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Book Giveaway! The Virtual Self by Nora Young

Spark - 2012, May 10 - 11:14

You know, Nora Young has a new book out now called The Virtual Self: How Our Digital Lives Are Altering The World Around Us, all about the way more and more of us are keeping track of our everyday lives. There are tons of digital tools to help us record, aggregate and archive everything from our morning runs to our web-browsing habits. Basically, how many of us are converting our daily experience into statistics. In her book, Nora looks at what all this digital self-reporting means when it comes to transparency and privacy.

And we’ve got five copies to give away! Just leave us a comment here with your thoughts on life-logging or personal data collection, and next week we’ll randomly select the winners from all the comments.

Categories: Blogs

Full Interview: Sanjay Arora on Million Short

Spark - 2012, May 8 - 08:23

Photo by Michael David Petersen

I just finished interviewing Sanjay Arora, founder of Exponential Labs, a Toronto-based software startup. There’s a lot of buzz building about one of their projects, Million Short. It’s a search engine that delivers results to you, after it knocks off the top one million most popular websites. Your search won’t turn up results with Facebook, YouTube, or Wikipedia. You can also customize it, so that it knocks, say, only the top 1,000 sites off, or you can configure the settings so that it lops off the most popular sites except Facebook, YouTube, etc.

You can hear the full, uncut interview below, or download the MP3. [runs 11:47]

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

If you like hearing these extended interviews, why not subscribe to Spark Plus? It’s a podcast feed full of additional blog-only content like this. [Subscribe via RSS] or [Subscribe with iTunes]

Categories: Blogs

Spark 181 – May 6 & 9, 2012

Spark - 2012, May 4 - 10:55

On this episode of Spark: Robot Comedians, Safety Apps, and Social Learning. Click below to listen to the whole show, or download the MP3 (runs 54:00).

You can also listen to individual stories below.

Social Learning

It’s the classic ‘desert island’ scenario: you find yourself dropped in a land where you don’t know how to find food and shelter. How are you going to survive? Will you copy what other people are doing, hoping they’re onto something, or strike out on your own and perhaps discover something new? Luke Rendell researches “social learning” – how humans are able to learn from others and pass on that information. It’s the source of our strength, but can also be our downfall if the people we’re copying are wrong. Luke and his colleagues have designed a contest to try and determine the optimal social learning strategy. (Runs 8:17)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Makerspaces & the Military

As founder of MAKE Magazine and Maker Faire, Dale Dougherty’s priority is to get Americans making things. That means young people as well. So he applied for, and accepted, a grant from DARPA (the research arm of the US Department of Defense) to fund makerspaces in high schools. This funding has caused a stir in the hacker/maker movement. Nora speaks with Dale about why he thinks the partnership makes sense. She’ll also speak with Mitch Altman – considered by many in the North American hacker/maker community as a pioneer and a spokesperson for the movement – who is opposed to DARPA’s funding of school makerspaces. (Runs 13:57)
[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Safety Apps

Microsoft has filed for a patent for a mapping app which charts a route based on traffic and distance info as well as crime data. As a result it’s been coined the “Avoid Ghetto App”, and is part of the controversy around an emerging trend of mobile safety apps designed to protect you from unseen dangers in the city. Do these applications exploit society’s paranoia of urban crime? And if so, what are the implications? Spark contributor Edward Birnbaum tells us all about it. (Runs 8:09)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Human-Robot Interaction

Can’t we all just get along? Humans and robots, that is. Chris Parker is a post-doctoral researcher in robotics at the University of British Columbia, and he looks to a future where robots and humans work alongside one another, or where robots assist us with daily tasks. As humans, we communicate a lot of information about our intentions through subtle physical cues. Chris is researching how to design robots so that they more subtly communicate their states and actions in a way that’s easier for humans to understand. (Runs 9:10)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

I Robot, You Laugh

Heather Knight is a social roboticist doing her doctoral research at Carnegie Mellon University. Through Data -a robot that tells jokes- she’s exploring how robots might be able to pick up on human social cues, so they can respond more appropriately. And who needs to respond to changing human moods more than a comedian in front of a crowd? (Runs 7:32)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Additional Links Podcasts

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Categories: Blogs

Full Interview: Heather Knight on Data, the Robot Comedian

Spark - 2012, May 4 - 08:38


Photo by Louis Stein

Heather Knight is a social roboticist doing her doctoral research at Carnegie Mellon University. Through Data, a robot that tells jokes, she’s exploring how robots might be able to pick up on human social cues so they can respond more appropriately. And who needs to respond to changing human moods more than a comedian in front of a crowd?

Here’s a video of Data performing onstage at TED.

You can hear Heather’s full, uncut interview with Nora Young by clicking the play button below, or download the MP3. [runs 13:04]

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

If you like hearing these extended interviews, why not subscribe to Spark Plus? It’s a podcast feed full of additional blog-only content like this. [Subscribe via RSS] or [Subscribe with iTunes]

Categories: Blogs

Full Interview: Chris Parker on Human Robot Interaction

Spark - 2012, April 30 - 13:13


Can’t we all just get along? Humans and robots, I mean. Chris Parker, a post-doctoral researcher in robotics at the University of British Columbia, looks to a future where robots and humans work alongside one another, or where robots assist us with daily tasks. If they are part of everyday life, we’ll only be happy interacting with robots if we can effectively share the same physical space.

As humans, we communicate a lot of information about our intentions through subtle physical cues. We don’t explicitly have a discussion with another person every time we need to move around a shared physical space. Can we design robots so that they more subtly communicate their states and actions in a way that’s easier for humans to understand? That’s what Chris is researching.

You can hear the full, uncut interview below, or download the MP3. [runs 19:06]

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

If you find this interview interesting, you might want to check out our special on humans and robots.

If you like hearing these extended interviews, why not subscribe to Spark Plus? It’s a podcast feed full of additional blog-only content like this. [Subscribe via RSS] or [Subscribe with iTunes]

Categories: Blogs

Help Us Out! Terms of Service Agreements

Spark - 2012, April 27 - 12:26

Recently there’s been lots of talk about the Terms of Service agreements for Google Drive, Google’s new online storage service, and Pinterest, a social site for sharing photos and images. People are wondering what users are in fact agreeing to when they sign up.

The fact is that we’re entering into agreements daily with corporations in the digital sphere that raise questions about privacy and who owns what. And it seems we’ve all become blase about scrolling through these long documents in teeny tiny print and clicking that “I agree” button.

We’re working on a few different stories about exploring our lopsided relationship with Terms of Service Agreements and we’re curious to know what you think. Do you ever wonder about the fine print? Or has there been a service agreement you didn’t agree with?

Hit the comments below and let us know!

Categories: Blogs

Spark 180 – April 29 & May 1, 2012

Spark - 2012, April 27 - 11:03

On this episode of Spark: Selfsurfing, Open Government, and Data Hunters. Click below to listen to the whole show, or download the MP3 (runs 54:00).

You can also listen to individual stories below.

Broadcasting Your Every Browser Move

Jonas Lund is a multidisciplinary internet artist who explores how we interface with the digital web. His latest work is called Selfsurfing – part theatre performance, part commentary on privacy, Selfsurfing broadcasts his web-browsing habits in real time. (Runs 7:19)[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Japanese Arcade Culture

While arcades are all but extinct in Canada and the US, they’re thriving in Japan. Brad Crawford is the editor and director of the documentary 100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience, scheduled to come out later this year. Brad talks about why arcade games are still a social experience in Japan, and whether that’s something we should envy. (Runs 5:31)[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Comedy Podcasts

Stand-up comic Denis Grignon gives us an inside look at the growing trend in comedians hosting podcasts where they interview other comedians. And it’s less about the laughs than you may expect. (Runs 9:02)[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Data-gathering Hunters

Inuit Hunters in Nunavut have been heading out across the tundra armed with hand-held computers provided by the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board. Wherever the hunters stop to observe or hunt a muskox, caribou or other animal, they tap their observations into the device. Freelancer David Kattenburg explains why this pilot project is a win-win for hunters and for the Wildlife Management Board. (Runs 6:57)[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Tools for Canada’s 21st century democracy?

Open North is a Montreal-based not-for-profit designing online tools to foster greater government transparency on one hand, and create more citizen engagement on the other. They’re motivated by the idea that piecemeal projects and weekend Hackathons are great, but it’s time to look for a more ongoing approach. Nora talks to Jonathan Brun about the goals and strategies of Open North. (Runs 8:28)[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Links to previous open government stories on Spark, which Nora played excerpts of:

Coding for a Better Government

Jennifer Pahlka is the founder and executive director of Code for America, which she describes as a “Peace Corps for Geeks”. Fellows spend a year working with city governments to create technology to make their communities better. But governments are known for being bureaucratic and slow, and technological innovation is all about the opposite – being fast, limber and cutting edge. So how do you navigate that obvious culture clash? (Runs 8:50)[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Additional Links Podcasts

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Categories: Blogs

Full Interview: Jennifer Pahlka on Code for America

Spark - 2012, April 23 - 11:12

Jennifer Pahlka is the founder and executive director of Code for America, which she describes as a “Peace Corps for Geeks”. Fellows spend a year working with city governments to develop technology.

Nora speaks with Jennifer about meshing technology and public service, especially when governments are known for being bureaucratic and slow, and technological innovation is all about the opposite – being fast, limber and cutting edge. So how to navigate that obvious culture clash?

You can hear the full, uncut interview below, or download the MP3. [runs 17:24]

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

If  you like this interview, you may also be interested in this conversation Nora has with Tom Steinberg on transparency in government.

If you like hearing these extended interviews, why not subscribe to Spark Plus? It’s a podcast feed full of additional blog-only content like this. [Subscribe via RSS] or [Subscribe with iTunes]

Categories: Blogs

Spark 179 – April 22 & 25, 2012

Spark - 2012, April 20 - 10:40

On this episode of Spark: Meditation, Willpower, and the Algorithmic Economy. Click below to listen to the whole show, or download the MP3 (runs 54:00).

You can also listen to individual stories below.

The Algorithmic Economy

We’ve talked a lot about algorithms on Spark – everything from the way they’re used to curate our taste in music, to how they’re used as HR screening devices for your resume. But what are the implications of this stunning fact – some experts say algorithms account for 70% of the US stock market trades. Kevin Slavin is a technology consultant who speaks about algorithms and their increasing control on our economy. (Runs 9:48)
[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Meditating in a Digital Age

The ancient techniques of mindfulness meditation seem diametrically opposed to our rush-rush, digitally distracted lives, but could digital technology be used to support that clarity and peace of mind? Rohan Gunatillake believes in ‘disrupting the awareness industry’ by combining today’s tech sensibility with the practice of meditation. (Runs 6:02)[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Designer Organs

Biophysics professor Andrew Pelling of the University of Ottawa is working to create designer organs that could communicate via Twitter. Now doesn’t that sound like a Spark story? Science journalist and Spark contributor Sonya Buyting tells us more. (Runs 7:56)
[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Shrinking Social Networks

Everything online is social now, and when it comes to social networks, we’re seeing a new crop that’s more focused and intimate. Ben Lang and Nir Kouris are the creators of PeaceConnector which connects people from countries of conflict based on their shared interests. Stephen Sills is the creative director of the Student Life Network, a niche network that helps students connect with their direct student body. And Carmi Levy is an independent technology analyst author and journalist, who has thought a lot about the growth and future of niche social networks. (Runs 15:01)
[Audio clip: view full post to listen]


The Willpower Instinct

In our digital world, many of us spend more time than we’d like playing video games, surfing the web, or multi-tasking ourselves to distraction, in spite of our best intentions. Perhaps we have a thing or two to learn about willpower. That’s where Kelly McGonigal comes in. She’s a health psychologist at Stanford University, and the author of the new book, The Willpower Instinct. Nora sat down with Kelly to talk goals, willpower, and the compulsions of digital tech. (Runs 8:40)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Additional Links Podcasts

Subscribe to any of our totally free podcasts!

Categories: Blogs

Help Us Out! Password Overload

Spark - 2012, April 18 - 08:49

Hey! I’m the new Spark intern Laura. I’ve only been here a week, but I’ve heard the Spark crew complaining about passwords about a million times already.

They been talking about this article in the New York Times they saw last month all about new ways to deal with password security and our sense of password overload.

It seems that DARPA, which is part of the U.S. Defense Department, is developing a way to bypass the password altogether by relying on a person’s “cognitive fingerprint” – the distinct way that each of us interacts with our keyboard. Pretty cool, right?

For now, DARPA’s research is only intended for military use, but these things have a way of trickling down to the rest of us sooner or later (GPS, anyone?)

Spark producer Anshuman Iddamsetty also did a column about it called Ctrl-Alt-Oh, It’s You.

In the mean time, we want to hear from the broader Spark community. What are some of your tips and tricks for keeping track of passwords? Are you overloaded? Or are you some genius cyborg who can remember T23x777p~lack ?  (Actually, that’s not a bad password!).

Let us know in the comments below. Or call us at the Spark Hotline 1-877-34-SPARK

Not sure? If you need some high tech help, these sites offer ways to manage your passwords:

Categories: Blogs

Help Us Out! Getting Cosy With Niche Social Networks.

Spark - 2012, April 13 - 11:36

At a recent Spark story meeting we talked about specialized social networks, the ones tailored to be smaller and more intimate than the “everyone jump in the pool!” type of social media that most of us are on these days.  We’re going to look at the growing trend of more focused social networks on next week’s show and that’s why Pair caught my eye.

In short, it’s an app designed for connecting with one person, could be a BFF or family  member but all signs point to it being for your main squeeze. Exhibit A: the thumbkiss feature. Press your thumb on your phone’s screen, and if the other person does it too, both your phones will vibrate.  (And if you’re solo but still looking to get in on this latest digital way to woo, never fear, someone has already come up with the matchmaking Pairmixer.)

Since I’m already overwhelmed by my current roster of social networks, I couldn’t imagine being on yet another thing and doubted how popular this would be, but the rest of Team Spark really saw the value in it. Not just for long distance romances, but they also pointed out it’d be handy to have all your communication in one place. Instead of wondering whether that bit of info you need (resto where you’re meeting for dinner, photo you really liked) was in a text, email or instant message … you’d only have to look in one spot. Our resident DJ also noted that you can’t easily share a song via cellphone, so he could see this app being handy for sharing tunes with his sweetie while out and about.

So Spark listeners, we’re curious to know what you think about the concept of a social network for two. Do you give it a thumbkiss, or the kiss off? Let us know in the comments below!

Categories: Blogs

Repeat of Spark 153 – April 15 & 18, 2012

Spark - 2012, April 13 - 06:44

This week on Spark’s regular, over-the-air radio broadcast, you’ll hear Spark 153: DIY Living, Context-Aware Computing, and The Internet of Elsewhere which first aired back in June 2011. But you won’t hear Spark 153 this week on the podcast, because we’ve promised no more podcast repeats. We’ll be back with a brand-new episode next week, on April 22, 2012.

In the meantime, you can listen to the original broadcast of the whole show below (runs 54:00).

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

You can also listen to individual stories.

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)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

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)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

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)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

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)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

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)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Additional Links Podcasts

Subscribe to any of our totally free podcasts!

Categories: Blogs

Enter to Win! Tell Us Your Willpower Tips!

Spark - 2012, April 11 - 09:00

Photo by andrewmalone

Health psychologist, Kelly McGonigal has lots of tips and tricks for bolstering your willpower in her new book, The Willpower Instinct. You can hear some of them by listening to my interview with Kelly here.

I’ve got several copies of Kelly’s book to give away. For your chance to win, all you have to do is give us your favourite tip for boosting your willpower in the comments below. We’ll draw three winners at random. Be sure to leave your correct email address where prompted beneath your comment (will not display publicly) so that we can contact the winners! Contest closes Friday, April 27. Good luck!

UPDATE: THE CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. WE HAVE SO MANY GREAT SUGGESTIONS, THOUGH, I HOPE YOU’LL CONTINUE TO SHARE YOUR TIPS!

Categories: Blogs

Repeat of Spark 152 – April 8 & 11, 2012

Spark - 2012, April 5 - 12:56

This week on Spark’s regular, over-the-air radio broadcast, you’ll hear Spark 152: Post-Privacy, Facebook Psychology, and Open Data which first aired back in June 2011. But you won’t hear Spark this week on the podcast, because we’ve promised no more podcast repeats. We’ll be back with a brand-new episode of Spark in 2 weeks time, on April 22, 2012.

In the meantime, you can listen to the original broadcast of the whole show below or download the MP3 (runs 54:00).

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

You can also listen to individual stories.

Making Music From Electricity Flow Data

Have you ever looked at the flow of electricity between New Brunswick and PEI and thought, “Wow, I wonder if I could turn that into music?” Yeah, us either. But Peter Rukavina did. With some technical skill and a few free web services, Peter was able to turn somewhat dull information about inter-province electricity flow into a novel and compelling mashup. (Runs 8:50)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Open Data and Mass-Participation

Photo by boboroshi

We’ve talked a lot lately about the “Internet of Things” – the idea of everyday objects communicating with the Internet. One of the sites Peter Rukavina used to make his mashup is called Pachube. It’s a platform that allows anyone to post and share real time data from the environment. So, maybe that’s your energy use, or the temperature in different parts of a city. Or as is currently the case in Japan, Geiger counter radiation readings. Usman Haque is the founder and CEO of Pachube, which he designed ultimately as a way of structuring participation. (Runs 11:18)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

The Psychology of Facebook

Many of us have made our own unscientific observations about our friends on Facebook – noting who posts the most photos of their kid or who has their location geo-tagged so you know they’re in the Loblaws one minute and at the bus stop the next. But recently released studies have shown that scientists have been using Facebook for actual scientific observations. Spark contributor Dan Falk sheds light on one of the more interesting findings – the significant difference between the way that men and women use the site. (Runs 9:23)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Living Post-Privacy

Photo by Anna-Stina

Many of us are becoming more comfortable living publicly online, and Christian Heller is an extreme example. For the past year, Christian has been living completely transparently, posting everything about his life on a public wiki. He calls it “post-privacy” and Spark contributor Jonathan Gifford spoke to Christian to find out why he’s doing it. Living in such a transparent way brings up all kinds of interesting questions about privacy so we called up Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart who recently released a report on online tracking and targeting. (Runs 16:43)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Additional Links Podcasts

Subscribe to any of our totally free podcasts!

Categories: Blogs

Full Interview: Kelly McGonigal on Willpower

Spark - 2012, April 4 - 06:51

Just Do It. Roll up your sleeves and give the problem a little elbow grease. It sounds easy, but taking a goal from dream to reality involves willpower. Why do some people seem to have more willpower than others? Are they just ‘better’ than the rest of us? Maybe not. It turns out that scientific research into willpower and self-control has some pretty intriguing – and often counter-intuitive – things to teach us about how willpower works, and how we can tap into it when we need it most.

In our digital world, many of us spend more time than we’d like playing video games, surfing the web, or multi-tasking ourselves to distraction, in spite of our best intentions. Perhaps we have a thing or two to learn about willpower. That’s where Kelly McGonigal comes in. She’s a health psychologist at Stanford University, and the author of the new book, The Willpower Instinct. I sat down with Kelly to talk goals, willpower, and the compulsions of digital tech.

You can hear the full, uncut interview below, or download the MP3. [runs 16:20]

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

If you like this interview, you might like my conversation with Daniel Pink on drive and motivation.

If you like hearing these extended interviews, why not subscribe to Spark Plus? It’s a podcast feed full of additional blog-only content like this. [Subscribe via RSS] or [Subscribe with iTunes]

Categories: Blogs

Spark 178 – April 1 & 4, 2012

Spark - 2012, March 30 - 14:16

On this episode of Spark: Early Info Overload, Prince Songs as Proto-texts, and Ham Radio as the Original Social Media. Click below to listen to the whole show, or download the MP3 (runs 54:00).

You can also listen to individual stories below.

Proto-Blogging & File sharing

A little while ago we got an email from Jordan Hermant. Jordan said he loved the show (hey thanks, man!) and that he also had a story idea for us. We liked it so much, Nora interviewed him, and his idea was the launching pad for this week’s entire show. A show all about the proto-internet. Jordan’s idea came from re-watching the 1990 movie Pump Up the Volumeand noticing some interesting parallels to today’s digital world. (Runs 7:16)[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Proto-Net Neutrality

Jo Guldi is an historian at the Harvard Society of Fellows, and the author of Roads to Powera book about the history of infrastructure, and in particular, the building of a network of modern paved roads connecting the UK. She’s got an interesting take on how the movement to keep those paved roads toll-free has similarities with the movement to keep the internet free and open. (Runs 11:50)[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Proto-Text Messages

As we were putting ideas for this show together, Spark Senior Producer Michelle Parise said out of nowhere one day “Ever notice how Prince’s song titles are totally proto-text messages?” As proof she put a bunch of Prince’s actual song titles together and sure enough, they looked just like an exchange between two teenagers:
“U Got the Look”
“Eye No”
“I Would Die 4 U”
“I Wish U Heaven”
“Do U Lie?”
“When 2 R In Love”
“Take Me with U”Prince obviously invented texting. Don’t you think? (Runs 3:04)[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Proto-Social Media

What did the culture of pre-internet ham radio share with today’s social media? Ham radio operator Colin Newell, and Kristen Haring, author of Ham Radio’s Technical Culture, give us insight into the way ham radio and CB radio were peer-to-peer communication tools with many parallels to modern social networking sites. (Runs 13:21)[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Proto-Status Updates and Information Overload

According to an Ideas doc called “Flesh and Stone, The Sociology of Richard Sennett” there were some elaborate and strange ways Londoners communicated in coffeehouses in the 18th century…and the communication is quite a parallel to today’s status updates. Then we hop back to look at the information explosion that took place in early modern Europe from the 1400s to the 1700s with Anaïs Saint-Jude. Information overload was a common lament back then as it is for us today. (Runs 12:13)[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Additional Links Podcasts

Subscribe to any of our totally free podcasts!

Categories: Blogs

Full Interview: Jo Guldi on Roads and the Internet

Spark - 2012, March 29 - 09:41

Jo Guldi is a historian and the author of Roads to Power, a look at the creation of the Infrastructure State through the lens of the building of an ‘interkingdom highway system’ – the paved road network built in Britain in the 18th and 19th century. What does that have to do with the internet? Jo sees analogies and lessons that we can learn for today’s internet culture.

You can hear the full, uncut interview below, or download the MP3. [runs 16:57]

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

If you like hearing these extended interviews, why not subscribe to Spark Plus? It’s a podcast feed full of additional blog-only content like this. [Subscribe via RSS] or [Subscribe with iTunes]

Categories: Blogs

Spark 177 – March 25, 2012

Spark - 2012, March 23 - 09:03

On this episode of Spark: Humans Hurting Robots, Loveable User Interfaces, and the Robot Social Network. Click below to listen to the whole show, or download the MP3 (runs 54:00).

You can also listen to individual stories below.

Angelina – the AI Game Designer

Michael Cook is a PhD student at Imperial College, and he’s fascinated by video games. He’s also fascinated by artificial intelligence, and he’s fascinated by creativity. And so, he’s found the perfect research – exploring whether Angelina, an artificial intelligence program he’s created, can design video games from scratch. (Runs 10:57)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Buying Art Online

Spark contributor Cathi Bond takes us beyond the traditional art gallery or auction, and into an online space called Artbomb, where buying art is quick and direct…whether you know anything about it or not. (Runs 7:04)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Humans Hurting Robots

We know that human beings attach emotions to robots. We tend to think of them as anthropomorphic, even if we know they’re not alive. Young designer Julia Ringler wanted to know if humans would actually hurt robots, given the chance and how humans would feel about doing it. She engineered an experiment to find out. (Runs 6:39)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Creating Loveable User Interfaces

As we move towards a future with robots and smart devices everywhere, the focus is usually on designing these objects to be as smart as people. But what if we created them instead to be as smart as a puppies? That’s a design philosophy Matt Jones embraces. He’s a principal at a design company called BERG and he wondered if it was possible to develop user interfaces to be well, a little more loveable. He calls his design theory “Be as smart as a puppy” (or BASAAP) – instead of designing for “artificial intelligence” we should emphasize “artificial empathy”. (Runs 9:13)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Social Networks for Robots

Carlos Asmat is a young Montreal engineer with an idea for a social networking service: a social network for robots. As we get more and more ‘smart’ objects in our environment – from sensors to Roomba robots – what would happen if you could connect those objects so they can share updates and data? (Runs 9:28)

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Full Interview: Michael Cook on Designing Video Games with A.I.

Spark - 2012, March 21 - 07:48

Michael Cook is fascinated by video games. He’s fascinated by artificial intelligence, and he’s fascinated by creativity. And so, he’s found the perfect research. He’s a PhD student at Imperial College, exploring whether an AI he’s called Angelina can design video games from scratch. We had a great yap about how to do that, and whether AI might develop something we recognize as creativity. You can try out some of Angelina’s games here.

You can hear the full, uncut interview below, or download the MP3. [runs 18:06]

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If you like this interview and you’d like to explore more on the cutting edge of games, you might want to listen to our special on games, or gaming visionary Jane McGonigal on how games can change the world.

If you like hearing these extended interviews, why not subscribe to Spark Plus? It’s a podcast feed full of additional blog-only content like this. [Subscribe via RSS] or [Subscribe with iTunes]

Categories: Blogs

Spark 176 – March 18 & 21, 2012

Spark - 2012, March 16 - 14:22

On this episode of Spark: HR Algorithms, Hospital Surveillance, and Anonymous. Click below to listen to the whole show, or download the MP3 (runs 54:00).

You can also listen to individual stories below.

SXSWi Roundup

This past week was South By Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas. It’s an annual tech event that’s become famous as the place that next-big-things like Twitter and FourSquare, first generate real buzz. CBC Montreal’s Web Columnist Lindsay Michael was there and fills us in on the big tech trends this year. (Runs 6:54)

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HR Algorithms

Ever hand in a resume for a job you were SURE you were perfect for, only to never hear back? It’s one thing when you knew there was a real live human being looking at your resume, but these days algorithms, not humans, are used as screening devices for HR departments. Tech journalist Sean Carruthers has been pounding the pavement of late, and gives us an inside look at the algorithmic job search game. (Runs 7:04)

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Hospital Surveillance

There’s a new tool for tracking the spread of infections and diseases in hospitals. Developed by the Canadian company Infonaut, this tool tracks the movements of health care workers in hospitals, including if they’ve washed their hands or not! Toronto General will be the first hospital in the world to use this technology. Dr. Michael Gardam is Director of Infection Prevention and Control at the University Health Network in Toronto, and he explains why the data collected will be invaluable, and how they’re ensuring this won’t be a “big brother” type surveillance situation. (Runs 6:52)

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Communication Games

We talk a lot about video games on Spark, and that’s because innovations in video games are affecting broad swaths of the culture. All last week, a global gathering of game makers found themselves in San Francisco for the annual Game Developers Conference, or GDC, and Spark contributor Corey Takahashi was there. He sees the conference as a bellwether for modern communications and creativity. (Runs 6:56)

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Being Anonymous

Anonymous is one of the most difficult to pin down movements. Their activities range from temporarily disabling websites to helping protesters in the Arab Spring get documentation out to the broader world more safely. Their reputation in the media spans from cyberterrorists to vanguards of activism. Beyond the polarizing flashpoints, we take a look at the culture of Anonymous and how it may be changing with Gabriella Coleman, the Wolfe Chair in Scientific and Technological Literacy at McGill and a leading authority on the anthropology of digital media, hackers and the law. She’s currently working on a book on Anonymous and digital activism. (Runs 18:47)

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Categories: Blogs