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High levels of pandemic-induced anxiety, depression observed in social media posts

As we interact more - and more often - with our digital technologies, those interactions tell us a lot about who we are. Can we analyze behaviour on social media for mental health insights? Researchers Munmun De Choudhury and Koustuv Saha discuss their latest study of the psychosocial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as gleaned from Twitter.

Taking cues from early childhood development to build better robots

Robots already work on factory floors, in dangerous situations, and cleaning the floor, but to truly interact with us, they're going to need to understand our world. In How To Grow a Robot, Mark Lee writes we should look to developmental psychology for lessons. And roboticist Chad Jenkins is working on teaching robots what to do by letting them observe humans.

How the pandemic has led to a resurgence of nostalgia

Throughout the pandemic we've seen a resurgence of retro hobbies like bread making, tie-dyeing clothes, and going to the drive-in. Why is nostalgia our natural response in times of crisis? And, fasten those jetpacks! A look at the surprising nostalgic pleasures of our past visions of the future.

Bored and lonely? Researcher says online games can help us socialize safely during the pandemic

Connecting with others over online games can help combat the stress and social isolation of the pandemic - and computer scientist and digital games researcher Regan Mandryk says you don't have to be a gamer to experience the benefits.

Can deepfake tech be used for good? Artist creates 'imaginary reckoning' for public figures

Deepfake technology can make it seem like people are saying and doing things they aren't. Can it be used for good? Deep Reckonings, a series created by artist Stephanie Lepp, imagines controversial public figures having reckonings using synthetic videos.
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POV | How Animal Crossing helps me escape the stress of the pandemic

Spark producer Olsy Sorokina explains why open-ended video games can be so appealing during stressful times.

Truth decay: How digital technologies are helping shatter our shared sense of reality

Polarization and filter bubbles are destroying our shared sense of reality. Does this mean society is headed toward a state of psychosis?

You can become more 'time smart' by changing one small habit at a time, says author

Even though North Americans have more leisure time than ever, many of us feel chronically time-crunched, focusing on work at the expense of meaningful leisure time with others. Behavioural scientist Ashley Whillans studies the relationship between time, money, and happiness. In her new book, she explains how we can avoid the 'time traps' that lead to overwork, and lack of free time.
PERSONAL ESSAY

How I stopped my nightly doomscrolling by putting down the phone and picking up pastels

Over the past month, Spark Senior Producer Michelle Parise decided to change how she'd spend the few hours she had to herself late in the evenings. And the shake-up was more revelatory than she expected.

Now is an opportunity to reimagine and rebuild online spaces through real world design, says researcher

Deb Roy, Executive Director of the MIT Media Lab and the MIT Laboratory for Social Machines, discusses how we can improve existing digital spaces.

How the pandemic has put building design and ventilation back into the public health conversation

Fresh air is on everyone's minds in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We look at how to rethink building ventilation, the historical connection between pandemics and architecture, and why your apartment or workplace is always either too hot or too cold.

Rise of the robots: automation and tech becoming more popular as pandemic restricts human contact

Humans have long been fascinated by the idea of automatons. But increasingly, robots are also just reality as more work is automated. Automation that's exploded thanks to pandemic health concerns. This week, a look at the new rules we need to prepare for a world of automation. And, if we're going to work and live alongside robots, how do we design them so they don't creep us out?

When it comes to COVID-19, social media fills a gap left by scientists — and it's a problem, says sociologist

It takes time for scientists and public health officials to provide reliable answers in crises like the current pandemic. That can be frustrating for people seeking accurate, science-based information, who then turn to other sources, says Fuyuki Kurasawa.

Think for yourself: how to judge expertise in a time of conflicting opinions

Vikram Mansharamani urges us not to turn over critical thinking to technology
Q&A

We need to stop our obsession with efficiency to address wealth disparity, says management expert

Celebrated management thinker Roger Martin argues our culture of obsessive efficiency is bad economics, bad for business, and bad for society.

How designing better algorithms can help us design better, more just societies

There's been a lot of discussion about algorithmic bias, but the focus has been on bias in historical data. We take a look at why it's so difficult to encode fairness, and why a rising computer science star still believes we can use machine learning for social good.

Planning the future of transportation? Think sustainability, social equity, experts say 

While many Silicon Valley tech billionaires and future-minded visionaries believe the future of transportation lies in technologies like autonomous vehicles, delivery drones and even hyperloops, some future-minded thinkers believe we need to make sure issues like sustainability and social equity are part of the conversations we have today.
Q&A

Pandemic uncertainty may actually be good for your brain, neuroscientist explains

Adapting to life during a pandemic may be stressful, but neuroscientist David Eagleman says these changes help keep our brain in shape. In his book, Livewired, he argues that our brains constantly adapt to the changing external environment. He explains how the brain responds to new demands, whether that's living in a pandemic or recovering from injury.

Pandemic recovery will require rethinking capitalist norms, expert says 

Rather than planning COVID-19 economic recoveries around old capitalist norms, one business-world advisor believes that global enterprises need to take steps to re-invent their approach to capitalism by taking steps to combat growing inequality. 

U.S. feud with TikTok emblematic of rise of techno-nationalism, expert says

U.S. President Donald Trump's feud with the popular TikTok video-sharing social-networking app likely has less to do with overall concerns for national security and more to do with the rise of techno-nationalism, according to one Canadian cybersecurity expert.
Q/A

Understanding online extremism begins with 'whole society' approach, expert says

Vivek Venkatesh, UNESCO co-Chair in Prevention of Radicalisation and Violent Extremism amd professor at Concordia University, spoke with Spark host Nora Young to break down what the real-world presence of such movements means — and to offer a perspective on how to prevent extremism. 

Tech distractions may harm your concentration, but you can reverse it, says psychologist

Technology isn't permanently harming our ability to concentrate, despite the widely held belief that our devices and the internet are making us worse at focusing, according to a cognitive psychology expert.
Q&A

Why fungi could be the future of environmentally sustainable building materials

As the construction industry struggles to deal with its impact on the climate, a new crop of people with big ideas are looking for alternative materials to build with. Phil Ayres, an architect and associate professor of architecture in Copenhagen, says the future of building materials isn't high tech polymers or special light metals but mushrooms.  

Suggestions, subscriptions and no sense of community: Streaming is changing the way we watch TV

Who will be the winners and losers in the competitive streaming video market? And what can we, the consumers, make of all this dizzying choice?

Apps make it easier for couples to separate, but family law experts say communication is still key

Online tools for divorce and co-parenting aim to keep the process amicable and inexpensive. These digital resources are part of a broader move to open up divorce to less adversarial conflict resolution methods like mediation, coaching and collaborative law.

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