Thursday 21 June 2018

Jess makes sense of this brave new techie world

Pioneer: Johanna Mary (Hanna) Sheehy-Skeffington was a leading light in the Irish suffragette movement
Pioneer: Johanna Mary (Hanna) Sheehy-Skeffington was a leading light in the Irish suffragette movement
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Tech Talk (Newstalk, Sun 6pm) is a welcome new(ish) addition to the schedules. Jess Kelly is already well-known as the station's in-house tech guru, across various programmes.

Now her own show explores technology in a very approachable way. Simply put, if you're one of those people whose head gets melted by the rate of change, both in tech and its effects on society, this is for you. Kelly makes it all as comprehensible as possible for us dinosaurs who grew up before the online age.

Her brief is wide-ranging - recent shows have covered child protection online, computer games, a website which connects freelance beauty and hair professionals with customers, artificial intelligence, ticket touts and, as Kelly put it, "a conversation in plain English" about GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), a pan-European directive.

She eschews a lot of that annoying techie jargon, explaining things to the casual listener while not dumbing it down so far as to make enthusiasts zone out. And while Kelly doesn't shy away from the bad side of technology, she's not a doom-monger. The piece on child protection, for example, didn't just highlight dangers, it provided practical information on resources available to teachers and parents.

Kelly is positive, saying: "I wasn't the smartest in school but I was good with computers. Technology helped me find my voice, and now it's my job. So I'm a big fan and advocate, and would hate to see people tarring all technology with a negative brush."

And she's right, for all that worries about this brave new world are valid, everyone now has to engage with this stuff, whether they want to or not; better to do so well-armed, and Tech Talk goes a good way towards that.

Unfortunately, it often feels as if everyone must engage with politics, too - be that parliamentary, social, identity or whatever else. The fact that you can't avoid it much of the time was explored by journalist John Power on Moncrieff (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 2pm).

He was speaking specifically about how art and culture are now constantly assailed for being politically incorrect, citing the example of Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards…, which apparently failed to apply the necessary moral judgment to a racist character.

"There seems to be a sense that popular culture and art stands for a particular thing," Power said, "whether that be in terms of the performer or in terms of content, say it promotes a certain idea of gender equality. To me this is a strange idea."

He used a nice turn of phrase - "We're more and more getting lost in these woods" - to describe the phenomenon of people "trying to morally take apart every book and film and song." While there's nothing wrong with having a political message in artwork, Power added, "we can lose the run of ourselves, casting certain things as impure, because they don't fit a particular moment in time or viewpoint."

Drivetime (Radio 1, Mon-Fri 4.30pm) looked at Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, the pioneering suffragette at the forefront of Irish women's fight for the vote, which they finally received 100 years ago last Tuesday. Brian Lally reported from a commemoration at Dublin Castle, where Hanna had smashed the windows in protest, an act now marked by a plaque.

Her granddaughter Micheline proudly and cheerily described Hanna as "stubborn", adding: "It's very important that we commemorate it."

Dublin Lord Mayor Micheál Mac Donncha concurred: "It was very courageous thing. She was heavily involved with the Land War and fight for independence, and saw those as totally integrated: you couldn't have freedom for Ireland without freedom for women."

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