NPR: 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. She's covered politics, arts, media, religion, entrepreneurship, and most recently she became the Arts & Technology Correspondent for the NPR newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.

Sydell considers it incredibly exciting to be reporting on the ways in which technology is changing our culture. She enjoys telling the stories of everyone from high-profile CEOs, to small inventors such as a Berkeley man who developed a revolutionary book-binding machine in his basement that could transform the publishing industry. She sees the beat as an opportunity to help listeners understand how technology is changing the way we create and live.

As a senior technology reporter on Public Radio International's Marketplace, Sydell looked at the human impact of new technologies and the personalities behind the Silicon Valley boom and bust.

Before coming to San Francisco, Sydell was based in New York City where she worked as a reporter for NPR member station WNYC. There, her reports on race relations, city politics, and arts won numerous awards from The Newswomen's Club of New York, The New York Press Club, The Society of Professional Journalists, and others. She has also produced long-form radio documentaries that focused on individuals whose life experiences turned them into activists. American Women in Radio and Television, The National Federation of Community Broadcasters, and Women in Communications have all honored her documentary work.

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.

Among her all-time favorite pieces are her profile of a private eye who found a way to incorporate Buddhist faith into her job by working exclusively on death penalty cases, and the story of a mother's devotion to a son charged with a brutal murder and the bus that carries her and others with incarcerated family members from New York City to a prison upstate.

Sydell has a bachelor's degree from William Smith College in Geneva, New York, and a J.D. from Yeshiva University's Cardozo School of Law. She lives in San Francisco and laments the fact that she is too busy to have a dog.

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2:57am

Fri October 11, 2013
All Tech Considered

3-D Printing A Masterwork For Your Living Room

Originally published on Fri October 11, 2013 12:22 pm

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

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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5:48pm

Wed October 2, 2013
All Tech Considered

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

Originally published on Thu October 3, 2013 12:08 pm

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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4:01pm

Fri September 27, 2013
All Tech Considered

Record Label Picks Copyright Fight — With The Wrong Guy

Originally published on Fri September 27, 2013 5:32 pm

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

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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5:38pm

Mon September 23, 2013
All Tech Considered

Fake Reviewers Get Zero Stars From New York Attorney General

Originally published on Wed September 25, 2013 12:04 pm

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

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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4:35am

Fri September 20, 2013
All Tech Considered

Female Fans Love New Grand Theft Auto Despite Demeaning Content

Originally published on Fri September 20, 2013 2:02 pm

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

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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4:58am

Fri September 13, 2013
Business

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.

5:18am

Thu September 12, 2013
All Tech Considered

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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12:28am

Wed September 11, 2013
The Record

What Does A Song That Costs $5 Sound Like?

Originally published on Wed September 11, 2013 12:04 pm

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

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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4:57pm

Mon September 9, 2013
Law

Basic Internet Economics At Stake In Net Neutrality Suit

Originally published on Tue September 10, 2013 5:20 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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5:24pm

Fri August 30, 2013
All Tech Considered

Taking The Battle Against Patent Trolls To The Public

Originally published on Fri August 30, 2013 7:01 pm

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

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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5:09pm

Tue August 20, 2013
All Tech Considered

How Vine Settled On 6 Seconds

Originally published on Tue August 20, 2013 8:53 pm

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

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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6:58pm

Mon August 19, 2013
All Tech Considered

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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5:40am

Wed August 7, 2013
All Tech Considered

Amazon Enters Art World; Galleries Say They Aren't Worried

Originally published on Wed August 7, 2013 11:35 am

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

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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6:24pm

Mon August 5, 2013
All Tech Considered

Trade Case Puts Apple In Washington's Sights

Originally published on Mon August 5, 2013 7:08 pm

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

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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3:04am

Mon July 15, 2013
All Tech Considered

How Hackers Tapped Into My Cellphone For Less Than $300

Originally published on Mon July 15, 2013 8:57 am

It's easier — and cheaper — than you'd expect to hack a cellphone, say a team of white hat hackers.
iStockPhoto.com

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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4:04am

Thu June 27, 2013
Business

$99 Game Console Ouya Aims To Take Down Barriers To Fans

Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 12:37 pm

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

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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5:28am

Sat June 15, 2013
The Record

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

Originally published on Sat June 15, 2013 4:40 pm

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

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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5:30am

Tue June 4, 2013
Business

Apple: Price-Fixing Charges 'Not True'

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 4:29 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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4:49pm

Mon May 20, 2013
All Tech Considered

With New Xbox, Microsoft Makes A Bigger Play For Living Room

Originally published on Mon May 20, 2013 9:00 pm

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

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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4:47pm

Wed May 15, 2013
The Record

Google Launches A Streaming Music Service

Originally published on Thu May 16, 2013 6:19 pm

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

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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3:33am

Thu May 9, 2013
All Tech Considered

Consumers Facing Subscription Service Overload Will Only Get More Choices

Originally published on Thu May 9, 2013 4:02 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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3:25am

Mon April 29, 2013
All Tech Considered

Blazing The Trail For Female Programmers

Originally published on Tue April 30, 2013 5:35 pm

Sarah Allen works with interns Lori Hsu (left) and Fito von Zastrow at the Blazing Cloud offices in San Francisco.
Ramin Rahimian for NPR

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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2:57am

Tue April 9, 2013
Movies

Crowdsourcing Creativity At The Cinema

Originally published on Tue April 9, 2013 9:00 pm

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

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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4:40am

Wed March 27, 2013
Business

T-Mobile: Adds iPhone Ditches 2-Year Contracts

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 6:05 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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2:57am

Thu March 21, 2013
All Tech Considered

On Its 7th Birthday, Is Twitter Still The 'Free Speech Party'?

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 9:23 am

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

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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4:41am

Mon March 11, 2013
All Tech Considered

Controlling Your Computer With A Wave Of Your Hand

Originally published on Mon March 11, 2013 8:48 am

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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6:31am

Wed February 20, 2013
Business

Law Change Makes It Harder To Unlock Cellphones

Originally published on Wed February 20, 2013 9:41 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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2:09am

Wed January 16, 2013
All Tech Considered

'It's About Time': Facebook Reveals New Search Feature

Originally published on Wed January 16, 2013 8:47 am

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on Tuesday.
Jeff Chiu AP

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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5:45pm

Mon January 7, 2013
All Tech Considered

Why Is Google Exec Interested In North Korea?

Originally published on Mon January 7, 2013 6:39 pm

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

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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4:12pm

Mon December 31, 2012
All Tech Considered

From 3-D Printers To Wired Glasses, The Tech Year Ahead

Originally published on Mon December 31, 2012 8:17 pm

Google Glass will be part of a trend in 2013 of computing and connectivity in devices we don't generally think of as computers.
Seth Wenig AP

It's unlikely 2013 will be the year that jet packs make it big, but the coming year could bring us a host of other new technology trends and products, such as 3-D printers for consumers, smarter smartphones and more connected devices like glasses and cars.

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