WILL - Focus - March 21, 2014

The Effects of Gender-typed Toys

Were the toys you played with as a child either pink or blue?  


(Duration: 51:54)

Supriya Hobbs and Janna Eaves are painfully aware that they are surrounded by mostly male students in their engineering classes at the University of Illinois. That’s part of the reason they’re behind the new start-up Miss Possible Inc., a toy company with intentions to manufacture dolls for girls fashioned after historical figures like Marie Curie and Amelia Earhart.

“Most toys, especially dolls, are empty,” says Hobbs, “Entrepreneur Barbie wears a suit and has a smart phone; that makes her a CEO?”

This hour on Focus, Scott Cameron talks with Hobbs about the start-up, and why Hobbs and Eaves want girls to be interested in science and technology. We’ll also hear from Analisa Russo, part of the company Electroninks, which is bringing a gel pen to draw circuits to market this summer. Isabelle Cherney, a researcher at Creighton University, will tell us how the toys we play can have an effect on our perceived capabilities and our gender identity.  

Then, we’ll switch gears at the end of the hour when Jake Kuebler of Bluestem Financial Advisors, LLC in Champaign joins us to discuss issues in personal finance.  

WILL - Focus - March 03, 2014

Protecting your data and privacy: Safe computing and the Internet

Have you ever been hacked? 


(Duration: 51:46)

computer keyboard

Millions of credit card numbers have been stolen from supposedly secure systems, and hackers are constantly working hard to steal millions more. There are lots of ways we make it easier for people to get access to our data – by using outdated software, by reusing the same password and by simply not being aware that our computer habits may be playing into their hands. Just a few weeks ago, Indiana University announced that 146,000 students’ data, including social security numbers, had been exposed, not because of a hacker but because someone saved a file in the wrong public folder.

This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about security compromises, how and why they happen. Taylor Judd, an IT Infrastructure manager for the College of Media at the University of Illinois and Cynthia Thackeray, an Outreach Specialists for CITES, campus IT security, at the University of Illinois, join host Jack Brighton.

Do you have questions about how to keep your data to yourself online? What do you do to protect yourself? Give us a call this hour on Focus!

Categories: Technology

WILL - Focus - January 16, 2014

Net Neutrality

Tuesday, a circuit court in Washington D.C. struck down rules ensuring net neutrality. This hour on Focus we’ll talk about what that means for the internet.


(Duration: 51:33)

 A federal appeals court ruling struck down parts of the Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet rules Tuesday, a move that has raised concerns about net neutrality. Big telecom companies including Verizon and Comcast say the ruling will allow them to expand their service to consumers, but not everyone agrees the ruling is a good thing.
To start this hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Milton Mueller, a professor in the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, about what the ruling means for the future of the internet and about the importance of having an open internet. John Koontz of Champaign-based Wolfram Research, operator of the answer engine website Wolfram/Alpha, also joins us. He says the possibilities that the ruling creates for the future is worrisome for companies like his. Then, Meadows talks with former FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth about the FCC's role in regulating internet service. 
Do you support net neutrality? Why? Post in the comments section below or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Categories: Law, Technology

WILL - Focus - September 27, 2013

Author Kim Stanley Robinson on what captivates him about science fiction

Are you a science fiction fan? Today on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with New York Times best-selling author Kim Stanley Robinson.


(Duration: 55:01)

Robinson in August 2005, at the 63rd World Science Fiction Convention in Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s interest in science fiction all started with an orange grove. When he was young, he says he watched southern California suffer what he calls “future shock,” – a process by which the natural landscape was rapidly replaced with apartment buildings and roads. This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Robinson about how this inspires his writing.

We’ll also talk with Robinson about his Mars Trilogy that depicts a society where people have colonized Mars to escape overpopulation and ecological disaster on Earth. We’ll hear how he imagined life on Mars and how he deals with questions of plausibility as he writes about future time.

WILL - Focus - September 23, 2013

Designing Culture

Technology is constantly changing the way we organize everything. Despite the pace of change, we’re still in control. This hour on Focus, Jim Meadows talks with Anne Balsamo about the ways she says it’s possible for us to design the culture we want through the way we use the technologies we create.


(Duration: 51:32)

Anne Balsamo

This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Professor Anne Balsamo. She’s a media designer by trade and has been involved in creating several interactive exhibits, like a digital version of the AIDS Memorial Quilt that you can explore by quilt block, name and date. She says in order for us to live in the world we want, we need to keep that world in mind while we’re designing and using our technologies. We’ll talk with her this hour about what interactive media is and if its constructive or just another distraction.

Balsamo is also heading a project called “FemTechNet,” which among other things, has been responsible for adding women into some of Wikipedia's historical entries. We'll also talk with her about how "FemTechNet" is working to create new kinds of learning opportunities though online collaborative education and about how her femisist views mesh with her work arguments about technologies. 

Anne is giving a talk entitled “Designing Digital Memories” at 7:00 p.m. tonight in the Library and Information Science Building at 501 East Daniel Street in Champaign.

WILL - Focus - July 10, 2013

Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet

Have you ever gotten an email and wondered why on earth it arrived in your inbox? This hour on Focus, Jack Brighton talks with Finn Brunton about why spam plagues us all.


(Duration: 51:33)

book cover

It all started in 1970’s with noncommercial computer networks that became the internet and then continued to develop during the boom in the 1990’s. Today, the country’s most brilliant computer programmers are trying to fight it.

This hour on Focus, Jack Brighton talks with author Finn Brunton about the rise of internet spam. Interestingly enough, internet spam is called spam because of a Monty Python skit. And, while the skit is hilarious, the unwanted emails and messages from advertisers, marketers, identity thieves, bots, con artists and hackers are not. Today on Focus, we’ll learn about what spam really is, how it works and what it means. As Brunton argues in his new book “Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet,” spam can show us how online communities can develop governance for themselves and how transforming technology can have unintended consequences.

Categories: Technology

WILL - Focus - June 04, 2013

Touch Screen Kids

Too much screen time is bad news, at least that's how the story goes. But they're getting harder to avoid, especially during summer when kids are home from school. This hour on Focus, we talk about screens, educational media and how much is too much.


(Duration: 50:44)

one child reads while another looks at a computer screen

In a recent article in the Atlantic, senior editor Hanna Rosin wrote about her experiences as a mother and the pressure she feels to limit her children’s screen time. This hour on Focus, guest host Chris Berube talks with Hanna about her experiences with electronics and educational media as a parent. We’ll also talk with David Bickham, who is a researcher at the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital about how much screen time is recommended, how to make the most out of that time and what the dangers are of too much screen time.

WILL - Focus - May 22, 2013

Digital Privacy and the Workplace

Illinois law currently bans employers from asking employees and prospective employees for their social media passwords, but there is a bill in the Illinois House that would change that. This hour on Focus, we'll talk about the bill and larger issues it raises when it comes to digital privacy. 


(Duration: 51:28)

House Bill 1047, currently under consideration in the Illinois House of Representatives, would make it legal for employers to ask employees for their personal social media passwords. Under legislation that took effect July 1, 2012, it’s currently against the law to do so. According to some, it’s a severe violation of privacy for employers to be able to ask for social media account information, but State Representative Jim Durkin defends the bill saying that employers need to have agency to protect themselves against threats and theft. He also says that as the bill is written, employers can’t take action against employees who refuse to share their information.

This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about the intersection of digital privacy and the workplace. Statehouse Reporter Amanda Vinicky will give us an update about the status of the legislation and then Law Professor Lori Andrews joins us. She’s written a social media constitution and is author of the book “I Know Who You Are, I Saw What You Did: Social Networks and the Death of Privacy.” Representative Durkin, who is from Western Springs, also joins the conversation.

Would you be concerned if your employer could legally ask for your social media passwords? Are you a manager and think you should be able to ask? We want to hear from you this hour on Focus!

Categories: Privacy, Technology

WILL - Focus - May 01, 2013

Itty-Bitty Technology; Big Potential

Think about the size of a lady bug. Now, think 1,000 times smaller than that, and we’re talking about the size of a red blood cell. Go another 1,000 times smaller, and that’s how big a nanometer is. What can you do with something that small? We’ll find out this hour on Focus.


(Duration: 51:24)

This image shows a nanoparticle with atomic resolution. It is a projection image of the nanoparticle where darker atomic columns represent Se columns while the brighter columns are Cd (atomic structure has been partially overlayed to highlight the at

Nanotechnology works to understand the physics, chemistry and biology of nanoscale objects. Simply put, it’s the study of things that are very, very, very small. This hour on Focus, we’ll talk about nanotechnology and developments being made when it comes to nanomanufacturing here at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Irfan Ahmad, Executive Director of Nanoscale Science and Technology at the UIUC and Engineering Professor Placid Ferreira, who studies nanotechnologies and manufacturing, will be here. We’ll talk with them about how certain elements behave quite differently on the nanoscale than they do in larger quantities and how that opens the doors to virtually limitless possibilities. Cell phone in a made to order size? It’s could happen.

There are also health concerns and risks many are worried about when it comes to using nanotechnology. We’ll talk those over too during this hour on Focus.

Categories: Technology

WILL - Focus - April 26, 2013

Coming up on Focus: Boston Marathon Media Coverage, Record Resurgence and Biking to Work

Do you bike to work? Do you like listening to music on vinyl? Is the media doing a good job of reporting on the Boston Marathon bombing case?  Find out more about what’s coming up next week on Focus and join our conversation.


Coming up next week on Focus, we’ll talk about cycling and how strong biking communities and cultures are fostered, why records are coming back and if they’ll stick around. We’ll also talk about nanotechnology and the exciting possibilities for the future.

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