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.

Apple is about to close a deal with director Steven Spielberg to revive his Emmy award-winning series Amazing Stories for Apple TV. With it, Apple is entering a world in which Netflix has been a leader. But now, new competitors to Netflix are emerging at a surprising speed.

This essay is one in a series celebrating deserving artists or albums not included on NPR Music's list of 150 Greatest Albums By Women.

In the hours just after the massacre in Las Vegas, some fake news started showing up on Google and Facebook. A man was falsely accused of being the shooter. His name bubbled up on Facebook emergency sites and when you searched his name on Google, links of sites connecting him with the shooting topped the first page.

It appears to be another case of automation working so fast that humans can't keep pace. Unfortunately, these powerful tech companies continue to be a main destination for news and it's not clear how they can solve the problem.

Facebook is under increasing pressure to scrutinize its advertising content after it discovered that at least 3,000 ads on the site had been placed by a Russian agency to influence the 2016 presidential election. The revelations about the ads came after months of denial by CEO Mark Zuckerberg that Facebook played any role in influencing voters.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

For months, Facebook has denied that fake news circulating on its platform had a hand in President Trump's election victory last year. Now it is admitting as much. We'll look at what's changed on this week's All Tech Considered.

A feature of Apple's new high end iPhone X called Face ID — the phone will unlock when you look at it, or rather when it looks at you — has got privacy advocates nervous.

The new feature set off a fairly silly joke meme on Twitter with jibes such as "Face ID is the worst thing to happen to Beverly Hills plastic surgeons." But critics are taking the feature seriously, in part because Apple is likely to make Face ID very appealing and simple to use.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Today at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Apple CEO Tim Cook made a dramatic introduction.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TIM COOK: This is iPhone 10. It is the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone.

Tropical Storm Harvey disrupted at least 17 emergency call centers and 320 cellular sites, and it caused outages for more than 148,000 Internet, TV and phone customers, according to the Federal Communications Commission. It left many people unable to reach out for help or get in touch with family and friends to say they were alive.

It's likely that a similar scenario will occur with Irma, one of the most potentially devastating storms in the state's history, hitting Florida.

Following the violence in Charlottesville, Va., Silicon Valley tech firms removed far-right groups from search results, cut off their websites and choked their ability to raise money online.

The moves have leaders on the far-right calling for the government to step in and regulate these companies. They have some strange bedfellows in this — many liberals also are calling for more regulation of the same companies.

On the far-right is Richard Spencer. He is a white supremacist.

In the aftermath of the white supremacist rallies in Charlottesville, Va., many civil rights activists took to Twitter and shared photos of people who allegedly were at the march. The idea was to identify who they were and shame them. But identifying someone from a photo can be tricky — and the activists managed to make at least one mistake.

The names and faces of individuals who were part of last weekend's white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., are being plastered all over the Internet by civil rights advocates. It's part of an effort to shame the people who participated. But it's a tactic that can also snare some innocent people in its net.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai cut his the vacation short and returned to the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters as criticism mounted over a senior engineer's controversial memo condemning Google's diversity initiatives. The engineer was subsequently fired.

The memo, which some inside Google jokingly called a "manifesto," was widely shared inside and outside the company.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Apple put investors at ease Tuesday with its quarterly report. Wall Street was expecting a slowdown in iPhone 7 sales. Instead, sales of the iPhone 7 were up 1.6 percent year over year.

Analysts thought that consumers would wait for the highly anticipated iPhone 8 before they upgraded. Apple is expected to make significant changes in its upcoming 10th anniversary edition — such as wireless charging and facial recognition software.

People from New Jersey are used to defending their state.

But, in fact, New Jersey has a history to brag about. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, the phonograph and the movie camera there. Many decades later, Bell Labs invented the transistor in the state.

Geography favored New Jersey. On one end, it borders New York City, and on the other end is Philadelphia. That means easy access to Wall Street financing, transportation and industry headquarters.

Tomas Villegas was looking for information about a product on YouTube, but couldn't find it. "So I thought, well, I'm sure there's other people looking for it. So I made a video."

Four years later, Villegas, who works at a technical college, has a side business doing product reviews on his YouTube channel. He found that adding a little music really improved his videos.

"It just adds that third dimension that is missing sometimes," he says.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the man who invented recorded sound — Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville. He beat the more well-known inventor Thomas Edison by 20 years, though his accomplishments were only recognized over the last decade.

While the uses of recorded sound seem obvious now — music, news, voice messages — none of it was obvious to Scott or Edison when they made the first recordings. It's a story that has some lessons for today's aspiring inventors.

Google offered a glimpse of how it sees the future at its annual developer's conference this week. And it involves a lot of blending between the virtual and the real worlds using augmented and virtual reality. Google is calling that blend immersive computing.

Clay Bavor, who heads up Google's AR and VR division, says it's all part of a future where the virtual and real worlds blur.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Circle, the film based on the novel by Dave Eggers, presents a dystopian view of the direction Silicon Valley is taking the world. And, as a longtime Silicon Valley correspondent, I have to say there is a lot that this comic and spooky film gets right.

Video of a murder uploaded to Facebook this week upset many users, especially since it took Facebook two hours to take it down. But the incident illustrates a dilemma for the company as it becomes an open platform for both recorded and livestreamed video.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was contrite about the incident when he appeared on stage at the company's F8 developer's conference.

It's been lean times for some of YouTube's most popular video producers. In the last two weeks ad rates have gone down as much as 75 percent. The producers are caught up in a struggle between advertisers and YouTube over ad placement.

In recent weeks, reports showed ads from major brands placed with extremist and anti-Semitic videos. Companies such as General Motors, Audi and McDonald's pulled out of YouTube. That means there's less money for everyone.

Now YouTube is trying to convince these companies to come back. And that's meant adjusting the algorithm that places ads.

It's daunting to think about the number of products Apple has created that have transformed how most people use technology: the original Mac with the first mass-produced mouse, the iMac, the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad.

But fast-forward to 2017, and it appears that a lot of innovation is coming from other companies. Amazon has a hit with its Echo, a speaker device that responds to voice commands. Reviewers say Microsoft's Surface competes with the Mac. And now, Samsung's Galaxy S8 smartphone is getting raves because of its battery life and high-end screen.

There's a new brand on the Internet that's taking over some old ones — or at least old in Internet years. Yahoo and AOL are now under an umbrella company called Oath. The new brand has sparked more than a few jokes on Twitter and elsewhere.

One critic pointed out it sounded a lot like Oaf — and another asked if "Oof" was already taken. But with more than a billion customers, the combination has potential.

AOL CEO — soon to be Oath CEO — Tim Armstrong says consumers aren't really going to hear that name very much.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Donald Trump frequently boasts about starting a movement, and sociologists say they are seeing unprecedented grass-roots activism across the country. They credit Trump for inspiring people to become politically engaged on the right — and even more so on the left. And many of those activists are brand new to the scene.

There are renewed efforts at the state level to pass so-called religious freedom bills. LGBTQ rights advocates believe that's because local lawmakers are anticipating support from the Trump administration.

In Alabama, there's a bill that allows adoption agencies that are religiously affiliated to hold true to their faith if they don't think same-sex couples should be parents. The psychiatric community has found no evidence that having same-sex parents harms children.

The CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, has resigned from President Trump's economic council made up of U.S. business leaders. His resignation comes after a consumer campaign to boycott the ride hailing company because of Kalanick's association with the Trump administration.

In an email to staff, obtained by NPR, Kalanick said, "Joining the group was not meant to be an endorsement of the President or his agenda but unfortunately it has been misinterpreted to be exactly that."

It was a dramatic market entry for the iPhone 7 last year. Many Apple customers grumbled when Apple took away the headphone jack and gave everyone an adapter to plug earbuds into the Lightning, or charging, connector.

But everyone seems to have adjusted. Apple sold 78 million iPhones over the holiday season.

Pages