Laura Sydell

Laura Sydell fell in love with the intimate storytelling qualities of radio, which combined her passion for theatre and writing with her addiction to news. Over her career she has covered politics, arts, media, religion, and entrepreneurship. Currently Sydell is the Digital Culture Correspondent for NPR's All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, and NPR.org.

Sydell's work focuses on the ways in which technology is transforming our culture and how we live. For example, she reported on robotic orchestras and independent musicians who find the Internet is a better friend than a record label as well as ways technology is changing human relationships.

Sydell has traveled through India and China to look at the impact of technology on developing nations. In China, she reported how American television programs like Lost broke past China's censors and found a devoted following among the emerging Chinese middle class. She found in India that cell phones are the computer of the masses.

Sydell teamed up with Alex Bloomberg of NPR's Planet Money team and reported on the impact of patent trolls on business and innovations particular to the tech world. The results were a series of pieces that appeared on This American Life and All Things Considered. The hour long program on This American Life "When Patents Attack! - Part 1," was honored with a Gerald Loeb Award and accolades from Investigative Reporters and Editors. A transcript of the entire show was included in The Best Business Writing of 2011 published by Columbia University Press.

Before joining NPR in 2003, Sydell served as a senior technology reporter for American Public Media's Marketplace, where her reporting focused on the human impact of new technologies and the personalities behind the Silicon Valley boom and bust.

Sydell is a proud native of New Jersey and prior to making a pilgrimage to California and taking up yoga she worked as a reporter for NPR Member Station WNYC in New York. Her reporting on race relations, city politics, and arts was honored with numerous awards from organizations such as The Newswomen's Club of New York, The New York Press Club, and The Society of Professional Journalists.

American Women in Radio and Television, The National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Women in Communications have all honored Sydell for her long-form radio documentary work focused on individuals whose life experiences turned them into activists.

After finishing a one-year fellowship with the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University, Sydell came to San Francisco as a teaching fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley.

Sydell graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor's degree from William Smith College in Geneva, New York, and earned a J.D. from Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law.

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Law
6:43 pm
Fri March 27, 2015

After Resuming Deliberations, Jury Rules In Favor Of Kleiner Perkins

The jury said that the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers did not retaliate against former partner Ellen Pao by terminating her. The case has spurred conversation about gender discrimination in the tech world.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

All Tech Considered
1:15 am
Wed March 18, 2015

SXSW Debuts Robot Petting Zoo For A Personal Peek Into The Future

DAR-1 is one of the many social robots with facial recognition abilities on display for the robot petting zoo at the South by Southwest interactive festival.
Jack Plunkett AP

Originally published on Wed March 18, 2015 4:43 pm

Robots can be scary. Dystopian films such as The Terminator tell the story of a world where robots take over.

But for some, robots are more like R2-D2, the cute bot from Star Wars. At this year's South by Southwest interactive festival, a petting zoo is aiming to evoke those same feelings. But, not just any petting zoo: a robot one.

BlabDroid is a small robot, less than a foot high, with bulldozer wheels, a cardboard body and a smile on his face. He's cute, but asks tough questions.

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Technology
2:38 pm
Mon March 9, 2015

Apple Reveals Details Behind Highly Anticipated Smart Watch

Originally published on Mon March 9, 2015 6:07 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

All Tech Considered
6:10 am
Sun March 8, 2015

Developers Continue Push To Make Virtual Reality Mainstream

MindMaze Software Engineer Nicolas Bourdaud demonstrates a virtual reality system at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Josh Edelson AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun March 8, 2015 10:09 pm

I had a lot of experiences this past week: I shot birds out of the sky with my eyes, my fingers were on fire, I flew on top of a drone over the arctic and looked into the jaws of a dragon.

I did all this without leaving San Francisco, at the 2015 Game Developers Conference, where the people who make the video games we love to play come to the city by the thousands to check out the latest hardware and software for making games.

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All Tech Considered
12:20 am
Fri February 27, 2015

Long Before Net Neutrality, Rules Leveled The Landscape For Phone Services

Operators at a Bell System telephone switchboard, as photographed by the Department of Labor Women's Bureau.
U.S. National Archives

Originally published on Mon March 2, 2015 6:59 am

Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to regulate access to the Internet as it would a public utility, under something called Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Critics of the FCC say it's an old, dusty law meant to apply to phone service, not the complexities of the modern Internet. But there are some parallels to the days when Title II was enacted.

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All Tech Considered
3:53 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Now You Can Sign Up To Keep Drones Away From Your Property

A staff member from DJI Technology Co. demonstrates a drone in Shenzhen, in southern China's Guangdong province. A new website lets people request that drones stay away from their property.
Kin Cheung AP

Originally published on Tue February 24, 2015 10:12 am

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Digital Life
2:59 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

Facebook Offers New Options For Digital Life After Death

Originally published on Thu February 12, 2015 4:26 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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All Tech Considered
4:10 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

Shake, Rattle And Toll: Berkeley's Bells Play Sounds Of Earth

In a project called "Natural Frequencies," the bells in the Campanile on the University of California, Berkeley campus were recently programmed to play a score composed in real time by the seismic shifts taking place along the Hayward fault.
Eric Risberg AP

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 6:04 am

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Technology
3:27 pm
Wed February 4, 2015

FCC Proposal Would Regulate Internet Like A Public Utility

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 7:40 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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All Tech Considered
3:04 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

Pro-ISIS Messages Create Dilemma For Social Media Companies

Zarine Khan (right) and Shafi Khan, parents of Mohammed Hamzah Khan, speak to reporters in Chicago Oct. 9 after a federal hearing for their 19-year-old son, accused of trying to join Islamic State militants in Syria.
Charles Rex Arbogast AP

Originally published on Fri January 30, 2015 9:46 am

According to law enforcement officials, ISIS and other terrorist organizations are increasingly adept at using social media to recruit from abroad. Last year alone, the FBI reports, around 20 American citizens were detained trying to travel to Syria to join militants fighting for the so-called Islamic State.

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The Record
1:59 am
Tue January 6, 2015

With Downloads In Decline, Can iTunes Adapt?

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs stands in front of a projection of iTunes at a presentation in 2004.
Ian Waldie Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 10:44 am

Apple's innovative iTunes music service is still the market leader in music downloads, but after more than a decade of growth, sales of music tracks on iTunes have been declining. Last year saw the largest drop in sales — 14 percent. The drop is attributed to the increasing popularity of streaming music services such as Spotify, Pandora and YouTube. These services give fans access to millions of tracks from any Internet-connected device for a monthly fee or in return for listening to commercials.

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All Tech Considered
5:26 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Hustle Behind The Wheel: What It's Like To Be An Uber Driver

Ride-hailing services like Uber have changed ground transportation for both passengers and drivers. As Uber rapidly grows, it becomes more difficult for its drivers to keep up with the hustle.
David Ramos Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 22, 2014 1:03 pm

The popular ride-hailing service Uber is valued at a staggering $40 billion — even though it's besieged by lawsuits, bad PR and outright bans in some cities.

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All Tech Considered
3:18 am
Fri December 12, 2014

Please Touch! Cooper Hewitt Creates A Museum For The Internet Age

Interactive touch screens at the newly redesigned Cooper Hewitt museum let visitors sort through the catalog and create their own designs.
Cooper Hewitt

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 12:00 pm

The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City collects the beautiful and practical — vintage Eames chairs, Jimi Hendrix posters, Victorian bird cages.

The museum, which is housed in the Andrew Carnegie mansion, is reopening after an extensive $81 million, three-year renovation — and the redesign has turned this historic building into one of the most technologically advanced museums in the country.

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Remembrances
2:39 pm
Mon December 8, 2014

Inventor Ralph Baer Was An American Success Story

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 8:49 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Today, a remembrance for a father of video games. He passed away this past Saturday at the age of 92. NPR's Laura Sydell tells us about an inventor named Ralph Baer.

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All Tech Considered
4:01 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Did You Hear? Going Viral No Longer Just For Videos, Memes

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 10:57 am

The idea of a blog entry or a video going viral on the Internet is a feature of modern life — from the cute cat video to the articles about a politician's gaffe.

But, much to our disappointment here at NPR, rarely does a clip of audio go viral. Recently there have been a few exceptions, though it's unclear whether that's a fluke or a new age of viral audio.

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Music News
3:13 am
Wed November 26, 2014

Pandora's New Deal: Different Pay, Different Play

David Lowery, of Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, says he's wary of the way Pandora pays for music.
Cooper Neill Getty Images

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 10:18 am

The Internet radio service Pandora made its name by creating personalized stations using tools such as "like" and "dislike" buttons for listeners. But a deal between Pandora and a group of record labels has raised concerns that the company is favoring certain songs over others because it's paying the musicians behind those songs a smaller royalty.

When Pandora emerged a decade ago, its big selling point over traditional radio was that it created a station just for you, as the company's Eric Bieschke told NPR last year.

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Technology
3:05 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Uber Executive Lashes Out At Journalists After Negative Publicity

Originally published on Tue November 18, 2014 4:32 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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All Tech Considered
2:28 pm
Fri November 14, 2014

Victims Of Online Threats Say Perpetrators Aren't Being Caught

Rebecca Watson says she has been disappointed by the police response to online threats against her.
Adam Isaak

Originally published on Fri November 14, 2014 4:34 pm

It is illegal to threaten someone online. But in recent weeks there have been a number of high-profile threats against women — among the targets were several feminist video game critics and an actress who starred in a video about street harassment of women.

But many victims of online threats say they are frustrated because the perpetrators are never caught.

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Business
3:30 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

Apple CEO Tim Cook Comes Out, Writing He's 'Proud To Be Gay'

Originally published on Fri October 31, 2014 11:03 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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All Tech Considered
4:28 pm
Mon October 27, 2014

I've Got The Ingredients. What Should I Cook? Ask IBM's Watson

Chef Watson generates recipes for the user based on the ingredients the person has on hand, what type of food he would like to cook and a person's dietary restrictions.
Courtesy of IBM

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 11:31 am

IBM's Watson computer has amused and surprised humans by winning at Jeopardy! Now, one of the world's smartest machines is taking on chefs.

Well, not exactly. Watson is being used by chefs to come up with new and exciting recipes in a feat that could turn out to be useful for people with dietary restrictions and for managing food shortages.

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All Tech Considered
1:21 am
Fri October 17, 2014

Silicon Valley Companies Add New Benefit For Women: Egg-Freezing

A technician opens a vessel containing women's frozen egg cells in April 2011 in Amsterdam.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 11:10 am

In the Silicon Valley arms race to lure the top talent with the best benefits, Facebook and Apple are adding egg freezing for female employees. The two companies may be the first to pay for the procedure for women who choose it to delay childbearing.

The addition of egg-freezing to the benefits plan comes as tech companies face mounting pressure to hire more women. And it's a perk that some women may find attractive.

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All Tech Considered
4:17 am
Sat October 11, 2014

Twitter Is Suing The U.S. Over Free Speech (Its Own)

Twitter is suing the federal government over First Amendment rights. The tech company says the government stopped it from releasing extra detail about government requests for user information.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue October 14, 2014 9:28 am

Twitter filed a lawsuit against the federal government this week over First Amendment rights, marking the latest round in a battle between tech companies and the government over how much they can reveal about government requests for their user information.

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All Tech Considered
1:28 am
Mon October 6, 2014

The Forgotten Female Programmers Who Created Modern Tech

Jean Jennings (left) and Frances Bilas set up the ENIAC in 1946. Bilas is arranging the program settings on the Master Programmer.
Courtesy of University of Pennsylvania

Originally published on Wed November 12, 2014 10:35 am

If your image of a computer programmer is a young man, there's a good reason: It's true. Recently, many big tech companies revealed how few of their female employees worked in programming and technical jobs. Google had some of the highest rates: 17 percent of its technical staff is female.

It wasn't always this way. Decades ago, it was women who pioneered computer programming — but too often, that's a part of history that even the smartest people don't know.

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Business
7:09 am
Sat September 27, 2014

Amazon's Original Content Primes The Pump For Bigger Sales

Amazon recently premiered its new dramedy Transparent. The massive retailer is banking on its original TV content to rope in new customers.
Charley Gallay Getty Images for Amazon Studios

Originally published on Sat September 27, 2014 11:43 am

Amazon is betting that binge-watching will lead to more online buying. On Friday, the company put up all 10 episodes of a highly anticipated series called Transparent, a show about a transgender parent coming out to her children — just one of a spate of original movies and TV shows coming out this year.

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Business
2:12 pm
Fri September 26, 2014

Cab Competition In San Francisco Benefits Riders

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 3:51 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Technology
2:34 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Minecraft Purchase Gives Microsoft New Foothold

Originally published on Mon September 15, 2014 8:59 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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All Tech Considered
1:34 am
Tue September 9, 2014

Size Matters: Why Apple Is Expected To Unveil A Bigger iPhone

The Samsung Galaxy Mega (from left), Samsung Galaxy S4 and Apple iPhone 5 are shown. Apple is expected to announce larger models of its smartphone on Tuesday.
Richard Drew AP

Originally published on Tue September 9, 2014 9:04 am

You may have noticed that after years of getting smaller, smartphones are getting bigger. It's a trend that's mostly been led by Samsung. Apple's late CEO, Steve Jobs, famously knocked the idea that people wanted larger phones. But on Tuesday, Apple is expected to announce bigger iPhones and is relenting to the reality that we're talking less on our phones and using them more like a mini computer.

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All Tech Considered
2:36 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

In E-Book Price War, Amazon's Long-Term Strategy Requires Short-Term Risks

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wants to sell all e-books for $9.99, while the publisher Hachette wants to vary the prices.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri September 5, 2014 11:10 am

Since May, Amazon and the publisher Hachette have been locked in a battle over the pricing of e-books. For customers it's meant that they can't pre-order books from authors such as J.K. Rowling and James Patterson. And it's upset many authors because it's made their work less available. But Amazon is willing to upset some customers and authors as it pursues a long-term strategy for books.

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Business
4:21 am
Wed September 3, 2014

Nude Photos Hack Wasn't Broad Attack On Apple Services

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 6:22 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Business
3:09 am
Tue August 26, 2014

Amazon Makes A Big Move Into The World Of Online Gaming

Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 9:47 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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