Spark from CBC Radio-logo

Spark from CBC Radio

CBC Podcasts & Radio On-Demand

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

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


Canada, ON


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






CBC Radio: Spark P.O. Box 500, Stn. “A” Toronto, Ontario M5W 1E6 416-205-7021


496: Disruption in the classroom (and beyond)

When genuine disruption happens, it can create chaos, but it eventually becomes the new normal. What does the pandemic have to teach us about tech and education? And, understanding the long-term trajectory of disruption.


495: Indigenous Futurisms

Stories about the future can offer insight into not only where we're going, but who we are. Thing is, traditionally, our most iconic images of the future are, for the most part, whitewashed and male-centric. Over time, the people in fictional future worlds have become more reflective of the world around us, but how do Indigenous Peoples fit into futuristic narratives? And not just in science fiction, but also in the tech world? + Grace Dillon, Ph.D., editor of Walking the Clouds: An...


A Spark Pandemic Retrospective - Touch, Trust, The Alchemy of Us

Over the past year, we've had to reimagine our relationship with our technologies—and each other. This week, a look back at stories from early on in the pandemic that examine what we've learned about communication, and why in an online era we still need physical touch.


A Spark Pandemic Retrospective - Where do we go from here?

2020 has been a long year, full of challenges, as well as opportunities to do things differently. We look back at the progress we've made in everything from transportation, to retail to working remotely. And we think about the steps we still need to take to stay safe, so we can ask: Where do we go from here?


494: The Spark Guide to Civilization, Part Four: Attention

We have been lamenting our loss of focus and blaming our short attention spans on technology for ages. But are our attention spans actually dwindling - or is it just that there are just so many things clamouring for our attention all the time? Thomas Hills, professor of psychology and director of the Behavioral and Data Science master's program at the University of Warwick in England, provides a historical overview of attention through the lens of tech and innovation. TikTok has been a key...


493: Virtual Reality

Many activities have moved to our screens and online over the course of the pandemic, but we're still much more likely to invest in an ergonomic chair than a VR headset. So what still stands in the way of wider adoption of virtual reality? Bow Valley College has rolled out brand new virtual-reality training for their practical nursing program. Nora MacLachlan, Dean of Health and Community Studies, tells us how VR helps students develop empathy and practice more real-world disease processes...


492: Social tech

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. Plus, robots already work on factory floors, in dangerous situations, and even cleaning our floors, but to truly interact with us humans, they're going...


491: The Spark Guide to Civilization, Part Three: 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.


490: Escape

Escape can offer a reprieve from daily COVID life. But if you can't physically go anywhere, immersing yourself in fictional worlds - like the ones of online games - can help with the social isolation of the pandemic. We talk to University of Saskatchewan professor Regan Mandryk about how videogames can help us relieve stress and connect with others during the pandemic and beyond. Plus, Spark producer Olsy Sorokina talks about the appeal of Animal Crossing. And, while fictional worlds can...


Repeat: Truth decay

(This episode first aired in February 2020, and has been updated to reflect all that's happened in the world since.) How do we know what we know? In a digital landscape where social media dominates, and most people don't trust mainstream reporting, how can we be sure what we're seeing is actually real? It's a question technology journalist and Atlantic magazine staff writer Alexis Madrigal has contemplated a lot, and he's finding a lot of noise among the signals of truth. So what does this...


489: Time

For all the good they give us, our personal tech has also become a major time suck. We lose hours of our waking lives to online experiences, especially in the past year, when our worlds became almost as tiny as the screens in our hands. Between work from home and doom-scrolling through social media, are we wasting time, or is this the "new normal" for spending it? And if we are going to be spending this much time online, can we improve online public spaces with better design? In her new...


488: The Spark Guide to Civilization, Part Two: Ventilation

Past pandemics have been a huge influence on the way we design our cities and our homes. So what can the history of this relationship between public health and public spaces teach us during the COVID-19 pandemic? Sara Jensen Carr explores these lessons in an upcoming book, The Topography of Wellness: Health and the American Urban Landscape. We also talk to architect Terrell Wong about how we can return some of the fresh air back into our homes and offices without decreasing energy efficiency...


487: We love robots

Humans have long been fascinated by the idea of automatons. But increasingly, robots are also just reality, as more work is automated - especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, to accommodate physical distancing. This week: a look at the new rules we need to prepare for a world of automation. During COVID-19, robots deliver groceries and medicine and disinfect public spaces. And sure, automation is great for routine, repetitive tasks - but what about things that require more nuance and...


Repeat: Post-truth expertise

This episode originally aired in June, 2020. Do you "trust the experts"? Or rather, in what circumstances do you trust the experts? In a complex world like ours, expertise is important, but specialization and hyper-focus can also get in the way of seeing the big picture. On the other hand, in rapidly evolving situations where the stakes are high and information is thin on the ground, measured expertise can easily be trumped by rumour and misinformation. + Among the challenges facing the...


486: Efficiency

It used to be that efficiency meant getting something done in the fewest amount of steps. So how did we get to the world we live in now—where efficiency means whatever is cheapest and most convenient, regardless of how many steps it takes? The pursuit of efficiency at all costs has resulted in dramatic wealth concentration, as well as caused an alignment problem between human values and the design of machine learning algorithms. We feature more of Nora's conversations with Sidney Fussell,...


485: Oh, Algorithms!

There's been a lot of discussion about algorithmic bias, but the focus has been on bias in historical data. However. it's a much bigger problem than that, so what about looking forward? That's what Spark is doing this week: 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. + For the past several years, we've seen headlines about algorithms producing racist, nonsensical, and even dangerous...


484: The Spark Guide to Civilization, Part One: Movement

The first episode in our special Guide to Civilization series, will look at how tech from the wheel to just-in-time delivery architecture (and many things in between) have changed the way humans have been able to move, expand their horizons and shrink their world — along with the costs and benefits. We take a special look at the impact and role of the bicycle, which is consistently rated as the most significant invention in human history. And we end the episode with a peek into the future of...


483: Flux

The human brain is always changing, and that constant state of flux helps us adapt to our ever-changing world. What would happen if we built our technologies and economic systems so that they function like our brains? + In his new book, Livewired, neuroscientist David Eagleman argues that far from being fixed, our brains constantly adapt to the changing external environment. There's a sort of 'survival of the fittest' battle going on inside our brains, as parts of the brain compete for...


482: The Politics of Technology

Technological development is politics by other means. From American companies moving to buy TikTok to governments advocating digital sovereignty and self-reliance, we seem to be entering a new era of techno-nationalism, where it's increasingly difficult to separate the politics, the economics, and the tech. And, extremist groups like the Boogaloo move from online forums to real world protests. Is the internet is fueling right wing extremism, and how do we de-escalate that extremism? +...


Spark Summer Episode Ten: Concentration

In an age of digital devices and near constant distractions, many of us feel like our attention spans are shrinking. 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 believes that concentration is like a muscle you have to work to maintain. As we age we find it more difficult to concentrate. Tarek Amer and fellow researchers found a...