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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The Record
2:22 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

In The Digital Era, Hit Songs Aren't Everything

American Idol winner Phillip Phillips, whose song, "Gone, Gone, Gone," went to No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100. Each time it's played in public, the song's writers get a royalty, which is tracked and collected by ASCAP. Bigger hits usually translate into bigger checks.
Buda Mendes Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 13, 2014 5:58 pm

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All Tech Considered
3:13 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

That's Just Like 'Her': Could We Ever Love A Computer?

Joaquin Phoenix stars in the film Her, in which his character falls in love with an operating system. When will artificial intelligence programs like Siri evolve to the point where we'll fall in love with them?
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 3:36 pm

The film Her, about a man who falls in love with his computerized personal assistant, has been nominated for five Oscars including best picture. It takes place at an unspecified time in the future when computer voices sound like Scarlett Johansson instead of Siri. This made me wonder if it was really possible to fall in love with an artificially intelligent being.

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All Tech Considered
2:10 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

What Bill Gates' New Role Could Mean For Microsoft

As Satya Nadella becomes the new CEO of Microsoft, company founder Bill Gates is moving from chairman to "technology adviser."
Bebeto Matthews AP

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 8:23 pm

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is stepping down as chairman of its board and into a new role, which the company is calling "technology adviser." The change comes as a new CEO — Satya Nadella — takes the helm. Gates says he will actually be spending a little more time at Microsoft. Microsoft watchers say if he manages his new role well, it will be good for the company.

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All Tech Considered
2:48 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Small Cinemas Struggle As Film Fades Out Of The Picture

The Roxie Theater in San Francisco still has two 35 millimeter projectors, but the switch to digital is inevitable.
Laura Sydell NPR

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 6:00 pm

Cinema owners who don't have a digital projector in their movie house can't show Paramount Pictures' latest release: The Wolf of Wall Street. This year Paramount became the first big studio to distribute a major release in the U.S. entirely in a digital format, and other studios are likely to follow.

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All Tech Considered
2:28 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Retailers Can Wait To Tell You Your Card Data Have Been Compromised

The security breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus have raised questions over how quickly companies are required to disclose that customer information was hacked.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 3:32 pm

You might think that retailers have to let you know right away if they get hacked and someone steals your account information.

But recent disclosures by Target and Neiman Marcus that their networks were hacked, and data about their consumers were stolen, have raised questions about how quickly merchants need to alert their customers.

In the case of Neiman Marcus, the company may have had evidence of a breach as far back as July. But the law is a bit murky on just how quickly companies need to let customers know.

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Technology
4:36 am
Wed January 15, 2014

Court: FCC Can't Enforce Net Neutrality

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 5:30 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Over the years, Americans have grown used to getting anything they want when they want it on the Internet. But yesterday a federal appeals court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission cannot require Internet providers to offer unfettered access. It was Verizon that brought the case against the FCC. The ruling could have far-reaching implications for what's known as net neutrality. Here's NPR's Laura Sydell to help us out with what all this means. Welcome.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Hello. Good morning.

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Law
3:12 pm
Tue January 14, 2014

Appeals Court Strikes Down Open Internet Rules

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 4:33 pm

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court struck down Federal Communications Commission rules that would prevent Internet service providers from restricting usage on their networks and charging companies and users more for faster service. Critics say that this will create a two-tiered Internet that will favor those who can pay.

Business
4:21 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Google Buys Home Automation Company Nest

Originally published on Tue January 14, 2014 7:53 am

On Monday, Google announced it had purchased Nest Labs for $3.2 billion. Nest is focused on the "automated home" concept, making smoke detectors and thermostats that connect to the Internet. Google's purchase signals a strong interest in this arena.

All Tech Considered
3:52 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Game Over For Nintendo? Not If Mario And Zelda Fans Keep Playing

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 3:09 pm

Some analysts say that Nintendo's days are numbered. Holiday sales of its new console, the Wii U, have been lackluster compared to Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4.

But since Nintendo still offers some of the most popular game franchises, the love of Zelda and Mario may keep the company going for a long time.

In preparation for this story, I put out a call to talk to die-hard Nintendo fans. I was inundated with responses. Among them, Brian White, 30, grew up playing the Zelda games.

Now he's got a daughter. "We named her Zelda," he says.

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Business
2:59 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Class Trumps Race When It Comes To Internet Access

Smartphones offer a way for lower-income people who don't have broadband access at home to connect to the Internet.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 4:56 am

A new study from the Pew Research Center finds that age and income play a larger role than race when it comes to high-speed Internet access. Lower-income African-Americans often buy smartphones to compensate for not having a broadband connection at home. Smartphones, however, may not be enough.

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All Tech Considered
1:23 am
Mon December 30, 2013

Hot On YouTube: Videos About Video Games, And Science, Too

A screengrab of a YouTube video of the game Walking Dead from the Swedish gamer known as PewDiePie. Videos of people offering commentary while playing video games are wildly popular on YouTube.
YouTube/PewDiePie

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 8:34 am

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All Tech Considered
1:04 am
Wed December 18, 2013

What It's Like To Live On Low Pay In A Land Of Plenty

Manny Cardenas, seen here with his 5-year-old daughter Zoe, has earned $16 an hour as a part-time security guard at Google.
Laura Sydell NPR

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 11:11 am

This week, we're exploring the San Francisco Bay Area and the way income inequality is affecting the region. Check out the other pieces of the week, aggregated on this page.

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All Tech Considered
5:45 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Wireless Companies, FCC Reach Deal On 'Unlocking' Cellphones

U.S. wireless carriers reached a deal with the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday that will make it easier for consumers to "unlock" their mobile phones and use them on a competitor's network.

The deal came in the wake of a consumer rebellion over the policy of locking cellphones to a carrier. A petition that garnered more than 114,000 signatures landed at the White House, and the Obama administration sided with the petitioners.

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All Tech Considered
3:22 am
Thu December 12, 2013

Amid Cuts And Tax Hikes, Tech Companies Get Love in Ireland

Tech companies around the world have set up shop in the financial district in Dublin, Ireland.
Peter Muhly AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 6:47 am

Ireland is about to become the first European country to emerge from an international bailout in the wake of the financial crisis. Like other European countries, Ireland has been in a period of austerity — higher taxes and more cutbacks.

The nation's technology sector has been protected, however, as Ireland makes a concerted effort to attract foreign businesses through tax incentives and development programs.

But Ireland's methods have also been criticized — locally and internationally.

Apple In Ireland

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All Tech Considered
12:49 am
Fri November 29, 2013

For Advocacy Groups, Video Games Are The Next Frontier

A screenshot of Half the Sky, where virtual successes sometimes lead to real-life donations.
Games For Change

Originally published on Sun December 1, 2013 2:07 pm

Movies and books have long been used to advocate for causes, such as climate change or breast cancer. As video games become more mainstream, advocates are beginning to see how this art form can be a new way to reach out and get people engaged in a cause.

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All Tech Considered
11:37 am
Fri November 15, 2013

Will New PlayStation, Xbox Click Beyond The Hard-Core Gamer?

The Sony PlayStation 4 sells for $399.
Pablo Blazquez Dominguez Getty Images

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 6:07 pm

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Business
2:50 am
Fri November 15, 2013

Judge: Google's Book Copying Doesn't Violate Copyright Law

Originally published on Fri November 15, 2013 8:49 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Google won a key victory in a nearly decade-long lawsuit over fair use of the collections of works at the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress and various other university libraries. A U.S. circuit court judge in Manhattan found Google's project to digitally copy millions of books for online searches does not violate copyright law.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Google began scanning books back in 2004, many of the works were by living authors.

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All Tech Considered
3:52 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

What Today's Online Sharing Companies Can Learn From Napster

Napster founder Shawn Fanning in February 2001, after a ruling that the free Internet-based service must stop allowing copyrighted material to be shared.
Paul Sakuma AP

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 7:02 pm

This week on-air and online, the tech team is exploring the sharing economy. You'll find the stories on this blog and aggregated at this link, and we would love to hear your questions about the topic. Just email, leave a comment or tweet.

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All Tech Considered
2:49 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

Raising Social Media Teens Means Constant Parental Learning

The Ask.fm website has been linked to two bullying cases that led to suicides.
Danny E. Martindale Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 31, 2013 1:13 pm

This week on All Tech, we're exploring kids and technology with posts and radio pieces about raising digital natives. Look back at the stories and share your thoughts and ideas in the comments, by email or

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Business
2:03 am
Fri October 18, 2013

AOL Takes No. 1 Spot For Online Video Ads

Originally published on Fri October 18, 2013 10:23 am

AOL, an online company many had given up for dead, is making a comeback. It recently acquired Adap.TV, a company that automates the purchase of video ads. And in September, it topped Google in one category: it had the most video ads watched, with 3.7 billion views.

All Tech Considered
12:57 am
Fri October 11, 2013

3-D Printing A Masterwork For Your Living Room

Cosmo Wenman generated this 3-D model of the Ares Borghese, based on hundreds of photos, from the Basel Sculpture Hall. Wenman publishes the scans online, so that anyone can use them to 3-D print a replica of the masterpiece.
Courtesy of Cosmo Wenman

Originally published on Fri October 11, 2013 10:22 am

You may never be able to get to Italy to see Michelangelo's David — but advances in 3-D printing technology are making it possible for you to create an almost perfect replica.

It's an idea that Cosmo Wenman is hoping will catch on. He's pushing the edges of how 3-D printing can be used to make classic works accessible.

I followed Wenman on an excursion to the Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University. These days, a lot of museums let people take photos of art, and Wenman takes a lot of them.

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Business
2:44 am
Thu October 10, 2013

Ad Dollars Follow Consumer Eyeballs To Smartphones, Tablets

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 5:39 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

OK. You might already know this if you spend some time on the Internet, but revenue for online advertising is way up - reaching more than $20 billion in the first half of 2013 - that's an almost 20 percent hike from the same period last year, according to a report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

As NPR's Laura Sydell reports, ads on mobile devices are growing the fastest.

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All Tech Considered
4:05 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Calif. Bans Jilted Lovers From Posting 'Revenge Porn' Online

Originally published on Thu October 3, 2013 10:08 am

After a breakup, raw feelings can set off a desire for revenge. Some jilted lovers have taken to posting intimate pictures of a former partner on the Internet. It's a phenomenon known as "revenge porn," and on Monday, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law making it a crime.

The new law is a victory to Holly Jacobs, who was a victim of revenge porn. Jacobs went through what sounds like a typical boy-meets-girl story of falling in and out of love. The first year of the relationship, Jacobs and her partner lived in the same city, but she left to go to graduate school in Miami.

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All Tech Considered
2:01 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

Record Label Picks Copyright Fight — With The Wrong Guy

Law professor Lawrence Lessig, shown here in 2009, is suing an Australian record label for threatening to sue him over an alleged YouTube copyright violation.
Neilson Barnard Getty Images

Originally published on Fri September 27, 2013 3:32 pm

An Australian record label may have picked a fight with the wrong guy. The label sent a standard takedown notice threatening to sue after YouTube computers spotted its music in a video.

It turns out that video was posted by one of the most famous copyright attorneys in the world, and Lawrence Lessig is suing back.

Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor, has lectured around the world about how copyright law needs to adapt to the Internet age. In his lecture, he shows examples of people who have used the Internet to "share their culture and remix other people's creations."

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All Tech Considered
3:38 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

Fake Reviewers Get Zero Stars From New York Attorney General

Some reputation management companies required that its writers have a certain number of Yelp friends. Yelp says it welcomed the New York attorney general's crackdown on fake reviewers.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed September 25, 2013 10:04 am

No doubt most of you reading this post have looked at Yelp or Google+ Local to check the user reviews before you tried that fish store, bakery or even dentist. On occasion, you may have wondered if some of those reviews were too good to be true.

It turns out that some of them were.

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All Tech Considered
2:27 am
Fri September 20, 2013

Female Fans Love New Grand Theft Auto Despite Demeaning Content

A close view of the packaging of Grand Theft Auto V at the midnight opening at the HMV music store in London on Tuesday. It made history with a record $800 million in sales on its first day. This version continues to generate controversy over its glorification of violence, drugs and its demeaning portraits of women.
Leon Neal AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri September 20, 2013 12:02 pm

Grand Theft Auto made video game history this week: The latest version of the game had a record $800 million in sales on its first day. As with past versions, the game is generating controversy over its glorification of violence and drugs and its demeaning portrayal of women.

But around 15 percent of its fans are women, who find much to like about the game, even if they do have some ambivalence about it.

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Business
2:58 am
Fri September 13, 2013

Twitter Files For Initial Public Offering

Twitter announced via Tweet Thursday that it's launching its long awaited initial public offering. It will be the most high profile IPO since Facebook went public last year. But Twitter hopes to avoid the mishaps that's marred Facebook's stock market debut.

All Tech Considered
3:18 am
Thu September 12, 2013

Long Before Most, Intel Chased The Smart Watch

The Microma watch was the first watch with a liquid crystal display, but the limited technology of the time prevented Intel from achieving much else with it.
Courtesy of Intel

In the past couple of weeks, several major companies — Samsung, Sony, Qualcomm — have announced they will release smart watches this fall. As the name suggests, the gadgets do more than keep time.

The latest spate of computerized watches promise to do everything from working as a phone to taking photos and fielding emails. Smart watches have actually been around for a long time, but they've never really taken off as a product.

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The Record
10:28 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

What Does A Song That Costs $5 Sound Like?

Cookie Marenco records musicians on a small remote recording console live at the California Audio Show in August. She'll demonstrate the quality of DSD to the audience by playing back her recording. How close will it sound to the live performance? Very close, according to people present.
Cindy Carpien

Originally published on Wed September 11, 2013 10:04 am

Last week, Sony Corporation announced a new line of high-end audio components that promise to deliver a better online audio experience. The announcement comes amid growing evidence that music fans are tired of the crappy sound they hear on their portable music players. Case in point is the success of Cookie Marenco's business of selling super high-definition music downloads.

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Law
2:57 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

Basic Internet Economics At Stake In Net Neutrality Suit

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 3:20 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. Time now for All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME MUSIC)

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