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.

Pages

Law
7:50 pm
Fri March 27, 2015

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/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Read more
All Tech Considered
3:15 am
Wed March 18, 2015

SXSW Debuts Robot Petting Zoo For A Personal Peek Into The Future

DAR-1 is one of the many social robots with facial recognition abilities on display for the robot petting zoo at the South by Southwest interactive festival.
Jack Plunkett AP

Originally published on Wed March 18, 2015 6:43 pm

Robots can be scary. Dystopian films such as The Terminator tell the story of a world where robots take over.

But for some, robots are more like R2-D2, the cute bot from Star Wars. At this year's South by Southwest interactive festival, a petting zoo is aiming to evoke those same feelings. But, not just any petting zoo: a robot one.

BlabDroid is a small robot, less than a foot high, with bulldozer wheels, a cardboard body and a smile on his face. He's cute, but asks tough questions.

Read more
Technology
4:38 pm
Mon March 9, 2015

Apple Reveals Details Behind Highly Anticipated Smart Watch

Originally published on Mon March 9, 2015 8:07 pm

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

Digital Life
4:59 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

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/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Read more
All Tech Considered
5:16 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

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

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

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

Read more
Technology
5:27 pm
Wed February 4, 2015

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/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Read more
All Tech Considered
5:04 pm
Thu January 29, 2015

Pro-ISIS Messages Create Dilemma For Social Media Companies

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

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

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.

Read more
All Tech Considered
2:38 pm
Mon January 19, 2015

At 90, She's Designing Tech For Aging Boomers

Barbara Beskind, 90, is a designer at IDEO who works with engineers on products that improve the quality of life for older people.
Nicolas Zurcher Courtesy of IDEO

Originally published on Mon January 19, 2015 7:32 pm

In Silicon Valley's youth-obsessed culture, 40-year-olds get plastic surgery to fit in. But IDEO, the firm that famously developed the first mouse for Apple, has a 90-year-old designer on staff.

Barbara Beskind says her age is an advantage.

Read more
All Tech Considered
7:26 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Hustle Behind The Wheel: What It's Like To Be An Uber Driver

Ride-hailing services like Uber have changed ground transportation for both passengers and drivers. As Uber rapidly grows, it becomes more difficult for its drivers to keep up with the hustle.
David Ramos Getty Images

Originally published on Mon December 22, 2014 3:03 pm

The popular ride-hailing service Uber is valued at a staggering $40 billion — even though it's besieged by lawsuits, bad PR and outright bans in some cities.

Read more
All Tech Considered
6:01 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Did You Hear? Going Viral No Longer Just For Videos, Memes

Originally published on Tue December 2, 2014 12:57 pm

The idea of a blog entry or a video going viral on the Internet is a feature of modern life — from the cute cat video to the articles about a politician's gaffe.

But, much to our disappointment here at NPR, rarely does a clip of audio go viral. Recently there have been a few exceptions, though it's unclear whether that's a fluke or a new age of viral audio.

Read more
Business
5:33 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

Apple CEO Tim Cook Comes Out, Writing He's 'Proud To Be Gay'

Originally published on Fri October 31, 2014 1:03 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Read more
All Tech Considered
6:28 pm
Mon October 27, 2014

I've Got The Ingredients. What Should I Cook? Ask IBM's Watson

Chef Watson generates recipes for the user based on the ingredients the person has on hand, what type of food he would like to cook and a person's dietary restrictions.
Courtesy of IBM

Originally published on Tue October 28, 2014 1:31 pm

IBM's Watson computer has amused and surprised humans by winning at Jeopardy! Now, one of the world's smartest machines is taking on chefs.

Well, not exactly. Watson is being used by chefs to come up with new and exciting recipes in a feat that could turn out to be useful for people with dietary restrictions and for managing food shortages.

Read more
All Tech Considered
3:21 am
Fri October 17, 2014

Silicon Valley Companies Add New Benefit For Women: Egg-Freezing

A technician opens a vessel containing women's frozen egg cells in April 2011 in Amsterdam.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue October 21, 2014 1:10 pm

In the Silicon Valley arms race to lure the top talent with the best benefits, Facebook and Apple are adding egg freezing for female employees. The two companies may be the first to pay for the procedure for women who choose it to delay childbearing.

The addition of egg-freezing to the benefits plan comes as tech companies face mounting pressure to hire more women. And it's a perk that some women may find attractive.

Read more
Business
4:35 pm
Fri September 26, 2014

Cab Competition In San Francisco Benefits Riders

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 5:51 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Law
6:40 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Yahoo Threatened With Huge Fines If It Didn't Release User Data

Originally published on Fri September 12, 2014 1:03 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Read more
All Tech Considered
4:36 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

In E-Book Price War, Amazon's Long-Term Strategy Requires Short-Term Risks

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wants to sell all e-books for $9.99, while the publisher Hachette wants to vary the prices.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri September 5, 2014 1:10 pm

Since May, Amazon and the publisher Hachette have been locked in a battle over the pricing of e-books. For customers it's meant that they can't pre-order books from authors such as J.K. Rowling and James Patterson. And it's upset many authors because it's made their work less available. But Amazon is willing to upset some customers and authors as it pursues a long-term strategy for books.

Read more
Business
5:09 am
Tue August 26, 2014

Amazon Makes A Big Move Into The World Of Online Gaming

Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 11:47 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Read more
All Tech Considered
4:46 am
Mon August 25, 2014

As Ferguson Unraveled, The World Found A New Way Of Watching

When protests over the shooting of Michael Brown turned violent in Ferguson, Mo., livestreaming videos showed Americans what they couldn't see on TV.
Screen Grab From KARG Argus Radio Video

Originally published on Mon August 25, 2014 3:42 pm

In Ferguson, Mo., on Monday, Michael Brown, the unarmed 18-year-old shot by a police officer, will be buried. Beyond watching on traditional media outlets, many members of the public may be able to see the event live over the Internet.

Read more
Business
2:00 am
Wed August 20, 2014

Ex-Microsoft CEO Ballmer Steps Down From Company's Board

Steve Ballmer, the new owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, is stepping down from Microsoft's board. Ballmer, who recently resigned as Microsoft's CEO, is the largest individual shareholder of the company.
Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 11:52 am

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, 58, has resigned from the company's board citing other time consuming commitments including his new ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Tuesday's announcement closes a chapter in Ballmer's 34 years with the software giant. He remains the largest individual shareholder in the company.

Ballmer spent $2 billion of his roughly $20 billion fortune on the Clippers purchase, which a judge confirmed last week.

Read more
All Tech Considered
5:21 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

How Long Do CDs Last? It Depends, But Definitely Not Forever

Many institutions have their archives stored on CDs — but the discs aren't as stable as once thought. There is no average life span for a CD, says preservationist Michele Youket, "because there is no average disc."
Sarah Tilotta NPR

Originally published on Tue August 19, 2014 8:27 am

Back in the 1990s, historical societies, museums and symphonies across the country began transferring all kinds of information onto what was thought to be a very durable medium: the compact disc.

Now, preservationists are worried that a lot of key information stored on CDs — from sound recordings to public records — is going to disappear. Some of those little silver discs are degrading, and researchers at the Library of Congress are trying to figure out why.

Read more
Race
4:39 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

In Hashtag Protest, 'Black Twitter' Shows Its Strength

Originally published on Wed August 13, 2014 9:14 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.

Read more
All Tech Considered
5:00 pm
Mon August 11, 2014

A Good IT Person Needs To Be Half Technologist, Half Psychologist

iStockphoto

Originally published on Tue August 12, 2014 1:37 pm

Read more
All Tech Considered
5:19 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

In A Battle For Web Traffic, Bad Bots Are Going After Grandma

By hijacking a user's computer, "bad" bots make it look as if she visits a website often, thus making the site more valuable to advertisers.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 11:05 am

As the Web turns 25, it's becoming a terrific place if you're a bot.

It began as a tool for human communication, but now, over 60 percent of the traffic on the Web is automated applications called bots talking to other bots, according to one study. And experts say about half of those bots are bad.

But first let's talk about the good bots.

Read more
All Tech Considered
4:07 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 8:07 pm

Read more
Business
5:17 am
Fri June 13, 2014

At E3, Critics Renew Calls For More Diverse Video Game Characters

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 9:29 am

Even though women make up a significant proportion of dedicated gamers, there are few female protagonists in big-selling video games. The same goes for ethnic and racial minorities.

All Tech Considered
5:11 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Into The Virtual Reality Lab With Pioneering Researchers

Peter Mason tries the Oculus virtual reality headset at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco earlier this year. Some see Facebook's acquisition of the company as a turning point.
Jeff Chiu AP

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 11:41 pm

When Facebook paid $2 billion to buy Oculus VR, the company that makes the virtual reality goggles, it turned heads. Oculus doesn't even make a profit, but many enthusiasts believe this may be a turning point for a technology that's been around for decades.

Read more
Business
5:23 am
Tue May 20, 2014

Malicious Software Probe Reveals Vast Criminal Network

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 11:43 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

NPR's business news starts with a crackdown on hackers.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: Law Enforcement officials announced charges in connection with malicious software that makes it easy for anyone to spy on computer remotely. The case reveals a vast international criminal network that made blackmail and password theft simple and cheap.

As NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

Read more
All Tech Considered
3:42 am
Thu May 15, 2014

FCC To Unveil Proposed Rules To Govern Internet Traffic

Proponents of open Internet access protest in front of the FCC headquarters in Washington, D.C. The commission votes Thursday on its proposed rules amid debate about network neutrality.
Elise Hu NPR

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 2:55 pm

The Federal Communications Commission announced last month that it would propose new rules. In a blog post, Chairman Tom Wheeler insists that the open Internet rules will help maintain what's called network neutrality. That is, making certain that your Internet provider doesn't give a faster connection to a service that can pay more.

Read more
All Tech Considered
4:38 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 10:25 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.

Read more
Business
9:52 am
Sat May 3, 2014

Apple's Win Settles Samsung's Complaint, Too

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 12:33 pm

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Yesterday a jury handed down a mixed verdict in a patent dispute between Samsung and Apple. Both sides were found to have violated each other's patents, however Apple received most of the damages - over $119 million.

But as NPR's Laura Sydell reports, many experts say the case can be seen as a victory for Samsung and may mark a turn in the international battle between the two smartphone makers.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: When the late Apple CEO and founder, Steve Jobs, introduced the first iPhone, he famously made this remark.

Read more

Pages