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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4:05pm

Wed June 17, 2015
All Tech Considered

Gaming Industry Pushes Virtual Reality, But Content Lags

Originally published on Wed June 17, 2015 7:23 pm

An attendee at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles plays Sony's Project Morpheus London Heist video game with a virtual reality headset and Move controllers.
Lucy Nicholson Reuters/Landov

Video game makers are in Los Angeles this week showing off their latest releases. Along with updates of big franchises like Tomb Raider, game developers are showcasing immersive virtual reality games. But virtual reality may not inspire love at first sight when it starts hitting the consumer market.

Even if you haven't played a video game, it's likely I could describe it to you pretty vividly because you've played other video games. But with virtual reality, there isn't much out there yet to try.

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3:38pm

Thu June 11, 2015
The Two-Way

Apple's New Music Streaming Service Under Antitrust Scrutiny

Apple announced its new music streaming service during the Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this month in San Francisco.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

The same day that Apple did a splashy, star-studded introduction to its new Apple Music subscription streaming service, New York's attorney general posted a letter from attorneys for Universal Music Group indicating that prosecutors are looking at the streaming music business and that Apple is one of the companies being investigated.

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3:35pm

Fri June 5, 2015
All Tech Considered

Apple's Cook Takes Rivals To Task Over Data Privacy

Originally published on Fri June 5, 2015 6:47 pm

Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks in New York on April 30. This week, he said some of Silicon Valley's most prominent companies have "built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information."
Richard Drew AP

Apple CEO Tim Cook made headlines this week when he lashed out at rival tech companies for selling people's personal data. He didn't mention Google, Facebook or Twitter by name, but it's pretty clear those were the companies he meant. But is Apple faultless on privacy issues?

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3:23am

Tue May 26, 2015
All Tech Considered

Live Video Apps Like Periscope Make Life Even Less Private

Originally published on Wed May 27, 2015 11:19 am

With the Periscope app, owned by Twitter, it's easy for smartphone users to stream their own video live.
Chris Jackson Getty Images

Cameras are ubiquitous — from the ones in our cellphones to the security cams in parking lots and shops. And just when you thought it couldn't get harder to hide, live-streaming video is raising new questions about privacy.

Streaming video cameras aren't new, but new apps have made it super easy to stream from a smartphone. Periscope is popular because it can be streamed on Twitter, which recently purchased the app.

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5:02pm

Fri April 24, 2015
All Tech Considered

At The Heart Of A Watch, Tested By Time

Originally published on Sat April 25, 2015 4:55 pm

The author, modeling her mother's watch.
Laura Sydell NPR

When my mother passed away, I was by her side in a peaceful, sunny room at a hospice in South Florida. The sliding glass doors looked out to a flourishing garden filled with bougainvillea, rosebushes and carefully cultivated grasses. A block of sunlight, alive with swirling dust, hit the edge of my mother's bed where the tops of her small bony feet made a lump under the light cotton covers.

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6:23pm

Mon April 20, 2015
All Tech Considered

At 50 Years Old, The Challenge To Keep Up With Moore's Law

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 9:40 pm

Intel Corp. co-founder Gordon Moore holds up a silicon wafer at Intel headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., in 2005. Moore's prediction 50 years ago, called Moore's Law, has been the basis for the digital revolution.
Paul Sakuma AP

Fifty years ago this week, a chemist in what is now Silicon Valley published a paper that set the groundwork for the digital revolution.

You may never have heard of Moore's law, but it has a lot do with why you will pay about the same price for your next computer, smartphone or tablet, even though it will be faster and have better screen resolution than the last one.

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9:48am

Sun April 12, 2015
All Tech Considered

Once The Cream Of The Crop, Zynga Zigzags To Adapt To Mobile

Originally published on Sun April 12, 2015 11:01 am

Zynga CEO Mark Pincus gives a presentation in 2011.
Jeff Chiu AP

Remember those days of tending rows of virtual soybeans and strawberries on your Facebook page with a game called Farmville? It was a moment, and Zynga, the company that makes the game, cashed in when it went public back in 2011.

Now, Zynga is losing money and its founder is back, to mixed reviews.

When Zynga launched Farmville in 2009, it surprised everyone with its success. It quickly became the most popular game on Facebook.

But people got bored with planting seeds on a desktop. The market had moved to mobile, and Zynga didn't keep up.

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5:15pm

Mon April 6, 2015
All Tech Considered

Artists In Residence Give High-Tech Projects A Human Touch

Originally published on Tue April 7, 2015 9:39 am

Artists in the residency program at Autodesk are given access to production-quality equipment in workshops, allowing them space to create at-will.
Blake Marvin Courtesy of Autodesk

You may want your kid to major in something practical at college, like engineering, so they can land one of those great jobs at a big tech company. But, you might also urge them to spend time studying the arts. Some tech companies are bringing in artists to help them work out ideas and build cool new things.

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8:07pm

Fri March 27, 2015
Law

After Resuming Deliberations, Jury Rules In Favor Of Kleiner Perkins

Originally published on Mon March 30, 2015 11:20 am

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/.

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8:10am

Sun March 8, 2015
All Tech Considered

Developers Continue Push To Make Virtual Reality Mainstream

Originally published on Mon March 9, 2015 12:09 am

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

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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4:57pm

Thu February 12, 2015
Digital Life

Facebook Offers New Options For Digital Life After Death

Originally published on Thu February 12, 2015 6:26 pm

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

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5:40pm

Mon February 9, 2015
All Tech Considered

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

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 8:04 am

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

5:59pm

Wed February 4, 2015
Technology

FCC Proposal Would Regulate Internet Like A Public Utility

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 9:40 am

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

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5:40pm

Thu January 29, 2015
All Tech Considered

Pro-ISIS Messages Create Dilemma For Social Media Companies

Originally published on Fri January 30, 2015 11:46 am

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

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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3:59am

Tue January 6, 2015
The Record

With Downloads In Decline, Can iTunes Adapt?

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 12:44 pm

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

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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