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

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.

The pronunciation of words by computers has gotten a lot better — at least in the movies. One of the latest futurist films — Ex Machina — has actress Alicia Vikander as the voice of the humanoid robot Ava.

Meanwhile, in the real world, computer voices such as those used for Siri, Cortana and Google Now don't seem to be able to say some words correctly.

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When Apple recently updated its TV box the redesign included a remote that also functions as a game controller. Apple isn't trying to compete with powerful consoles such as Microsoft's Xbox or Sony's PlayStation. But, Apple is competing with Google and Amazon to attract a much bigger but different gaming audience.

Apple's latest press event wasn't really filled with surprises: Though the rumor mill always has churned before Apple events since the death of Steve Jobs, the rumors have gotten more accurate, so it wasn't a surprise that Apple upgraded its iPhones, iPads and Apple TV.

Here are a few impressions of the new offerings:

Apple TV

Of the products announced Wednesday, this was the most interesting, and, just maybe, the most revolutionary.

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine hits theaters today. Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney's documentary joins a growing list of biopics and biographies that have come out since Jobs' death in 2011. But, it adds a new perspective on the increasingly well-known facts of his life. Gibney's thesis seems to be that Jobs' flawed character was infused into the machines he made, leaving us perhaps a little more flawed if we use them.

Updated at 12:08 p.m. ET: Uber Responds

Uber has been fighting challenges to its business model. But a federal judge in California has allowed some drivers to proceed with a class-action lawsuit against the ride-hailing service. The case could affect other big companies in the sharing economy.

There's a battle brewing between Facebook and the people who make professional videos on YouTube. Facebook has made video a priority over the past year and many of the most popular videos turn out to have originated on YouTube.

A lot of YouTube stars say Facebook is taking money right out of their pockets — and many of them are talking about big money.

The iconic image of the American farmer is the man or woman who works the land, milks cows and is self-reliant enough to fix the tractor. But like a lot of mechanical items, tractors are increasingly run by computer software. Now, farmers are hitting up against an obscure provision of copyright law that makes it illegal to repair machinery run by software.

Take Dave Alford. He fits that image of the iconic farmer.

Iran has the potential to be a boom market for American tech companies. The majority of the population is under 30 and well educated, and over half the country has access to the Internet.

Many businesses have to wait until more sanctions are lifted, but certain tech companies can already go into Iran legally because the U.S. has lifted sanctions on various communication technology. They just aren't sure they want to.

Twitter has started taking down jokes for copyright infringement. The removals were first spotted by @PlagiarismBad, which traced the takedown notices to Olga Lexell, a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

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The chief executive officer of Nintendo has died. As NPR's Laura Sydell reports, Satoru Iwata was known for his accessibility to fans, and he's being remembered for a playfulness unusual among big company CEOs.

Spotify, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Rdio, Rhapsody, Pandora — the list of streaming music service goes on and on. On Tuesday, Apple joins that lineup with the launch of its streaming service, Apple Music. Apple will give consumers a three-month trial, and then it will charge $9.99 a month.

But most music lovers still aren't sure why they should pay. Colin Barrett, 31, has tried a few of the streaming services, but he doesn't use them anymore.

Video game makers are in Los Angeles this week showing off their latest releases. Along with updates of big franchises like Tomb Raider, game developers are showcasing immersive virtual reality games. But virtual reality may not inspire love at first sight when it starts hitting the consumer market.

Even if you haven't played a video game, it's likely I could describe it to you pretty vividly because you've played other video games. But with virtual reality, there isn't much out there yet to try.

The same day that Apple did a splashy, star-studded introduction to its new Apple Music subscription streaming service, New York's attorney general posted a letter from attorneys for Universal Music Group indicating that prosecutors are looking at the streaming music business and that Apple is one of the companies being investigated.

Apple CEO Tim Cook made headlines this week when he lashed out at rival tech companies for selling people's personal data. He didn't mention Google, Facebook or Twitter by name, but it's pretty clear those were the companies he meant. But is Apple faultless on privacy issues?

Cameras are ubiquitous — from the ones in our cellphones to the security cams in parking lots and shops. And just when you thought it couldn't get harder to hide, live-streaming video is raising new questions about privacy.

Streaming video cameras aren't new, but new apps have made it super easy to stream from a smartphone. Periscope is popular because it can be streamed on Twitter, which recently purchased the app.

When my mother passed away, I was by her side in a peaceful, sunny room at a hospice in South Florida. The sliding glass doors looked out to a flourishing garden filled with bougainvillea, rosebushes and carefully cultivated grasses. A block of sunlight, alive with swirling dust, hit the edge of my mother's bed where the tops of her small bony feet made a lump under the light cotton covers.

Fifty years ago this week, a chemist in what is now Silicon Valley published a paper that set the groundwork for the digital revolution.

You may never have heard of Moore's law, but it has a lot do with why you will pay about the same price for your next computer, smartphone or tablet, even though it will be faster and have better screen resolution than the last one.

Remember those days of tending rows of virtual soybeans and strawberries on your Facebook page with a game called Farmville? It was a moment, and Zynga, the company that makes the game, cashed in when it went public back in 2011.

Now, Zynga is losing money and its founder is back, to mixed reviews.

When Zynga launched Farmville in 2009, it surprised everyone with its success. It quickly became the most popular game on Facebook.

But people got bored with planting seeds on a desktop. The market had moved to mobile, and Zynga didn't keep up.

You may want your kid to major in something practical at college, like engineering, so they can land one of those great jobs at a big tech company. But, you might also urge them to spend time studying the arts. Some tech companies are bringing in artists to help them work out ideas and build cool new things.

The jury said that the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers did not retaliate against former partner Ellen Pao by terminating her. The case has spurred conversation about gender discrimination in the tech world.

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I had a lot of experiences this past week: I shot birds out of the sky with my eyes, my fingers were on fire, I flew on top of a drone over the arctic and looked into the jaws of a dragon.

I did all this without leaving San Francisco, at the 2015 Game Developers Conference, where the people who make the video games we love to play come to the city by the thousands to check out the latest hardware and software for making games.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit



According to law enforcement officials, ISIS and other terrorist organizations are increasingly adept at using social media to recruit from abroad. Last year alone, the FBI reports, around 20 American citizens were detained trying to travel to Syria to join militants fighting for the so-called Islamic State.

In Silicon Valley's youth-obsessed culture, 40-year-olds get plastic surgery to fit in. But IDEO, the firm that famously developed the first mouse for Apple, has a 90-year-old designer on staff.

Barbara Beskind says her age is an advantage.

Apple's innovative iTunes music service is still the market leader in music downloads, but after more than a decade of growth, sales of music tracks on iTunes have been declining. Last year saw the largest drop in sales — 14 percent. The drop is attributed to the increasing popularity of streaming music services such as Spotify, Pandora and YouTube. These services give fans access to millions of tracks from any Internet-connected device for a monthly fee or in return for listening to commercials.

The popular ride-hailing service Uber is valued at a staggering $40 billion — even though it's besieged by lawsuits, bad PR and outright bans in some cities.