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.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the man who invented recorded sound — Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville. He beat the more well-known inventor Thomas Edison by 20 years, though his accomplishments were only recognized over the last decade.

While the uses of recorded sound seem obvious now — music, news, voice messages — none of it was obvious to Scott or Edison when they made the first recordings. It's a story that has some lessons for today's aspiring inventors.

Google offered a glimpse of how it sees the future at its annual developer's conference this week. And it involves a lot of blending between the virtual and the real worlds using augmented and virtual reality. Google is calling that blend immersive computing.

Clay Bavor, who heads up Google's AR and VR division, says it's all part of a future where the virtual and real worlds blur.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Video of a murder uploaded to Facebook this week upset many users, especially since it took Facebook two hours to take it down. But the incident illustrates a dilemma for the company as it becomes an open platform for both recorded and livestreamed video.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was contrite about the incident when he appeared on stage at the company's F8 developer's conference.

It's been lean times for some of YouTube's most popular video producers. In the last two weeks ad rates have gone down as much as 75 percent. The producers are caught up in a struggle between advertisers and YouTube over ad placement.

In recent weeks, reports showed ads from major brands placed with extremist and anti-Semitic videos. Companies such as General Motors, Audi and McDonald's pulled out of YouTube. That means there's less money for everyone.

Now YouTube is trying to convince these companies to come back. And that's meant adjusting the algorithm that places ads.

It's daunting to think about the number of products Apple has created that have transformed how most people use technology: the original Mac with the first mass-produced mouse, the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad.

But fast-forward to 2017, and it appears that a lot of innovation is coming from other companies. Amazon has a hit with its Echo, a speaker device that responds to voice commands. Reviewers say Microsoft's Surface competes with the Mac. And now, Samsung's Galaxy S8 smartphone is getting raves because of its battery life and high-end screen.

There's a new brand on the Internet that's taking over some old ones — or at least old in Internet years. Yahoo and AOL are now under an umbrella company called Oath. The new brand has sparked more than a few jokes on Twitter and elsewhere.

One critic pointed out it sounded a lot like Oaf — and another asked if "Oof" was already taken. But with more than a billion customers, the combination has potential.

AOL CEO — soon to be Oath CEO — Tim Armstrong says consumers aren't really going to hear that name very much.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Donald Trump frequently boasts about starting a movement, and sociologists say they are seeing unprecedented grass-roots activism across the country. They credit Trump for inspiring people to become politically engaged on the right — and even more so on the left. And many of those activists are brand new to the scene.

There are renewed efforts at the state level to pass so-called religious freedom bills. LGBTQ rights advocates believe that's because local lawmakers are anticipating support from the Trump administration.

In Alabama, there's a bill that allows adoption agencies that are religiously affiliated to hold true to their faith if they don't think same-sex couples should be parents. The psychiatric community has found no evidence that having same-sex parents harms children.

It was a dramatic market entry for the iPhone 7 last year. Many Apple customers grumbled when Apple took away the headphone jack and gave everyone an adapter to plug earbuds into the Lightning, or charging, connector.

But everyone seems to have adjusted. Apple sold 78 million iPhones over the holiday season.

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, is among the tech firms that are critical of the Trump administration's executive order barring Muslim immigrants from certain countries. This weekend, Google co-founder Sergey Brin took part in protests at the San Francisco International Airport.

An article in an online publication accusing Facebook of suppressing the Women's March in its trending topics caused a little tempest on social media over the weekend. Facebook says it did not intentionally block any story and is revealing a new way its trending-topics algorithm will now operate.

Apple, the company known for its devices, has plans to start making original movies and television programming, Hollywood insiders tell NPR. Hollywood seems to be happy to have Apple enter the game, but some say the company will face some challenges.

When producer Sid Ganis first heard that Apple wanted to make TV and movies, "I thought to myself, 'What? And why?' "

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are now working as contractors for the rapidly growing ride-hailing industry, specifically for the largest companies, Uber and Lyft. But a new survey, released this week, finds that Lyft, with its fluorescent pink mustache symbol, is more popular with drivers.

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