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
5:17 pm
Mon April 20, 2015

At 50 Years Old, The Challenge To Keep Up With Moore's Law

Intel Corp. co-founder Gordon Moore holds up a silicon wafer at Intel headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif., in 2005. Moore's prediction 50 years ago, called Moore's Law, has been the basis for the digital revolution.
Paul Sakuma AP

Originally published on Tue April 21, 2015 8:40 pm

Fifty years ago this week, a chemist in what is now Silicon Valley published a paper that set the groundwork for the digital revolution.

You may never have heard of Moore's law, but it has a lot do with why you will pay about the same price for your next computer, smartphone or tablet, even though it will be faster and have better screen resolution than the last one.

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All Tech Considered
8:48 am
Sun April 12, 2015

Once The Cream Of The Crop, Zynga Zigzags To Adapt To Mobile

Zynga CEO Mark Pincus gives a presentation in 2011.
Jeff Chiu AP

Originally published on Sun April 12, 2015 10:01 am

Remember those days of tending rows of virtual soybeans and strawberries on your Facebook page with a game called Farmville? It was a moment, and Zynga, the company that makes the game, cashed in when it went public back in 2011.

Now, Zynga is losing money and its founder is back, to mixed reviews.

When Zynga launched Farmville in 2009, it surprised everyone with its success. It quickly became the most popular game on Facebook.

But people got bored with planting seeds on a desktop. The market had moved to mobile, and Zynga didn't keep up.

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All Tech Considered
4:15 pm
Mon April 6, 2015

Artists In Residence Give High-Tech Projects A Human Touch

Artists in the residency program at Autodesk are given access to production-quality equipment in workshops, allowing them space to create at-will.
Blake Marvin Courtesy of Autodesk

Originally published on Tue April 7, 2015 8:39 am

You may want your kid to major in something practical at college, like engineering, so they can land one of those great jobs at a big tech company. But, you might also urge them to spend time studying the arts. Some tech companies are bringing in artists to help them work out ideas and build cool new things.

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Law
7:07 pm
Fri March 27, 2015

After Resuming Deliberations, Jury Rules In Favor Of Kleiner Perkins

Originally published on Mon March 30, 2015 10:20 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/.

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All Tech Considered
2:15 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 5:43 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.

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All Tech Considered
7:10 am
Sun March 8, 2015

Developers Continue Push To Make Virtual Reality Mainstream

MindMaze Software Engineer Nicolas Bourdaud demonstrates a virtual reality system at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Josh Edelson AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun March 8, 2015 11:09 pm

I had a lot of experiences this past week: I shot birds out of the sky with my eyes, my fingers were on fire, I flew on top of a drone over the arctic and looked into the jaws of a dragon.

I did all this without leaving San Francisco, at the 2015 Game Developers Conference, where the people who make the video games we love to play come to the city by the thousands to check out the latest hardware and software for making games.

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All Tech Considered
1:20 am
Fri February 27, 2015

Long Before Net Neutrality, Rules Leveled The Landscape For Phone Services

Operators at a Bell System telephone switchboard, as photographed by the Department of Labor Women's Bureau.
U.S. National Archives

Originally published on Mon March 2, 2015 7:59 am

Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to regulate access to the Internet as it would a public utility, under something called Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Critics of the FCC say it's an old, dusty law meant to apply to phone service, not the complexities of the modern Internet. But there are some parallels to the days when Title II was enacted.

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All Tech Considered
3:56 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Now You Can Sign Up To Keep Drones Away From Your Property

A staff member from DJI Technology Co. demonstrates a drone in Shenzhen, in southern China's Guangdong province. A new website lets people request that drones stay away from their property.
Kin Cheung AP

Originally published on Tue February 24, 2015 11:12 am

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Digital Life
3:57 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

Facebook Offers New Options For Digital Life After Death

Originally published on Thu February 12, 2015 5:26 pm

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

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All Tech Considered
4:40 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 7:04 am

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Technology
4:59 pm
Wed February 4, 2015

FCC Proposal Would Regulate Internet Like A Public Utility

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 8:40 am

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

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All Tech Considered
4:40 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 10:46 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.

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The Record
2:59 am
Tue January 6, 2015

With Downloads In Decline, Can iTunes Adapt?

Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs stands in front of a projection of iTunes at a presentation in 2004.
Ian Waldie Getty Images

Originally published on Tue January 6, 2015 11:44 am

Apple's innovative iTunes music service is still the market leader in music downloads, but after more than a decade of growth, sales of music tracks on iTunes have been declining. Last year saw the largest drop in sales — 14 percent. The drop is attributed to the increasing popularity of streaming music services such as Spotify, Pandora and YouTube. These services give fans access to millions of tracks from any Internet-connected device for a monthly fee or in return for listening to commercials.

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All Tech Considered
6:26 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 2:03 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.

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All Tech Considered
4:18 am
Fri December 12, 2014

Please Touch! Cooper Hewitt Creates A Museum For The Internet Age

Interactive touch screens at the newly redesigned Cooper Hewitt museum let visitors sort through the catalog and create their own designs.
Cooper Hewitt

Originally published on Fri December 12, 2014 1:00 pm

The Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City collects the beautiful and practical — vintage Eames chairs, Jimi Hendrix posters, Victorian bird cages.

The museum, which is housed in the Andrew Carnegie mansion, is reopening after an extensive $81 million, three-year renovation — and the redesign has turned this historic building into one of the most technologically advanced museums in the country.

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