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.


  • 477: Reinventing Retail

    May 29 2020

    It's been a long time since many of us have stepped inside an actual, physical retail store for anything other than essentials. Across Canada, we're in different stages of reopening in a staggered, uncertain way. Many businesses have shuttered permanently. Some have filed for bankruptcy protection. Others are open, but with restrictions. As e-commerce takes off amid the pandemic, how will smaller vendors compete against the online behemoths? What will the in-store experience look like ...more

  • Spark Special: The Future as Fiction

    May 22 2020

    These days, we're living with a lot of uncertainty. And that can be scary. So we turn to science, to mathematical models and policy makers, all to try to understand where things are going. But fiction can also offer us insights into not what's going to happen, but who we are. Novels can remind us that no matter how scary or uncertain things are, others have dealt with similar feelings. Over the years at Spark, we've spoken to many authors who have imagined the future, and where our stren...more

  • 476: The Pandemic and Internet Health

    May 15 2020

    In the midst of a global health crisis, how's the health...of the internet? Being online has clearly emerged as a necessity. But with online tools like video chat exploding in popularity, a look at whether they have the safety and security we need. And whether the current crisis will force a change in how tech giants operate. And in the midst of so much bad pandemic news, maybe there's a bright spot: a return to the positive, open values of the early internet. + Lawyer Njeri Damali Sojourn...more

  • 475: Wayfinding and finding our way

    May 08 2020

    Remember the olden days—like 2 months ago—when you could just head out the door and wander wherever you felt like it, exploring the world around you? We humans are deeply spatial creatures. Our sense of space is tied to how we know the world around us, and how we remember it. Nora talks to the author of a new book on the neuroscience of wayfinding, and what it means when we find our way by GPS—and our physical terrain becomes increasingly virtual. And, if you go to the heart of a city or t...more

  • 474: Privacy and resilience by design

    May 01 2020

    How can we design for resilience and privacy? From shortages of flour on grocery store shelves to a lack of personal protective equipment, we've seen how lean global supply chains can be surprisingly brittle. This week, we'll hear the case for more resilient manufacturing. And sure, tech companies may not have always had our privacy in mind when designing the apps and services we use. But with so much at stake in resolving the pandemic lockdown, is it time for Privacy By Design. + Cont...more

  • 473: Space and place post-pandemic

    Apr 24 2020

    In software design, people talk about stress testing. Pushing things to the limit, to see how it performs at the extreme end. And it's pretty clear that right now, we're in a period of stress testing the current design of our cities. And our homes. Over the past few months, the inequalities that some individuals are typically meant to just attend to themselves, have suddenly, starkly, been shown for the structural problems they are. There are many examples, ranging from the trivial to life-thre...more

  • 472: Touch and Trust in our virtual world

    Apr 17 2020

    As physical distancing and isolation continues, we're saturated with information and interaction on screens big and small, often several screens at once, and All. Day. Long. We've become desperate for tactile, analogue things: Witness the breadmaking phenomenon on social media. Or how so many of us are really, really into caring for our plants.People are sewing. Or doing physical, old-fashioned puzzles. For the first few weeks there was a different energy of connecting in a new way. Much of ou...more

  • April 12, 2020: Special: Proto-internet

    Apr 10 2020

    What do ham radios, 18th-century British roadways and the 1990 film "Pump Up The Volume" all have in common? They all foreshadowed internet culture! This week on Spark: a fun and illuminating look at how early moments in Western culture hinted at our digital lives today. Featuring guests Jordan Hermant, Jo Guldi, Colin Newell, Kristin Haring, and Anais Saint-Jude.

  • 471: Reimagining our Relationship with Tech (and each other)

    Apr 03 2020

    When new technology comes along—or we use it in new ways—it raises questions of etiquette and ethics. With so many of us opening a digital window into our homes in an unprecedented way, are we reimagining our relationship with our technologies—and each other? And what risks are involved with so many of us repurposing our home technology for work, or using apps and tools that haven't been tested at the kind of scale that which people are now using them? + Ainissa Ramirez is a materials scientis...more

  • 470: Access in Isolation

    Mar 27 2020

    As the pandemic continues to keep a lot of us at home, today we look at access and technology: Social access to each other as we physically isolate. Access to the devices and data that keep us connected. And securing access to the internet when networks are under strain. Even in your own home, with people working and learning remotely It's easy to see why we often think of the internet as something intangible. We talk about being 'virtual' and storing things in the cloud. It's not until ...more

  • 469: Remote

    Mar 20 2020

    This week, Spark is coming to you from five different locations across Toronto, none of which is the CBC building! Like many people all over the world this week, we're working from home. Remote work is something we've talked about a lot on Spark over the past decade, but we've never done anything like this! We recognize that many people aren't able to work remotely, and we'll be addressing that too. But for people who can—and should—be working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, we're...more

  • 468: Concentration

    Mar 13 2020

    In an age of digital devices and near constant distractions, many of us feel like our attention spans are shrinking. The good news is: we can get our power of concentration back. So this week on Spark, a handbook on how to concentrate in a distracting world. + Stefan Van der Stigchel is a cognitive psychologist and author of Concentration: Staying Focused in Times of Distraction. He says that there's no reason to believe our ability to concentrate is being permanently eroded by digital distract...more

  • 467: Music Streaming

    Mar 06 2020

    For many of us—even without it being much of a conscious choice—buying music has been replaced by subscribing to a music streaming service. Here in Canada, streaming numbers have long overtaken physical or digital album sales. One study reported over 75 billion streams in 2019, a 30 percent increase from the year before. Compare that to sales, which have dropped by 25 per cent in the same time period. As record stores close, streaming platforms continue to crop up. Spotify, Apple Music, ...more

  • 466: Living Buildings

    Feb 28 2020

    What if there was an alternative to buildings made from concrete, steel and glass? Many of those materials—especially concrete—are very energy intensive to produce. This week on Spark, we look at some of the ways architects are trying to incorporate living materials into building construction, or create spaces that seem alive in the sense that they interact with us in a fundamental way. Could our future homes be living things? + Phil Ayres is an architect in Copenhagen, and he's working with my...more

  • 465: Open / Closed

    Feb 21 2020

    We've seen an incredible change in the architecture of the internet. Not just how it operates, but how we operate within it. Think back to the days when YouTube was new, only a handful of people knew what Facebook was, and cell phones were for making phone calls! Early adopters were making podcasts and writing blogs. Wikipedia was an exciting experiment. The old gatekeepers of media were crumbling and the web seemed open to everyone. Today, however, we largely experience the internet thr...more

  • Spark special: A map of maps

    Feb 14 2020

    Google Maps. It's turning 15. Fifteen! We're looking back at some of the many stories about maps we've covered on past seasons of Spark. We'll look back at maps for smells, maps for noises, and even how some people are using Google Street View for birding!

  • 464: Truth Decay

    Feb 07 2020

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

  • 463: Islands in the Stream

    Jan 31 2020

    After years of Netflix and YouTube dominating streaming video, a raft of new services is arriving, yours for the price of a subscription. What does this mean for the future of how we watch? That, plus exploring the surprising role the pornography industry has played in the technology of streaming.Spark host Nora Young speaks with Patrick Keilty, a professor and archives director of the Sexual Representation Collection in the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto...more

  • 462: In Defense of Winter

    Jan 24 2020

    It's winter (duh). Long nights, cold days, and, for much of the country, snow. But should we be cowering inside or embracing it? This week on Spark, we look at how public design and personal mindset can allow us to make the most—and even get excited by—winter. Isla Tanaka, Edmonton's WinterCity planner, explains how her city is helping patios stay open all year, keeping parks accessible, and using urban design to mitigate darkness and wind. Michele Acuto, Professor of Global Urban Politics at...more

  • 461: D-I-V-O-R-C-E

    Jan 17 2020

    The Netflix movie "Marriage Story" has received lots of recognition, including six Oscar nominations. Critics and viewers are entranced by its realistic look at a couple who want to split up amicably, but are swayed by those around them, including lawyers. They end up in a vicious legal battle that might never have happened if they had been presented with an alternative. Separation and divorce are common in Canada. But whether you're married or common law, have kids or cats (or both!) splitti...more

  • 460: The Future

    Jan 10 2020

    If we've learned anything in the tech world over the last decade, it's the folly of not taking the long view. So the start of a new decade seems like a good time to talk "big picture" with Lord Martin Rees, one of the world's most prominent scientists. His most recent book is called "On the Future: Prospects for Humanity." In a full-episode interview, Sir Martin and Nora don't just look decades ahead, but also millions of years into human future.

  • 459: Canada, Communications and a new decade

    Jan 03 2020

    With phone scams on the rise and 5G around the corner, how well are we prepared for the 2020s? A feature interview with CRTC Chair Ian Scott.

  • 458: Weird and Wonderful AI

    Dec 27 2019

    How making AI do goofy things exposes its limitations: In her book, "You Look Like a Thing and I Love You," Janelle Shane eposes the pitfalls of AI dependence. Also, Musician-turned-AI-researcher David Usher talks about ReImagine AI, he effort to make a better machine-human interface.

  • Special: Rest and Recharge

    Dec 20 2019

    We revisit conversations with people who've dedicated their research to helping us rest, recharge and return to nature.

  • 457: Technology and Oppression

    Dec 13 2019

    New technology often gets talked about as a neutral object. But technology has politics. It's designed and used by humans. And humans have priorities and beliefs and blinders. This week on Spark we're look at how technology can be used to both liberate and empower. We're going to start with the civil rights movement in the United States. Charlton McIlwain is the author of Black Software: The Internet and racial justice, from the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter. He explains to Nora how the d...more

  • 456: Walden, revisited

    Dec 06 2019

    Henry David Thoreau's book, Walden; or, Life in the Woods, is a seminal work of literature—and one of the greatest arguments ever made in favour of simple living. This week on Spark we're revisiting Walden, and looking at its elegant relevance for today's world, as more and more people seek respite from their technology-addled, fast-paced lives.