June 14, 2012

Nora Young talks Tech

It was hot outside on June 7th but very cool inside Winnipeg’s Park Theatre as the Winnipeg International Writers Festival brought together writing fans and music fans in the latest Thin Air event.
CBC’s Nora Young (Spark, ex-DNTO) talked about her new book The Virtual Self, an examination into the virtual information we generate about ourselves and how it affects our communities, our government, and our lives.

Young gave a quick introduction about adapting to new technology, starting with a vintage audio recording instructing people on how to use that new invention, the rotary dial telephone.
Then it was off to contemporary times, when people readily welcome the latest technology into their lives, sharing their most intimate and quotidian information, regulating their days, even photographing and posting their every meal online.

Young is interested in what these brave new tools can tell us, about not what we need as human beings but what we are as human beings.

In a Question and Answer session, Young and Thin Air Director Charlene Diehl talked about writing a book versus for the radio. (This is Young’s first book.) In response to a query from the audience, Young discussed about privacy concerns. This information we generate is publicly available, but what is innocent in one context can be creepy in another.

These are tools to harness what people are doing and talking about and experiencing, she concluded. It’s time to think about data ownership and having a public conversation about people having more control of their own data, becoming what she calls Data Citizens.

As a counterpoint to Young’s arguments, the evening also featured the Karl Kohut Electric Quartet, playing jazz with the help of new and old technologies.

Their set mixed an original or two with covers of standards, Herbie Hancock, and The Beatles. (Who knew that “Tomorrow Never Knows” would sound so great performed on a vocoder?)

As Diehl said after one of their numbers, there’s something sexy about robots singing love songs.

By Bruce Symaka, Publicist for THIN AIR 2012

1. Nora Young prepping.
2. Charlene Diehl pondering.
3. Nora speaking about her book and ideas.
4, 5, 6. The Karl Kohut Electric Quartet.

All pictures by Leif Norman (http://www.leifnorman.net/)