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Designing tech for the most vulnerable users leads to better products for all, says researcher

Consumer technology must be designed with the needs of its most vulnerable users in mind, says human rights researcher Afsaneh Rigot.

Since the 60s, countercultures have subverted mainstream tech to connect and build community

From the Whole Earth Catalogue to Facebook drag queens: a short history of online counterculture.

The history of lock picking can teach us a lot about better digital security

Security experts and historians discuss how the 6,000-year-old invention has evolved, shaping how we think about safety, protection and trespass in the physical and digital world.

Fascination is key to healthy urban living, says researcher

Cookie-cutter condos, glass business towers, minimal green space — there's clear evidence that many urban spaces have negative impacts on our mental health. But does it have to be that way?

These artists are exposing the dangers of AI and surveillance through art

From an AI-generated infinite conversation between thinkers to making art from easily obtained surveillance footage, artists are making the dystopia entertaining, at least

The future of tech: A Spark retrospective

The future is now! So where's my jetpack? Over the years, Spark has covered many tech developments and spoke with industry experts. So in this episode, we dig through the archives for a look at some of the more prescient conversations from the past decade.

Pandemic online shopping boom has generated bumper crop of vulnerable personal data, e-commerce experts warn

The pandemic has driven consumers online for everything from groceries to outdoor heaters. But e-commerce experts caution that online sellers are netting not just revenue, but a treasure trove of personal data, too.

From IRL to URL: The challenges of getting a small business online

Before the pandemic hit, Winnipeg jewelry maker C.J. Tennant wasn't using e-commerce at all. Like many small business owners across the country, she had to build an online retail space from scratch in order to stay competitive.

How the LED helped create a high-tech alternative to green screens

Nowadays, LEDs are found in our phones, TVs, lightbulbs and cars. But this technology is also revolutionizing film and television production.

Digital hour-logging is mandatory for truckers. Surveillance experts worry it won't stop there

Electronic logging devices will be enforced in January. They’re billed as a way to make roads safer by restricting truckers to their allowed hours of service, but raise questions about what information employers are collecting about their workers.

You can thank your old Sony Walkman for ushering in the era of portable entertainment

It may look like an antique by today's standards, but Sony's personal cassette player paved the way for the iPod and the subsequent ability to stream songs, TV shows and movies from our smartphones.

Tech solutionism, mutual aid and cooperatives: Finding tech fixes to complex societal issues

Big Tech aims to solve large social issues, from housing to urban transportation. There are also peer-to-peer solutions that aim to address precarity and inequality. How far can either of these approaches go, and where does government policy fit? And: with massive layoffs happening all over Silicon Valley, and the sale of Twitter throwing social media into chaos, is it time to rekindle the cooperatives movement in tech? With guests Paris Marx, Nathan Schneider and Greg Lindsay.

Social tech can be a lifeline and challenge to friendship, says researcher

The evolutionary biology of friendship and how digital tech has shaped our fundamental sense of togetherness.

Understanding the economic power and hype around AI

This week, we demystify artificial intelligence: what this technology can do, what we think it can do, and the implications of our understanding of this tech on how we apply it. And: is generative AI worth the hype?

Digital data has an environmental cost. Calling it 'the cloud' conceals that, researcher says

Routine online activities like sharing photos to social media, uploading files to shared drives, or streaming TV shows produce a lot of digital data. And as that data production soars, so does the energy demand for storing and processing it. 

Rethinking energy storage technology as our need for battery power grows

Rechargeable batteries have revolutionized modern technology, powering up everything from smartphones to cars to snow blowers. So how can we meet the increased demand for the materials needed to build batteries, while keeping the environmental and human costs of resource extraction low?

How technology can help us better understand the natural world

From tiny robots that help lead honeybees to nectar sources, to bioacoustic tools that help ships avoid collisions with whales, digital technology is helping humans gain a deeper understanding of animals and plants. This week on Spark, we explore the tech that helps us understand the language of plants and animals, and how it may hold the key to protecting biodiversity.

Tech alone can't solve the housing crisis, says researcher

A new crop of digital platforms aim to address housing equity, from improving mortgage terms to providing homelessness resources. But do technical answers work for social questions?

Decentralized web movement imagines 'a web with many winners' that puts community first

Mai Ishikawa Sutton and Alicia Urquidi Díaz discuss the vision behind the movement known as DWeb, and how the decentralized web combines the community aspect of the '90s online experience with today's equity and accessibility principles.

Forget oil: Microchips are today's most valuable resource, says author

Nearly every powered device we use these days depends on microchips, from cars to electric guitars. The first episode of Spark's special series, The Butterfly Effect, revisits the origin of the integrated circuit, its rapid development, and the way this technology has changed the world's geopolitical and economic landscape.

How this teacher uses TikTok to educate and entertain students

Teachers using TikTok videos exploded during the pandemic as educators searched for new — and remote — ways to educate and entertain their students.

Drone surveillance and crowdfunded ransom: How tech is changing borders and those who cross them

Millions of people are on the move today, in the biggest forced displacement since the Second World War. And unlike in decades past, new technologies are changing the narratives of their movement — both by reinforcing and extending borders, and acting as a lifeline for those trying to cross them. 

Start treating 'intimate data' collection as a civil rights issue, says researcher

We all know tech companies collect a lot of data about us, and sell it to third parties. So is there a tipping point when it comes to how much intimate data – about our health, conversations, dating habits – tech ought to be able to access? Danielle Citron makes the case for treating data protection as a civil rights issue, and Sandra Wachter discusses the risks of algorithmic groups and discrimination.

The Next Big Thing

In this summer series, Spark looks thirty years into the future to imagine what the next big thing could be in various areas of technology and design.

How malls and freeways helped segregate America

Freeways, suburbanization and malls were concepts sold as part of the American dream when they were introduced in the 1950s. Some architects and design critics say these innovations were actually vehicles of segregation that destroyed communities of colour and further separated them from white America.