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Pauline Sargent is #MakingIrelandClick

Continuing our series of interviews with digital champions we caught up with Pauline Sargent, business woman, advocate, educator, mentor and all round Pauline Sargentdynamo when it comes to digital.

We asked Pauline how she got hooked on digital herself and she told us, “I was working in the travel industry for over 20 years then I left to raise my children. I started getting active in my local community in Drimnagh. I was frustrated with the local politics in our area and started to search online to see how other communities were dealing with local issues. I discovered a very active Hyperlocal Media community in the UK who were using blogs and social media to increase participation between residents and local authorities. For me the website talkaboutlocal.org.uk and the people who run it had an enormous impact on how I use digital and social media tools.  From them, I realised the power of social media, and how you can reach a wider audience. It accelerated my interest in what social technology can do. So, I set up a hyperlocal blog called Drimnagh is Good to help promote the positive things that were happening in our local area. I still run the Facebook page for Drimnagh. Doing all of this encouraged me to go back and do masters in digital marketing in DCU at the age of 46. I now lecture in Dublin Business School on all things digital and run training courses on digital communications. I also run an organisation called DigiWomen.ie that enables female makers and users of technology to learn, do and connect. DigiWomen want to see more women working in tech and talking about tech.”  

An interesting path to technology that is very grounded in reality. If you want to follow some of Pauline’s online adventures you can find her on nearly every social network although she is focused in her use of each, “You can find me on many spaces online. I use Twitter and LinkedIn mainly for business and research. Facebook is for keeping in touch with family and friends. Although more and more I am finding Facebook group pages really useful. Instagram would be my favourite online haunt. Yes there is a lot of fakeness but when you get past that there is a lot of richness. I love seeing what people are doing in their everyday lives. And the creativity of making the ordinary look amazing is incredible.”

Leading on from this, we asked Pauline what is her current favourite piece of digital technology. Her answer again focuses on a problem that she knew technology could solve. She expanded, telling us, “I wouldn’t be the best writer in the world so when I discovered the Hemmingway Editor App I was delighted. It helps makes your writing more readable. It tells you when sentences are too long and too hard to read. And if you could have used simpler words to get your point across. After a while you will find that your writing naturally improves and you will not have to fix as much. It removes a lot of stress for me when it comes to writing online.” We asked her where did she hear about it and where does she generally find out about new technologies. She replied, “I’m not sure who introduced me to it. I get most of my information from blogs. I find them a great resource for discovering new technologies and information on how to do things better.” However, she remarked with an eyeroll, “Although sometimes that can be a bad thing as I am always attracted to the next, new, shiny piece of technology and sometimes need to hold back and focus on what is already in my digital toolkit.”

As we did with Fred and Ailish we asked Pauline to tell us what disadvantages she sees in digital technology and how they can be mitigated. Her response was unexpected but understandable from a parent. She replied that in her opinion, “The biggest downside is the easy access to porn and how it is affecting teenagers and young children. Parents need to be more aware of what their children are looking at online. How often they are looking at it and how it is affecting them. More ongoing education is needed about sex and porn to children from an earlier age and it needs to come from parents. We cannot be afraid to talk about porn and what happens if you access it online. I am glad that Enda Kenny has called for a “national debate on pornography and its effects on young people being exposed to the “avalanche of communications of all descriptions” on the internet”. We will only mitigate the disadvantages by having an open discussion, by increasing investment into the porn industry online and encouraging more innovation. Cindy Gallop is a legend when it comes to talking about porn and how the landscape of porn needs navigation especially for younger people. Her four-minute talk about her website Make Love, Not Porn quickly became one of Ted 2009’s “most talked about” videos.” 

Speaking of love (!), we asked Pauline how she would encourage a “nonliner” to come online and do more with digital. She thought about what got her hooked and replied “Find something that you love doing and then go online and see who else is doing it too. I love photographs. I love taking them and I love looking at them. So naturally looking at photography blogs was one of the first places I went online. I used to follow a blogger called Redmum and I was fascinated with her images of Dublin. This was about 8 years ago. She inspired me unknowingly to take more photos and check out other photo bloggers. It was the first time I experienced what it was like to be part of an online community. I eventually went on photo walks and weekends away with a lot of these photo bloggers. It’s a great way to meet new people, go to new places and learn new techniques. And you can do it slowly and at a level that you are comfortable with. Everyone is very friendly and willing to help.” So the real became virtual and then real again!

We asked Pauline about the newest digital technology that’s grabbed her fancy. Her response shows again how technology is always blended with real life for her. It also shows how infectious enthusiasm for technology can be too. “Right now in our house it is all about the Pokemon Go app,” she told us. “It has changed our family walks forever. My 15 year old signed up for it the first day it came to Ireland and I joined it a few weeks later. My 7 year quickly became obsessed with going on Pokemon hunts. Suddenly walking 5k was no longer a chore. After a while my husband joined in and now there is fierce competition in the house to see who is at the highest level or has the most pokemons. I like that it gets us out walking to new places and the kids get to see landmarks that normally they would probably pass by. “ Top tip: If you don’t fancy following Pikachu down the Pokemon hole it’s worth checking out the longer established Geocaching If you want to read a book with digital treasure hunting at its heart check out Burning Midnight

Finally we asked Pauline if she was going to #HaveTheTalk with one person who would it be. She replied without hesitation, “It would be my neighbour who says she is not into all that digital stuff. Having spent the last 20 years raising her children and not being in the workplace, I feel the whole digital world has passed her by. I would help her get started by doing an ECDL course. This would help her feel more confident around using a computer. It would give her the basic IT skills needed to get back into the workforce.” After this interview Pauline called into her neighbour and recommended she tune into Making Ireland Click.