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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All Tech Considered
1:01 pm
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 Sat October 11, 2014 9:39 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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Race
2:41 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

In Hashtag Protest, 'Black Twitter' Shows Its Strength

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 6:14 pm

Following the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, many young African-Americans posted pictures of themselves on Twitter under the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. They were protesting the damaging ways in which young black men like Brown are often portrayed in the media. The response demonstrated the scope of what's informally known as Black Twitter, a virtual community of African-American Twitter users.

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All Tech Considered
1:20 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Using A 3-D Version Of Rodin's Hands To Understand Anatomy

Rodin's Left Hand of Eustache de St. Pierre, during the scanning process (from left); computer image created from the scan; inner anatomy; and exterior scan and inner anatomy combined for an augmented reality view of the sculpture.
Photo by Matthew Hasel, render by Sarah Hegmann, Division of Clinical Anatomy, Stanford School of Medicine

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 5:07 pm

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Music News
1:02 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Reach For The Sky, YouTube: Music Service In Standoff

A still from Vampire Weekend's "Diane Young" music video, which has received more than 3 million views on YouTube.
YouTube

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 8:41 am

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All Tech Considered
2:21 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

As Drones Fly In Cities And Yards, So Do The Complaints

Merrill uses a drone to take aerial shots of Santa Cruz, Calif.
Courtesy of David Merrill

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 7:25 am

The price of drones is dropping — a decent one could cost you $300 — but the reality of the devices flying around cities and neighborhoods doesn't sit well with a lot of Americans.

Are they just paranoid?

Three months ago, when Michael Kirschner and his wife purchased a new condo in San Francisco, they were not concerned about drones. They fell in love with the unit because of its big picture windows.

"You have a view that reaches all the way out to the Golden Gate Bridge," Kirschner says.

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All Tech Considered
1:59 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

You Love The Cloud, But It May Not Be As Secure As You Think

If you're storing your digital belongings in the cloud, you should know you're giving up some rights.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri April 25, 2014 4:15 pm

People are storing more and more stuff online: photos, music, personal documents — even books. The business of cloud storage is growing 30 percent a year, Forrester Research says. But if you're storing your digital belongings in the cloud, you should know you're giving up some rights.

A year ago, I talked to Kyle Goodwin about one of those scary computer moments — he was saving important videos from his business to an external hard drive.

"Right in the middle of a save, I knocked it off my coffee table and it hit the floor and it's destroyed," he said.

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All Tech Considered
1:22 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

A Video Game Meant To Take Us Back To The Physical World

People gather to play Ingress in Austin, Texas. The video game has been downloaded 2 million times and is popular in the U.S. and Europe.
Niantic Labs

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 11:38 am

Mobile phones and computer screens can distract us from engagement in the real world and that's been especially true of video games. But, there's an innovative game being played around the globe that's designed to use the same technologies to get its players more engaged with each other and the physical world.

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Business
7:08 am
Thu March 27, 2014

No Sugar High For Wall Street: Candy Crush Maker's IPO Disappoints

A banner for the mobile gaming company King Digital Entertainment is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange during King's initial public offering.
Andrew Burton Getty Images

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 9:18 am

Candy Crush is played by trying to line up at least three of the same color of candies.

In February, an average of 144 million daily active users got sucked in to the challenge.

Candy Crush is one of more than 180 games made by King Digital Entertainment, and it alone brought in three-quarters of the company's revenue in the last quarter of 2013.

Roger Kay, president of research firm Endpoint Technologies Associates, says to a lot of investors, the game seemed like Farmville, the hit game by Zynga that Zynga can't seem to repeat.

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All Tech Considered
12:02 pm
Sun March 16, 2014

Goggles Bring Virtual Reality Closer To Your Living Room

The Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles make for an immersive experience.
Nan Palmero Flickr

Originally published on Mon March 17, 2014 12:53 pm

Going back to ancient times, the aim of storytellers has been to immerse us in an experience — of another place, time or point of view. This past week at the South by Southwest film, music and technology conferences in Austin, storytellers and great technologists showed off new ways to take us beyond cinema, or TV or even traditional video games. One of the most compelling experiences came via the Oculus Rift, a set of virtual reality goggles.

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Music
10:02 am
Wed March 12, 2014

Kickstarter Campaign Begins For Neil Young's Music Player

Visually, the Pono player is a relic, but what matters is how it sounds — better than any consumer device for listening to digital audio, according to founder Neil Young.
PonoMusic

Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 7:16 am

Amid the thousands promoting new music at this week's SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, one artist took to the stage Tuesday to promote a new way to hear it. Before a crowd at the Austin Convention Center, Neil Young launched a Kickstarter campaign to support his long-planned high fidelity music player and online store, Pono.

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All Tech Considered
10:02 am
Fri February 28, 2014

A Win For Fair Use After Record Label, Copyright Lawyer Settle

Law professor Lawrence Lessig has reached a settlement with an Australian record label that tried to sue him for infringement.
Neilson Barnard Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 6:17 pm

An Australian record label that threatened to sue one of the world's most famous copyright attorneys for infringement has reached a settlement with him.

The settlement includes an admission that Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor, had the right to use a song by the band Phoenix.

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All Tech Considered
9:21 am
Wed February 26, 2014

iOS 6 Users Left In The Lurch After Security Flaw Discovered

Still using Apple's iOS 6? You may be counting on luck to protect your iPhone from a serious security flaw.
Michael Nagle Getty Images

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 7:15 am

As has been widely reported, Apple recently discovered a critical bug in its iOS and OS systems.

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The Record
1:06 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 4:58 pm

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All Tech Considered
2:04 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 2:36 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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Microsoft
3:21 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 7:23 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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