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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It Was A Good Year For...
7:18 pm
Sat December 31, 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 1:11 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
4:59 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 3:31 pm

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Technology
5:00 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 2:18 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
6:29 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.

Music Interviews
2:44 pm
Sun October 9, 2011

Bjork's 'Biophilia': Interactive Music, Pushing Boundaries

Bjork's new album, Biophilia, is also an interactive multimedia project.

Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin

The title of Bjork's new album came to her after she read a book by neurologist Oliver Sachs about the mind's empathy for music.

"He called it 'musicophilia,' she says. "Obviously, I make music, but I wanted to do a project about nature. So I thought, if I call it Biophilia, it's sort of empathy with nature."

So there are song titles like "Solstice," "Dark Matter" and "Crystalline." The lyrics actually touch on processes in nature — for instance, how crystals grow.

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Digital Life
12:07 pm
Thu October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs' Greatest Legacy May Be Impact On Design

Steve Jobs introduces new MacBook Air models at Apple headquarters on Oct. 20, 2010. Some say one of his greatest legacies is his impact on design.

Justin Sullivan Getty Images

Steve Jobs, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 56, was obsessed with computers from an early age. In 1975, when he was 20, Jobs was part of the Homebrew Computer Club — a group of early computer enthusiasts obsessed with making computers more popular.

"People [would be] all together in a room, jostling, bubbling with ideas, bringing in new technology, new chips, new displays, new networks, new software, everything new," says John Gage, a former member of the club.

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Technology
5:34 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

Microsoft, Google Tussle Over Android Phone Patents

The Galaxy S II is a Samsung smartphone that runs on Android. Analysts say Microsoft could be getting as much as $15 for each phone Samsung sells.

Jin Sung-chul AP

Originally published on Mon October 3, 2011 6:15 pm

Apple's iPhone may be the most talked about smartphone on the market, but there are far more phones using Google's Android operating system — 40 percent of the U.S. market. Microsoft's Windows for Mobile comes in near the bottom, with around 5 percent.

But Microsoft says Android steps all over its patents.

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The Record
5:30 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Facebook Announces New Partnerships For Music, Movies And TV

Screengrab of the Facebook Music profile picture.
Courtesy of Facebook

Facebook took a leap Thursday towards making itself into what it hopes will be the social center for entertainment and media. You'll be able to see what movies and TV your friends are watching, what music they're listening to and what news items they're reading.

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