Spark from CBC Radio

Spark on CBC Radio One Nora Young helps you navigate your digital life by connecting you to fresh ideas in surprising ways.


  • Spark 426: Memes grown up, Man vs AI debate, robot decisions, hanging on the landline, and the case for paper maps

    Feb 15 2019

    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...more

  • Spark 425: The history of the future of cell phones

    Feb 07 2019

    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.

  • 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

    Feb 01 2019

    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 Va...more

  • Spark 423: Facebook petitions, WhatsApp and the spread of misinformation, designing the modern airport, and the lives of digisexuals.

    Jan 25 2019

    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 reco...more

  • Spark 422: Instagram egg, queer video games, inbox infinity, airline ticketing, and counterfactual explantions

    Jan 18 2019

    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' ...more

  • 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

    Jan 11 2019

    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 s...more

  • 420: Health Tech Special

    Jan 04 2019

    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 w...more

  • Spark Prison Special: Tech Innovation and San Quentin State Prison

    Dec 28 2018

    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 Sa...more

  • 419: New tech in museum, and learning from sci-fi movies

    Dec 21 2018

    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 h...more

  • 418: Deciphering ancient text, finding birds on Street View, and more.

    Dec 14 2018

    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? Tradition...more

  • 417: Getting ready for smart cities, Google's return to china, and more.

    Dec 07 2018

    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...more

  • 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.

    Nov 30 2018

    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...more

  • 415: The sounds of old tech, crying on Instagram, laser shoes and more.

    Nov 23 2018

    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 peo...more

  • 414: Smart cities, serendipitous discovery, whale songs, and more.

    Nov 16 2018

    ---------- 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...more

  • 413: The future of car ownership, a piano for everyone, and the decline of internet freedom

    Nov 09 2018

    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...more

  • 412: Digital redlining, election security, internet controlled humans, and more.

    Nov 02 2018

    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 acto...more

  • 411: Instagram is becoming an advertising giant, the responsibilities of platforms, and 25 years of Wired magazine.

    Oct 26 2018

    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 f...more

  • 410: Music in your DNA, profiting off volunteer work, and the digital divide.

    Oct 19 2018

    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...more

  • 409: AI and creativity, climate change and Fortnite, and a Twitter bot that curates FOI requests.

    Oct 12 2018

    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...more

  • 408: An that sees for you, tech and nature, and more.

    Oct 05 2018

    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. Elai...more

  • 407: Trusting our virtual assistants, and opinions on Twitter

    Sep 28 2018

    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 g...more

  • 406: Technology and Policing Special

    Sep 21 2018

    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...more

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

    Sep 14 2018

    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 ...more

  • 404: Ride sharing was supposed to make traffic better. It's making it worse.

    Sep 07 2018

    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.

  • Spark Guide to Life: Google for Education Encore

    Aug 31 2018

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

  • Spark Guide to Life: Big Picture Ideas

    Aug 24 2018

    Reimagining the university for the 21st century. The future of trades in a changing world. Mapping the sounds of protest. How machines, platforms and the crowd are rearranging the world.