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
4:58 pm
Mon August 19, 2013

Combining The Nation's Digitized Libraries, All In One Place

The San Francisco Public Library has been digitizing its historical document collections for years, including the scrapbooks of famed homicide detective Theodore Kytka. The SFPL is among scores of libraries and archives adding their digital collections to the DPLA.
Via San Francisco Public Library

Part of a series, Keys To The Whole World: American Public Libraries

Buried in the archives of America's public and academic libraries are historical treasures — old papers, photos and records — that flesh out a detailed picture of our past.

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All Tech Considered
3:28 am
Wed August 7, 2013

Amazon Enters Art World; Galleries Say They Aren't Worried

Amazon said its new art marketplace will provide access to more than 40,000 works of art from at least 150 galleries and dealers.
Amazon.com

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 9:35 am

Local record and book shops have been disappearing as the market for music and literature moves online. In the past few years, there's been a growth in sites that sell fine art on the Internet. On Tuesday, Amazon joined that market. But in this case, many brick and mortar galleries aren't seeing the Internet as a threat.

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All Tech Considered
4:37 pm
Mon August 5, 2013

Trade Case Puts Apple In Washington's Sights

The U.S. Trade Representative has overturned a ban on the import of the iPhone 4 and the iPad 2.
David Paul Morris Getty Images

Originally published on Mon August 5, 2013 5:08 pm

Apple has been notoriously disinterested in Washington politics. But two decisions coming from the Obama administration in the past few days indicate that Washington is increasingly interested in Apple.

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All Tech Considered
1:04 am
Mon July 15, 2013

How Hackers Tapped Into My Cellphone For Less Than $300

It's easier — and cheaper — than you'd expect to hack a cellphone, say a team of white hat hackers.
iStockPhoto.com

Originally published on Mon July 15, 2013 6:57 am

In the wake of the National Security Agency cyber-spying revelations, you may be worrying about the government keeping track of your digital life. But, for less than $300, a group of ordinary hackers found a way to tap right into Verizon cellphones.

This is a group of good-guy, or "white hat", hackers. They hacked the phones to warn wireless carriers that the phones have a security flaw.

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Remembrances
2:01 am
Thu July 4, 2013

Douglas Engelbart Dies At 88, Invented Computer Mouse

Originally published on Thu July 4, 2013 7:48 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And a remembrance, now. The, a computer visionary best known for inventing the mouse has died. As NPR's Laura Sydell reports, the mouse was just one small piece of what Douglas Engelbart contributed to the development of personal computers.

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Business
2:04 am
Thu June 27, 2013

$99 Game Console Ouya Aims To Take Down Barriers To Fans

The Ouya game console and controller. Games are sold through something like an app store, allowing customers to sample them before buying.
Courtesy of Ouya

Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 10:37 am

Sony and Microsoft are preparing to launch their latest gaming consoles this fall with price tags from $400 for the PlayStation 4 and $500 for the Xbox One. But this week, a $99 game console went on sale and sold out at Target and Amazon.

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Business
3:30 am
Tue June 4, 2013

Apple: Price-Fixing Charges 'Not True'

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 2:29 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Lawyers for Apple will be back in court today, defending the company against government charges that it conspired with publishers to fix eBook prices. All the major publishing houses settled months ago with the Justice Department.

But as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, Apple's lawyer told the court the company won't settle because it did nothing wrong.

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All Tech Considered
3:28 pm
Mon May 20, 2013

With New Xbox, Microsoft Makes A Bigger Play For Living Room

An Xbox 360 video presentation at the E3 Media and Business Summit in Los Angeles in 2008. Microsoft is scheduled to introduce its newest Xbox on Tuesday.
Ric Francis AP

Originally published on Mon May 20, 2013 7:00 pm

Microsoft hasn't exactly had a great couple of years.

Its new Windows 8 operating system was held responsible for the drop in PC sales last quarter. Sales of its Windows Phones lag far behind both the iPhone and Google's Android phones.

The light in the darkness for Microsoft has been the Xbox 360, which has been the top-selling game console for over two years — beating out both the Nintendo Wii and Sony's PlayStation. On Tuesday, Microsoft is expected to announce a new version of the Xbox.

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The Record
2:40 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Google Launches A Streaming Music Service

Chris Yerga, engineering director for Android at Google Inc., speaks at the company's I/O Annual Developers Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.
David Paul Morris Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on Thu May 16, 2013 4:19 pm

The competition for your ears — and dollars — just got a little tougher. On Wednesday, Google launched a paid music subscription service that will put it in direct competition with other streaming services like Spotify and Pandora. The announcement may just be the beginning for Google.

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All Tech Considered
1:33 am
Thu May 9, 2013

Consumers Facing Subscription Service Overload Will Only Get More Choices

Originally published on Thu May 9, 2013 2:02 pm

YouTube is expected to announce in the coming days that it will launch paid subscription channels, a first for the online video platform that's been around since 2005. But, with the growing number of subscription services available for entertainment, shopping and news, some consumers say they're reaching digital subscription overload.

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All Tech Considered
1:25 am
Mon April 29, 2013

Blazing The Trail For Female Programmers

Sarah Allen works with interns Lori Hsu (left) and Fito von Zastrow at the Blazing Cloud offices in San Francisco.
Ramin Rahimian for NPR

Originally published on Tue April 30, 2013 3:35 pm

This story is part of our series, The Changing Lives of Women.

Sarah Allen has been the only woman on a team of computer programmers a few times in the more than two decades she has worked in the field. Most notably, she led the team — as the lone female programmer — that created Flash video, the dominant technology for streaming video on the Web.

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Movies
12:57 am
Tue April 9, 2013

Crowdsourcing Creativity At The Cinema

Twitter co-founder Biz Stone is one of five celebrity directors taking part in a Canon-sponsored experiment called Project Imaginat10n. His short film, the inspiration for which was crowdsourced via the Internet and social media, focuses on familial loss and the process of grieving.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Tue April 9, 2013 7:00 pm

These days, if they can't find a producer to fund their latest film, a lot of artists turn to crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter to raise money for production.

But here's a new twist: a project headed up by director Ron Howard that is crowdsourcing the inspiration.

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Business
2:40 am
Wed March 27, 2013

T-Mobile: Adds iPhone Ditches 2-Year Contracts

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 4:05 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Mobile phone carrier T-Mobile is trying to lift itself out of fourth place. At a press conference yesterday, it announced it was adding the iPhone to its line up and ditching two-year contracts.

But NPR's Laura Sydell reports that may not be enough.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: T-Mobile took a lot of digs at the two-year contracts all mobile carriers offer at its Manhattan press conference. It opened with real woman on the street video.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

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All Tech Considered
12:57 am
Thu March 21, 2013

On Its 7th Birthday, Is Twitter Still The 'Free Speech Party'?

Egyptians use their mobile phones to record celebrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the popular revolt that drove Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011. Twitter was often used to record happenings during the Arab Spring.
Mohammed Abed AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 7:23 am

It's hard to believe, but seven years ago no one had ever heard of a tweet. Thursday is the anniversary of the first tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. It wasn't profound. He wrote:

Since then the social media company has been an important communication tool in everything from the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, to its use as a megaphone for celebrities. Over the years, its relationship to its free speech principles has changed.

From Trivial To Global Town Hall

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All Tech Considered
2:41 am
Mon March 11, 2013

Controlling Your Computer With A Wave Of Your Hand

Festival attendees experiment with Leap Motion technology.
Elise Hu NPR

Originally published on Mon March 11, 2013 6:48 am

If you've had wrist and shoulder pain from clicking a mouse, relief may be in sight. This spring, a new motion sensing device will go on sale that will make it possible for the average computer user to browse the Web and open documents with a wave of a finger.

The Leap Motion Controller is on display at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, for the first time. It's one of the most talked about startups at the conference, where some 26,000 people have gathered to see emerging tech companies.

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Business
4:31 am
Wed February 20, 2013

Law Change Makes It Harder To Unlock Cellphones

Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 7:41 am

Maybe you don't like your mobile phone carrier, but you like your phone and you want to keep it but change providers. An obscure change in federal law makes it illegal to switch without permission from your carrier.

If you have, for example, AT&T, in order to switch to T-Mobile you have to unlock the phone, and AT&T can now stop you from doing that.

The change in the copyright law has some people upset, and they're petitioning the White House for a fix.

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All Tech Considered
12:09 am
Wed January 16, 2013

'It's About Time': Facebook Reveals New Search Feature

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on Tuesday.
Jeff Chiu AP

Originally published on Wed January 16, 2013 6:47 am

Facebook has launched a new feature that will let its users search for more detailed information across the social network. Soon, you'll be able to find the restaurants and TV shows your friends like or see every picture they've taken at the Grand Canyon.

As much as users may like the new features, the company hasn't exactly been a Wall Street darling. So, the new feature may be less about you and me and more about Facebook's bottom line.

"It's about time," Nate Elliott, an analyst at Forrester Research, said about the new feature. "It should have been there all along."

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All Tech Considered
3:45 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

Why Is Google Exec Interested In North Korea?

Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt (left) arrives at Pyongyang International Airport on Monday. There is speculation that Schmidt's presence in North Korea could have an upside for Google by positioning Schmidt as the company's global ambassador.
David Guttenfelder AP

Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 4:39 pm

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, has landed in North Korea. His trip there is a bit of a mystery.

Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, has been a vocal proponent of providing people around the world with Internet access and technology. North Korea doesn't even let its citizens access the open Internet, and its population is overwhelmingly poor — so it's not exactly a coveted audience for advertisers.

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All Tech Considered
2:12 pm
Mon December 31, 2012

From 3-D Printers To Wired Glasses, The Tech Year Ahead

Google Glass will be part of a trend in 2013 of computing and connectivity in devices we don't generally think of as computers.
Seth Wenig AP

Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 6:17 pm

It's unlikely 2013 will be the year that jet packs make it big, but the coming year could bring us a host of other new technology trends and products, such as 3-D printers for consumers, smarter smartphones and more connected devices like glasses and cars.

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Technology
1:28 am
Thu December 27, 2012

Music-Streaming Services Hunt For Paying Customers

Originally published on Thu December 27, 2012 6:58 am

2012 has been a strange year for content creators — authors, producers, musicians. It was a year when the very idea of physical ownership of a book or CD or even a song file became almost passe.

It was also the year in which music-streaming services like Spotify and Pandora launched major efforts to convince people to pay for something they didn't own. But it's been slow going.

Music-streaming services have been trying to win over two types of customers: a younger generation that doesn't buy at all and an older generation that still likes owning physical albums.

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All Tech Considered
1:21 am
Wed December 26, 2012

Online Videos: Not Just Made By Amateurs Anymore

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed December 26, 2012 4:07 am

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All Tech Considered
3:09 pm
Mon December 17, 2012

Don't Like The Government? Make Your Own, On International Waters

Andras Gyorfi's winning entry in The Seasteading Institute's 2009 design contest. The institute supports the idea of permanent, autonomous offshore communities, but it does not intend to construct its own seasteads.
Courtesy of The Seasteading Institute

Originally published on Mon December 17, 2012 8:19 pm

Almost all of us have complaints about the government, which probably range from high taxes to too much bureaucracy. Periodically, we get to take our frustrations out at the voting booth. But no matter how unhappy you may be, you probably never thought, "I'm going get out of here and go start my own country."

A group of rich techies in Northern California is planning on starting its own nation on artificial islands in the ocean. They call themselves "seasteaders" and are sort of a mix between geeks and hippies.

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All Tech Considered
4:31 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Which Tablet Is Right For You?

The new Microsoft Surface tablet on display after a press conference in New York in October. The Microsoft tablet goes up against products from Apple, Amazon and Google.
Timothy A. Clary AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 3, 2012 4:50 pm

The holiday season is upon us. In the tech world, that means it's time to talk gadgets, specifically one of the year's most popular gadgets: the tablet.

For the first time, Apple's iPad has some competition: Google's Nexus, Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and the Microsoft Surface.

These tablets represent the marquee efforts of the biggest technology companies. They also represent the four major content universes.

Small Tablets

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All Tech Considered
3:25 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

Yet Another Shift In Facebook Policies Raises Privacy Concerns

Joerg Koch AP

Originally published on Thu November 29, 2012 3:37 pm

Facebook has a long history of upsetting its users by suddenly announcing a change to its privacy settings. In 2009, as a way to quiet the critics, Facebook set up a system for its customers to vote on changes. If enough of them were unhappy, the company would back down. Now, Facebook wants to get rid of the voting.

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Around the Nation
3:37 am
Wed November 14, 2012

Sandy Deals Powerful Blow To Housing In New Jersey

Originally published on Wed November 14, 2012 6:06 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

More than two weeks after Sandy hit the Northeast, thousands of people in New Jersey are still unable to return to their homes. And as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, finding temporary housing has proven to be a confusing and difficult process for many storm victims.

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The Record
10:03 pm
Wed November 7, 2012

Studying How, And What, We Download

Drake, who had the top torrent downloaded in the U.S. in the first half of 2012, according to Musicmetric, poses at the MTV Video Music Awards in September.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

Originally published on Thu November 8, 2012 10:27 am

As we near the end of another year, the music industry has a few reasons to be optimistic. Digital music sales are expected to reach record highs this year, and legal streaming services continue to gain in popularity. But unauthorized music file sharing is still going strong.

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All Tech Considered
4:36 pm
Tue October 23, 2012

Hands On With The New iPad Mini: Lighter, Costlier Than Rivals

The new iPad Mini is displayed after its unveiling at an Apple event in San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday.
Kevork Djansezian Getty Images

Originally published on Wed October 24, 2012 9:29 am

Apple has unveiled a smaller, cheaper version of its popular iPad tablet. NPR's Laura Sydell attended the event Tuesday in San Jose, Calif., and got a hands-on look at the new iPad mini. Below are her first impressions.

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The Record
10:03 pm
Wed September 26, 2012

YouTube Shares Ad Revenue With Musicians, But Does It Add Up?

Donna Summer in 1976. YouTube's Chris Maxcy says the company targets advertising to videos by artists like her and gives a share of the revenue from it to the track's label and publisher.
Keystone Getty Images

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 8:04 am

YouTube is well-known for videos, but a recent Nielsen study revealed 64 percent of teens and young adults go to it to listen to and discover music. The free website, which is owned by Google, has set up advertising deals to help musicians get compensated. But it's not clear how they're getting paid — or how much.

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The Record
4:17 pm
Fri September 21, 2012

Universal's Purchase Of EMI Gets Thumbs Up In U.S. And Europe

The catalog of The Beatles, which was owned by EMI, will be among the assets that the Universal Music Group gets to keep.
Jim Gray Getty Images

Originally published on Thu October 4, 2012 1:20 pm

And then there were three — record labels, that is. Regulators in the United States and Europe have approved the acquisition of EMI Music by Univeral Music Group. The combined label will own close to 40 percent of the world music market with a trove of acts that includes The Beatles.

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All Tech Considered
3:10 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

What Will Apple's Patent Case Mean For Phone Design?

These Nokia phones unveiled earlier this month are the first smartphones built for Windows 8.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 10, 2012 4:52 pm

A lot of thought goes into giving your smartphone a distinctive look and feel, from the shape of the speaker — square, round or oval — to where to put the buttons — side, front or back.

But industrial designers like Robert Brunner say he doesn't have a lot of room to be creative.

"Because you're really being so heavily driven on maintaining a minimal physical size," he says. "So you really get into this very fine envelope of a few millimeters that you have to work with."

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