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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Remembrances
3:00 am
Thu March 29, 2012

Influential Poet Adrienne Rich Dies At 82

The Oxford Anthology of Modern American Poetry described Adrienne Rich as "one of the most widely read and influential poets of the second half of the 20th century." Rich died Tuesday at her home in Santa Cruz, California, at the age of 82. She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and macular degeneration.

Technology
3:38 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

California Industries Spar Over Internet Piracy

Supporters of the website The Pirate Bay, one of the world's top illegal file-sharing websites, demonstrate in Stockholm, Sweden, in 2009.
Fredrik Persson AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 23, 2012 6:10 pm

There's a civil war going on in California. It's the north vs. the south — Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley. And much like that other American Civil War, there are two different economic worldviews at stake. One of the highest-profile battles was fought last month, when large Internet sites like Wikipedia staged an online blackout to protest anti-piracy bills in Congress.

The north won that battle, and for now, the legislation is on hold. But the war between Hollywood and Silicon Valley over how to deal with intellectual property is far from over.

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The Record
6:00 pm
Fri January 20, 2012

Four Views On Megaupload

Bram van der Kolk, Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann and Kim Schmitz, also known as Kim Dotcom, (from left to right) are remanded in custody in New Zealand on Friday.
David Rowland EPA /Landov

Originally published on Fri January 20, 2012 6:08 pm

When the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI shut down the web site Megaupload yesterday, there were many responses, from outrage to confusion to applause, and nearly as many questions. One that stood out was simple: If Megaupload provides a service that can be used for legal pursuits, are they legally responsible for the users who use it to illegally share copyrighted material?

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The Record
7:00 pm
Thu January 19, 2012

Megaupload Shut Down By The FBI

Courtesy of Megaupload.

Originally published on Fri January 20, 2012 3:37 pm

Click the link above to listen to Laura Sydell's conversation with Morning Edition's David Greene about the Megaupload indictment and the attack on the Department of Justice's website by the group Anonymous.

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Digital Life
3:31 pm
Mon January 9, 2012

Seeking Female Founders In The Tech Startup Scene

The founders of startup accelerator Women Innovate Mobile (clockwise from top right: Deborah Jackson, Kelly Hoey and Veronika Sonsev) aim to boost the profile of tech companies founded by women.
Lisa Tanner Courtesy Women Innovate Mobile

More often than not, when we hear about hot tech companies, all the founders are male (see: Google, Facebook, Twitter and Zynga). But in an effort to change that profile, a new funding source is targeting companies founded by women.

Kelly Hoey thinks a lot of investors may be missing some good business opportunities because they aren't coming from someone who looks like the next Mark Zuckerberg.

"You're looking for a white guy in a hoodie, and that next visionary is ... going to be wearing a skirt and a great pair of shoes," she says. "They're going to look different."

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It Was A Good Year For...
6:18 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

No Excuses: Robots Put You In Two Places At Once

The two "eyes" on the Anybot are actually a camera and a laser. The camera "sees," the laser points, and the person on the screen controls it all.
Anybots.com

Originally published on Tue January 3, 2012 12:11 pm

Mike Fennelly isn't easily surprised by cutting-edge technologies, but when he started as an IT guy at a Silicon Valley startup called Evernote, he was caught off guard by a robot rolling around the office.

"It was slightly disturbing for not really knowing what the robot was for at the beginning, and then going, 'Oh, OK. That's Phil,' " he says.

CEO Phil Libin is also known as the company's "robotic overlord." Libin himself isn't actually a robot, but when he's out of town, his robot keeps an eye on things.

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Business
3:59 am
Fri December 9, 2011

Online Video Sites Go Pro And Get Original

Cast members of the canceled sitcom Arrested Development reunite at a New Yorker panel in October. Netflix will exclusively stream a new season of the cult hit — and that could bring the service a lot of new subscribers, one analyst says.
Neilson Barnard Getty Images for The New Yorker

Originally published on Fri December 9, 2011 2:31 pm

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Technology
4:00 am
Tue December 6, 2011

How Twitter's Trending Algorithm Picks Its Topics

Occupy Wall Street protesters meditate while a sign bearing their Twitter hashtag hangs from a railing in Zuccotti Park in October. Some activists accused Twitter of censorship because #OccupyWallStreet wasn't appearing on trending lists.
Jessica Rinaldi Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Wed December 7, 2011 1:18 pm

The list of "trending topics" on the right side of Twitter's home page is a coveted spot because millions of people see it. It often reflects what's hot in the news, from the death of Steve Jobs to Kim Kardashian's latest exploits.

Sometimes a topic that seems hot, like Occupy Wall Street, doesn't trend, leading some activists to charge Twitter with censorship. But the complex algorithms that determine trending topics are intended to find what's trending in the moment, and not what's been around for a long time.

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Digital Life
5:29 am
Wed November 9, 2011

Teen Study: Social Media Is Positive Experience

A study by the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project reveals what teens think about the online experience. While bullying on social media sites like Facebook gets a lot of news coverage, most teens think social networks are a friendly place for them.

The Record
12:00 pm
Tue October 25, 2011

Rocksmith: Guitar Hero Gets Real(er)

Paul Cross, creative director of Rocksmith, plays the game at a demonstration event in San Francisco, Calif.

Kimihiro Hoshino AFP/Getty Images

Music-based games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, which let you play along to popular songs with fake instruments, once ruled the video game industry. They raked in billions of dollars in sales in 2008, when their popularity was at its peak. But such games have since lost their luster, and sales for both have plummeted. Now the French video game publisher and development company Ubisoft is hoping to revive interest in the video game genre by adding a new twist — the ability to use a real guitar.

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