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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3:00am

Wed April 4, 2012
Starting Up: Silicon Valley's Origins

A Rare Mix Created Silicon Valley's Startup Culture

Originally published on Wed April 4, 2012 2:47 pm

Courtesy of Intel

The first in a 3-part series airing this week on Morning Edition.

When Facebook goes public later this spring, its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, will be following in the footsteps of a long line of Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs that includes Steve Jobs and Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin. But there was a time when the idea of an engineer or scientist starting his or her own company was rare.

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4:00am

Thu March 29, 2012
Remembrances

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.

4:38pm

Thu February 23, 2012
Technology

California Industries Spar Over Internet Piracy

Originally published on Thu February 23, 2012 7:10 pm

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

There's a civil war going on in California. It's the north vs. the south β€” 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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7:00pm

Fri January 20, 2012
The Record

Four Views On Megaupload

Originally published on Fri January 20, 2012 7:08 pm

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

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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8:00pm

Thu January 19, 2012
The Record

Megaupload Shut Down By The FBI

Originally published on Fri January 20, 2012 4:37 pm

Courtesy of Megaupload.

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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4:31pm

Mon January 9, 2012
Digital Life

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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7:18pm

Sat December 31, 2011
It Was A Good Year For...

No Excuses: Robots Put You In Two Places At Once

Originally published on Tue January 3, 2012 1:11 pm

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

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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4:59am

Fri December 9, 2011
Business

Online Video Sites Go Pro And Get Original

Originally published on Fri December 9, 2011 3:31 pm

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 β€” and that could bring the service a lot of new subscribers, one analyst says.
Neilson Barnard Getty Images for The New Yorker

5:00am

Tue December 6, 2011
Technology

How Twitter's Trending Algorithm Picks Its Topics

Originally published on Wed December 7, 2011 2:18 pm

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

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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6:29am

Wed November 9, 2011
Digital Life

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.

1:00pm

Tue October 25, 2011
The Record

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 β€” the ability to use a real guitar.

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3:00pm

Thu October 13, 2011
Remembrances

Dennis Ritchie, A Hero Of The Computer World, Dies

An unsung hero of the computer world has died. Dennis Ritchie created the C language β€” which is the foundation for most computers, including the iPad and iPhone.

2:44pm

Sun October 9, 2011
Music Interviews

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 β€” for instance, how crystals grow.

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12:07pm

Thu October 6, 2011
Digital Life

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 β€” 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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7:44pm

Wed October 5, 2011
Remembrances

Apple Visionary Steve Jobs Dies At 56

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 2:01 pm

Steve Jobs holds up an iPhone at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco in June 2010.

Paul Sakuma AP

Steve Jobs β€” the man who brought us the iPhone, the iPod and the iMac β€” has died. The co-founder of Apple was 56 years old. Jobs had been battling a rare form of pancreatic cancer for years.

"It boggles the mind to think of all the things that Steve Jobs did," says Silicon Valley venture capitalist Roger McNamee, who worked with Jobs.

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5:34pm

Mon October 3, 2011
Technology

Microsoft, Google Tussle Over Android Phone Patents

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

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

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 β€” 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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5:30pm

Thu September 22, 2011
The Record

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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12:11am

Tue August 16, 2011
Around the Nation

BART Defends Cutting Off Cellphone Service

Authorities in San Francisco had to shut down several city subway stations Monday after demonstrators tried to stop a train from leaving a downtown station.

The protesters were upset that the Bay Area Rapid Transit agency last week shut down cellphone access in the subway to prevent a protest.

BART police have been the target of protests over alleged brutality. Most recently, two BART officers shot Charles Hill, a transient man they said threatened them with a knife.

That shooting is one of the reasons that Jevon Cochran has come to this and other protests.

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12:01am

Thu August 11, 2011
Business

In Shift To Streaming, Netflix Customers Find Holes

It seems like Netflix is on top and it's everywhere. Users can watch it on their computers, game consoles, smartphones, or Internet-connected TV. Netflix boasts some 25 million subscribers, which is more than big cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner.

Although the company started as a mail order DVD service, these days it does the lion's share of promoting for its online streaming service. The company says it's the place to "watch instantly."

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4:00pm

Wed June 29, 2011
The Record

EMI Publishing Dumps ASCAP

Courtesy of EMI Publishing

The music business has undergone drastic changes during the Internet era, but until recently, one thing that hadn't changed was the role of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, known to the industry as ASCAP. This performance rights organization has helped songwriters and music publishers get paid when their songs are played in radio broadcasts, on elevators and in clubs for nearly 100 years. But as broadcasting moves online, ASCAP's future may be uncertain.

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4:10pm

Tue June 14, 2011
Business

Company Sues Apple Over Use Of iCloud Name

The website of iCloud Communications, which is suing Apple over the use of the name iCloud.
geticloud.com

Apple is being sued for trademark infringement over the name of its new Internet storage service, which it calls iCloud. A company in Dallas says it has been using that name since 2005.

Last week Apple introduced iCloud, a service that will let users store music, photos, calendars, e-mails and other content online. But iCloud Communications says Apple should have asked the Phoenix-based company before using the name.

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5:00am

Sat June 11, 2011
The Picture Show

Gertrude Stein Through Artists' Eyes

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:45 am

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Aix-les-Bains, France, circa 1927
Yale Collection of American Literature Contemporary Jewish Museum

Gertrude Stein, once one of the doyennes of American letters, is the center of two concurrent exhibitions in San Francisco. Both tread some familiar territory, like her friendship and patronage of Picasso and other artists. But the exhibitions also reveal some lesser-known sides of Stein.

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8:00am

Sat June 4, 2011
Business

Music Industry's Blessing Lifts Hopes For iCloud

On Monday, Apple will be the third big company to introduce a service that will let you access your music from a so-called cloud. Google and Amazon already have music services that make use of the cloud, but there's a difference.
Daniel Barry Getty Images

Apple CEO Steve Jobs will come back from medical leave to announce a new music service at the company's annual developers conference on Monday. The service will be called iCloud, and it's rumored to have been in the works for the last year. All indications are that, for the first time, the major record labels and music publishers have gotten behind a service that will let you access your entire iTunes collection from almost any Internet-connected device.

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7:35am

Sun May 1, 2011
Fine Art

Ai Weiwei's Artwork Travels, Despite Detainment

On Monday, 12 large sculptures by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei will be unveiled in New York, but the whereabouts of their creator remain unknown.

Ai was taken into custody by Chinese authorities nearly a month ago and, according to his family, the government still has not told them where he is or why he was taken.

Ai has always been outspoken in both his art and his life, but recent events in China and the Middle East have brought greater government scrutiny to one of the country's best known artists.

A Visit With Ai Weiwei

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11:26am

Sat April 16, 2011
The Two-Way

Art And Consequence: A Talk With China's Controversial Ai Weiwei

This Sunday, at Chinese embassies all over world, protesters are planning a global sit-in to protest the detention of the internationally renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Ai was taken into custody by Chinese authorities nearly two weeks ago for what government officials now say are questions about his finances.

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12:01am

Mon April 11, 2011
Digital Life

How To Save The World, One Video Game At A Time

Every week people across the globe spend 3 billion hours playing video games β€” but that isn't enough for Jane McGonigal. She told an audience at last year's TED conference in California that we need to play more.

"If we want to solve problems like hunger, poverty, climate change, global conflict, obesity," she said, "I believe that we need to aspire to play games online for at least 21 billion hours a week by the end of the next decade."

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