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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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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.

In a case between tech giants Apple and Samsung, a jury has issued a mixed verdict. The decision marks only the latest in an ongoing struggle over patents between the two companies, a struggle that is expected to see its next skirmish at the Supreme Court later this year.

A California jury is deliberating a major lawsuit between tech titans Apple and Samsung. Apple is suing Samsung for patent infringement and asking for a whopping $2 billion in damages. But even if Apple prevails in this case, later this year the Supreme Court could undermine the victory by calling Apple's patents and thousands of others into question.

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NPR's business news starts with a bad day for trolls.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: A Supreme Court ruling, handed down yesterday, will make it easier for companies that successfully fight off frivolous patent lawsuits to get their legal fees reimbursed. Observers say this ruling will help ward off so-called patent trolls.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is offering up some new rules to govern traffic on the Internet. The draft document could allow some Web companies to pay more for faster access.

It's the latest attempt by the FCC to adjust so-called network neutrality rules, initially intended to make sure that all traffic on the Internet moves at the same speed.

The new rules won't be made public until May, but some members of the startup world are already worried.

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.

On display at South by Southwest is an attempt to create the future of storytelling. HBO is working with Oculus — maker of virtual reality goggles — to put the audience right into Game of Thrones.

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.

Facebook is buying an instant messaging service called WhatsApp for an eye-popping $19 billion. It's the latest salvo in an arms race by Silicon Valley giants to stockpile mobile technology.

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.

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.

Cinema owners who don't have a digital projector in their movie house can't show Paramount Pictures' latest release: The Wolf of Wall Street. This year Paramount became the first big studio to distribute a major release in the U.S. entirely in a digital format, and other studios are likely to follow.

You might think that retailers have to let you know right away if they get hacked and someone steals your account information.

But recent disclosures by Target and Neiman Marcus that their networks were hacked, and data about their consumers were stolen, have raised questions about how quickly merchants need to alert their customers.

In the case of Neiman Marcus, the company may have had evidence of a breach as far back as July. But the law is a bit murky on just how quickly companies need to let customers know.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Over the years, Americans have grown used to getting anything they want when they want it on the Internet. But yesterday a federal appeals court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission cannot require Internet providers to offer unfettered access. It was Verizon that brought the case against the FCC. The ruling could have far-reaching implications for what's known as net neutrality. Here's NPR's Laura Sydell to help us out with what all this means. Welcome.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Hello. Good morning.

On Monday, Google announced it had purchased Nest Labs for $3.2 billion. Nest is focused on the "automated home" concept, making smoke detectors and thermostats that connect to the Internet. Google's purchase signals a strong interest in this arena.

Some analysts say that Nintendo's days are numbered. Holiday sales of its new console, the Wii U, have been lackluster compared to Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4.

But since Nintendo still offers some of the most popular game franchises, the love of Zelda and Mario may keep the company going for a long time.

In preparation for this story, I put out a call to talk to die-hard Nintendo fans. I was inundated with responses. Among them, Brian White, 30, grew up playing the Zelda games.

Now he's got a daughter. "We named her Zelda," he says.

A new study from the Pew Research Center finds that age and income play a larger role than race when it comes to high-speed Internet access. Lower-income African-Americans often buy smartphones to compensate for not having a broadband connection at home. Smartphones, however, may not be enough.

This week, we're exploring the San Francisco Bay Area and the way income inequality is affecting the region. Check out the other pieces of the week, aggregated on this page.

Ireland is about to become the first European country to emerge from an international bailout in the wake of the financial crisis. Like other European countries, Ireland has been in a period of austerity — higher taxes and more cutbacks.

The nation's technology sector has been protected, however, as Ireland makes a concerted effort to attract foreign businesses through tax incentives and development programs.

But Ireland's methods have also been criticized — locally and internationally.

Apple In Ireland

Movies and books have long been used to advocate for causes, such as climate change or breast cancer. As video games become more mainstream, advocates are beginning to see how this art form can be a new way to reach out and get people engaged in a cause.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Google won a key victory in a nearly decade-long lawsuit over fair use of the collections of works at the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress and various other university libraries. A U.S. circuit court judge in Manhattan found Google's project to digitally copy millions of books for online searches does not violate copyright law.

NPR's Laura Sydell reports.

LAURA SYDELL, BYLINE: Google began scanning books back in 2004, many of the works were by living authors.

This week on-air and online, the tech team is exploring the sharing economy. You'll find the stories on this blog and aggregated at this link, and we would love to hear your questions about the topic. Just email, leave a comment or tweet.

You may never be able to get to Italy to see Michelangelo's David — but advances in 3-D printing technology are making it possible for you to create an almost perfect replica.

It's an idea that Cosmo Wenman is hoping will catch on. He's pushing the edges of how 3-D printing can be used to make classic works accessible.

I followed Wenman on an excursion to the Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University. These days, a lot of museums let people take photos of art, and Wenman takes a lot of them.

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