 'Ear Hustle' brings life inside -- to the outside
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404: Ride sharing was supposed to make traffic better. It's making it worse.

Besides making it super-easy to get a ride somewhere, one of the great promises of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft was that they would reduce congestion on city streets. Unfortunately, the opposite has happened-and dramatically so. Also, the value of video-game emulators, the call for ethical computer engineering standards, and a new app that aims to use AI to help improve parenting.

Download 404: Ride sharing was supposed to make traffic better. It's making it worse.
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Spark Guide to Life: Google for Education Encore

On this special episode of Spark, we're looking at how Google for Education is being used in by students and teachers across Canada.

Download Spark Guide to Life: Google for Education Encore
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