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
12:57 am
Fri October 11, 2013

3-D Printing A Masterwork For Your Living Room

Cosmo Wenman generated this 3-D model of the Ares Borghese, based on hundreds of photos, from the Basel Sculpture Hall. Wenman publishes the scans online, so that anyone can use them to 3-D print a replica of the masterpiece.
Courtesy of Cosmo Wenman

Originally published on Fri October 11, 2013 10:22 am

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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All Tech Considered
4:05 pm
Wed October 2, 2013

Calif. Bans Jilted Lovers From Posting 'Revenge Porn' Online

Originally published on Thu October 3, 2013 10:08 am

After a breakup, raw feelings can set off a desire for revenge. Some jilted lovers have taken to posting intimate pictures of a former partner on the Internet. It's a phenomenon known as "revenge porn," and on Monday, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law making it a crime.

The new law is a victory to Holly Jacobs, who was a victim of revenge porn. Jacobs went through what sounds like a typical boy-meets-girl story of falling in and out of love. The first year of the relationship, Jacobs and her partner lived in the same city, but she left to go to graduate school in Miami.

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All Tech Considered
2:01 pm
Fri September 27, 2013

Record Label Picks Copyright Fight — With The Wrong Guy

Law professor Lawrence Lessig, shown here in 2009, is suing an Australian record label for threatening to sue him over an alleged YouTube copyright violation.
Neilson Barnard Getty Images

Originally published on Fri September 27, 2013 3:32 pm

An Australian record label may have picked a fight with the wrong guy. The label sent a standard takedown notice threatening to sue after YouTube computers spotted its music in a video.

It turns out that video was posted by one of the most famous copyright attorneys in the world, and Lawrence Lessig is suing back.

Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor, has lectured around the world about how copyright law needs to adapt to the Internet age. In his lecture, he shows examples of people who have used the Internet to "share their culture and remix other people's creations."

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All Tech Considered
3:38 pm
Mon September 23, 2013

Fake Reviewers Get Zero Stars From New York Attorney General

Some reputation management companies required that its writers have a certain number of Yelp friends. Yelp says it welcomed the New York attorney general's crackdown on fake reviewers.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed September 25, 2013 10:04 am

No doubt most of you reading this post have looked at Yelp or Google+ Local to check the user reviews before you tried that fish store, bakery or even dentist. On occasion, you may have wondered if some of those reviews were too good to be true.

It turns out that some of them were.

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All Tech Considered
2:27 am
Fri September 20, 2013

Female Fans Love New Grand Theft Auto Despite Demeaning Content

A close view of the packaging of Grand Theft Auto V at the midnight opening at the HMV music store in London on Tuesday. It made history with a record $800 million in sales on its first day. This version continues to generate controversy over its glorification of violence, drugs and its demeaning portraits of women.
Leon Neal AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri September 20, 2013 12:02 pm

Grand Theft Auto made video game history this week: The latest version of the game had a record $800 million in sales on its first day. As with past versions, the game is generating controversy over its glorification of violence and drugs and its demeaning portrayal of women.

But around 15 percent of its fans are women, who find much to like about the game, even if they do have some ambivalence about it.

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Business
2:58 am
Fri September 13, 2013

Twitter Files For Initial Public Offering

Twitter announced via Tweet Thursday that it's launching its long awaited initial public offering. It will be the most high profile IPO since Facebook went public last year. But Twitter hopes to avoid the mishaps that's marred Facebook's stock market debut.

All Tech Considered
3:18 am
Thu September 12, 2013

Long Before Most, Intel Chased The Smart Watch

The Microma watch was the first watch with a liquid crystal display, but the limited technology of the time prevented Intel from achieving much else with it.
Courtesy of Intel

In the past couple of weeks, several major companies — Samsung, Sony, Qualcomm — have announced they will release smart watches this fall. As the name suggests, the gadgets do more than keep time.

The latest spate of computerized watches promise to do everything from working as a phone to taking photos and fielding emails. Smart watches have actually been around for a long time, but they've never really taken off as a product.

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The Record
10:28 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

What Does A Song That Costs $5 Sound Like?

Cookie Marenco records musicians on a small remote recording console live at the California Audio Show in August. She'll demonstrate the quality of DSD to the audience by playing back her recording. How close will it sound to the live performance? Very close, according to people present.
Cindy Carpien

Originally published on Wed September 11, 2013 10:04 am

Last week, Sony Corporation announced a new line of high-end audio components that promise to deliver a better online audio experience. The announcement comes amid growing evidence that music fans are tired of the crappy sound they hear on their portable music players. Case in point is the success of Cookie Marenco's business of selling super high-definition music downloads.

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Law
2:57 pm
Mon September 9, 2013

Basic Internet Economics At Stake In Net Neutrality Suit

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 3:20 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. Time now for All Tech Considered.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME MUSIC)

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All Tech Considered
3:24 pm
Fri August 30, 2013

Taking The Battle Against Patent Trolls To The Public

A group of technology and retail groups is beginning a national ad campaign targeting so-called patent trolls.
The Internet Association, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation and Food Marketing Institute

Originally published on Fri August 30, 2013 5:01 pm

Patent trolls — a term known more among geeks than the general public — are about to be the target of a national ad campaign. Beginning Friday, a group of retail trade organizations is launching a radio and print campaign in 17 states.

They want to raise awareness of a problem they say is draining resources from business and raising prices for consumers.

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All Tech Considered
2:43 pm
Tue August 20, 2013

How Vine Settled On 6 Seconds

About a year since launching, Vine says it has more than 40 million registered users.
Emmanuel Dunand AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 6:53 pm

Six seconds isn't a lot of time. If you were to read this sentence out loud, by the time you finished, six seconds would be up. But the brevity of Vine, the app that lets users make and share six-second video clips, has attracted 40 million registered users since its January 2013 launch.

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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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The Record
3:28 am
Sat June 15, 2013

Pandora Buys A Radio Station, Songwriters' Group Calls It A 'Stunt'

Blake Morgan's songs were played some 28,000 times over a 90-day period on Pandora, earning $1.62 in royalties.
Jim Herrington Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sat June 15, 2013 2:40 pm

This week, the Internet radio broadcaster Pandora made what seems like a backward move — technologically speaking. Pandora purchased a local radio station in Rapid City, S.D. The company says it's aiming to get the more favorable royalty rates given to terrestrial broadcasters, but the move has songwriters and composers up in arms.

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Business
3:59 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
6:48 am
Mon March 11, 2013

Controlling Your Computer With A Wave Of Your Hand

Festival attendees experiment with Leap Motion technology.
Elise Hu NPR

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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