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
4:17 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 10:05 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.

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Law
3:15 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

Supreme Court Deals A Big Win For TV Broadcasters

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 8:30 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. It was a bad day for a certain tech startup. The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a heavy blow to a service that lets consumers stream and record broadcast TV from their phones, computers or tablets. The High Court said it violates the programming copyrights of broadcasters. NPR's Laura Sydell has the story.

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All Tech Considered
11:03 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Critics Renew Calls For More Diverse Video Game Characters

Actress and gamer Aisha Tyler hosted game developer Ubisoft's press conference at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. The company was recently criticized for not animating female assassins in one of its new games.
Lucy Nicholson Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Mon June 16, 2014 10:11 am

There's a myth that only nerdy white guys play and make video games. At this week's video game extravaganza in Los Angeles called Electronic Entertainment Expo, Microsoft didn't do much to change that image.

At the company's E3 press conference, there was an unseen female announcer, but there was only one female who stood on stage and spoke. Bonnie Ross, who heads the Microsoft studio that produces its blockbuster game Halo, spoke for less than two minutes.

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Business
4:17 am
Fri June 13, 2014

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

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 8:29 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
4:11 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 10:41 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.

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All Tech Considered
2:29 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 1:55 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.

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All Tech Considered
3:35 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 9:25 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.

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Business
8:52 am
Sat May 3, 2014

Apple's Win Settles Samsung's Complaint, Too

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 11:33 am

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.

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Law
7:17 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

For Apple, A Limited Victory Against Samsung In Infringement Case

Originally published on Sat May 3, 2014 10:17 am

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.

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

All Tech Considered
4:02 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

How The Supreme Court Could Reshape The Tech Patent Landscape

iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 12:41 pm

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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All Tech Considered
3:04 pm
Fri April 25, 2014

You Love The Cloud, But It May Not Be As Secure As You Think

If you're storing your digital belongings in the cloud, you should know you're giving up some rights.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri April 25, 2014 6:15 pm

People are storing more and more stuff online: photos, music, personal documents — even books. The business of cloud storage is growing 30 percent a year, Forrester Research says. But if you're storing your digital belongings in the cloud, you should know you're giving up some rights.

A year ago, I talked to Kyle Goodwin about one of those scary computer moments — he was saving important videos from his business to an external hard drive.

"Right in the middle of a save, I knocked it off my coffee table and it hit the floor and it's destroyed," he said.

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All Tech Considered
5:30 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

Life Outside The Fast Lane: Startups Wary Of Web Traffic Plan

Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of the Internet startup Reddit, says he and his partner had no connections and little money when they started the now-popular site.
Tanya Kechichian Courtesy of Hachette Book Group USA

Originally published on Sat April 26, 2014 10:24 pm

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.

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All Tech Considered
2:14 am
Fri April 4, 2014

Twitch Boosts A New Pro Category: Video Game Player

"I make a living attempting to beat video games on my show, and people watch," says Jayson Love, whose stage name is Man.
Twitch.tv screengrab

Originally published on Fri April 4, 2014 12:01 pm

It may not surprise you that Netflix uses more bandwidth at peak hours than any other company, followed by Google and Apple. No. 4 on the list, though, is Twitch.tv.

Twitch is a company devoted to live interactive broadcasting of people playing video games. It's helping to launch a new type of broadcast professional.

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Business
1:38 am
Thu March 27, 2014

No Sugar High For Wall Street: Candy Crush Maker's IPO Disappoints

A banner for the mobile gaming company King Digital Entertainment is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange during King's initial public offering.
Andrew Burton Getty Images

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 11:18 am

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.

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Technology
3:13 pm
Mon March 10, 2014

Path To Television's Future May Be Paved In Virtual Reality

Originally published on Mon March 10, 2014 6:59 pm

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.

All Tech Considered
2:04 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Anti-Muslim Video Still Stirring Controversy In The Courtroom

Actress Cindy Lee Garcia (right) brought a copyright claim against Google with the help of attorney Cris Armenta over the film Innocence of Muslims, which was posted to YouTube in 2012.
Jason Redmond AP

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 10:43 pm

Google intends to fight a court order to remove a controversial anti-Muslim video from YouTube in the U.S.

The company plans to file for a hearing before a full nine-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after two of three judges on a smaller panel forced the company to take down the film, Innocence of Muslims, which caused uproar in the Islamic world in 2012.

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All Tech Considered
9:15 am
Wed February 26, 2014

iOS 6 Users Left In The Lurch After Security Flaw Discovered

Still using Apple's iOS 6? You may be counting on luck to protect your iPhone from a serious security flaw.
Michael Nagle Getty Images

As has been widely reported, Apple recently discovered a critical bug in its iOS and OS systems.

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All Tech Considered
8:15 am
Fri February 14, 2014

Mobile Match Apps Are 'Dating On Steroids'

Matchmaking apps like Tinder can help people find potential dates quickly.
Tinder

Originally published on Fri February 14, 2014 11:15 am

It's Valentine's Day, and if you aren't giving roses to someone special — or getting them — you might be thinking ahead to next year.

But OkCupid and Match.com may be considered old-school ways to find a mate. These days, whether you're gay or straight, the online dating scene is all about apps. Like a lot of technological change, apps bring efficiency to the process. But that isn't always a good thing.

Kristy Vannatter used to use the online dating service eHarmony, but she says it was a lot of work.

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All Tech Considered
3:53 pm
Mon February 10, 2014

That's Just Like 'Her': Could We Ever Love A Computer?

Joaquin Phoenix stars in the film Her, in which his character falls in love with an operating system. When will artificial intelligence programs like Siri evolve to the point where we'll fall in love with them?
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 4:36 pm

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.

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All Tech Considered
4:16 pm
Wed February 5, 2014

What Bill Gates' New Role Could Mean For Microsoft

As Satya Nadella becomes the new CEO of Microsoft, company founder Bill Gates is moving from chairman to "technology adviser."
Bebeto Matthews AP

Originally published on Wed February 5, 2014 9:23 pm

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.

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All Tech Considered
3:25 pm
Thu January 30, 2014

Small Cinemas Struggle As Film Fades Out Of The Picture

The Roxie Theater in San Francisco still has two 35 millimeter projectors, but the switch to digital is inevitable.
Laura Sydell NPR

Originally published on Thu January 30, 2014 7:00 pm

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.

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All Tech Considered
4:53 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Retailers Can Wait To Tell You Your Card Data Have Been Compromised

The security breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus have raised questions over how quickly companies are required to disclose that customer information was hacked.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 4:32 pm

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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All Tech Considered
5:46 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

Game Over For Nintendo? Not If Mario And Zelda Fans Keep Playing

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 4:09 pm

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.

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All Tech Considered
2:23 am
Mon December 30, 2013

Hot On YouTube: Videos About Video Games, And Science, Too

A screengrab of a YouTube video of the game Walking Dead from the Swedish gamer known as PewDiePie. Videos of people offering commentary while playing video games are wildly popular on YouTube.
YouTube/PewDiePie

Originally published on Mon December 30, 2013 9:34 am

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All Tech Considered
2:04 am
Wed December 18, 2013

What It's Like To Live On Low Pay In A Land Of Plenty

Manny Cardenas, seen here with his 5-year-old daughter Zoe, has earned $16 an hour as a part-time security guard at Google.
Laura Sydell NPR

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 12:11 pm

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.

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