26 episodes

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

Spark from CBC Radio CBC

    • Technology
    • 4.8, 78 Ratings

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

    Spark Summer Episode Six: Walden, Revisited

    Spark Summer Episode Six: Walden, Revisited

    For two years, two months, and two days, Henry David Thoreau lived alone, in a tiny cabin he built on the edge of Walden Pond. Shortly after, in 1854, he published Walden.

    This week Spark revisits Walden, and looks at its elegant relevance for today's world. Michael Harris calls Walden a "swan song for an antique enjoyment of time alone." He's the author of The End of Absence and Solitude. He discusses how we can find solitude in today's world and why we need it.

    An installation at the Daniels School of Architecture at the U of T. called New Circadia: Adventures in Mental Spelunking was a giant, gently-lit and sound-muffled cave where visitors can relax and leave their devices behind.

    And 10 years ago, filmmaker and internet pioneer Tiffany Shlain and her family decided to do what many have tried before them: a digital detox. And they've been avoiding digital devices for one day ever since, even as her children have grown up. We talk about unplugging and her new book, 24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week.

    This episode originally aired December 8, 2019.

    • 54 min
    Spark Summer Episode Five: On Failure

    Spark Summer Episode Five: On Failure

    Failure. It's romanticized in tech startup culture, but what does it actually have to teach us? Corporate culture has certainly shifted a long way from the days of "failure is not an option." Farhan Thawar is the VP of engineering at Shopify. He says it's not so much failure but a willingness to look stupid that really counts.

    Juliana Castro thinks we need to renegotiate our relationship with failure. She's come up with some tactics to embrace our mistakes without romanticizing failure.

    Melanie Stefan, a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh Medical School, believes we all need a CV of Failures. She explains how a failure resume can be part of our success story.

    This episode originally aired December 1st, 2019.

    • 54 min
    Spark Summer Episode Four: Disability and Design

    Spark Summer Episode Four: Disability and Design

    A stair-climbing wheelchair might seem like a cool innovation. But for Liz Jackson, it's another example of what she calls a "disability dongle," a well-intended, but ultimately useless solution to a problem people disabled people never knew they had. Liz Jackson is a disability advocate, design strategist, and the founder of The Disabled List. She says people with disabilities need to be on the front lines of innovation and not just the recipients of design.

    Accessibility for people with disabilities didn't just happen. Its history includes do-it-yourself ingenuity, activism, and shifts in how we think about the politics of design. Bess Williamson explores this evolution in her book Accessible America: A History of Disability and Design.


    Empathy is considered to be good quality for designers thinking about truly inclusive design. But User Experience designer Amelia Abreu believes the trend of "trying on" a disability to build empathy into accessible design actually exclude disabled people from the design process.

    This episode originally aired November 10, 2019.

    • 54 min
    Spark Summer Episode Three: Uncertain and Unpredictable

    Spark Summer Episode Three: Uncertain and Unpredictable

    This week on Spark, how algorithms and digital technologies try to predict, or even influence, our behaviour on scales both large and small. Amazon, Google and Facebook all have an image of us.

    John Cheney-Lippold suggests that doesn't truly reflect how we are in real life and that the profiles that algorithms build of us reflect how companies want to see us, in ways that give value to them. And Abeba Birhane suggests that the —"I think, therefore I am" notion of the self — isn't the only way to view the individual.

    This episode originally aired on November 3, 2019.

    • 54 min
    Spark Summer Episode Two: The Impersistence of Memory

    Spark Summer Episode Two: The Impersistence of Memory

    Has technology altered the way we remember things? What does knowledge mean when we use our phones to store facts instead of our brain? Evan Risko, a psychologist and the Canada Research Chair in Embodied and Embedded Cognition at the University of Waterloo, digs into these questions.

    Henning Beck's latest book, Scatterbrain, argues that our brains aren't anything like computers. Instead our brains are constantly dumping and rearranging information. The neuroscience of memory in the digital age.

    And how does the internet change the way we know and share information? Kenyatta Cheese, (ken-YATT-ah) co-creator of Know Your Meme, explores memes as images densely packed with meaning.

    This episode originally aired October 27, 2019.

    • 54 min
    Spark Summer Episode One: From Sea to Sky

    Spark Summer Episode One: From Sea to Sky

    We rely on complex, global technological systems for our economy and society. But those systems are often hidden from us. This week, a look at two hidden systems we rely on every day.

    Andrew Blum, author of The Weather Machine, takes us inside the complex world of weather forecasting. And then we do a deep, deep dive to the bottom of the ocean, where Nicole Starosielski, the author of The Undersea Network, explains the dizzying array of undersea cables that make up the backbone of the internet.

    This episode originally aired September 15, 2019.

    • 54 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
78 Ratings

78 Ratings

Clarity 1955 ,

Nora is the Bomb

I <3 Spark.This is a nice way to keep up with tech and trends in electronic media. So good to say she makes my day.

MaineAle ,

The writing is excellent

Nora is a great writer and the content is consistently very good.

Palthainon ,

Interesting stories that aren't about new gadgets

I love this podcast. I'm sick of tech podcasts that only talk about Apple, AI, or the newest phone. This is planet money for the future, with more resolutions but plenty to think about.

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