Connected devices are bringing familes together again

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Ofcom’s recently published Communications Market Report for 2013 contains a wealth of detail about the way our social structures and interactions are changing with the rapid advance of mobile technology.  Patterns of leisure that once would have taken years to shift have radically re-aligned in a year.

One of the most interesting  findings for me is that  smartphones and tablets are actually driving households together again in the main living room.  When internet enabled desktops were the only way to watch on-line material, family members were driven to the solitude of their bedrooms to watch on-line alternatives to the live TV offerings.

MEDIA MESHING

The Report’s researchers found that over half (53%) of UK adults are now media multi-tasking while watching TV.  And 25% of these are doing something  called “media meshing”, which is doing something else on a device but which is nevertheless related to what’s on the TV.

The rest have half an eye on the tele, but are doing something else entirely. That’s  “media stacking”

This means that the number of second sets in homes has gone down.  41% of homes now just have one set in their household compared to 35% in 2002. Often one very big set.

COMMUNAL LIVING

So advances in technology are actually bringing us closer together , rather than driving us apart.  We might just be grunting rather than talking  as we manipulate the smartphone  while watching Game of Thrones.  But at least we’re grunting together rather than in solitude!

The trend towards bigger and bigger sets has set me thinking about that other growing communal viewing experience….giant screens in public spaces.  These can show anything from Andy Murray’s triumph to a feed of the graduation ceremonies from the local university.

These are getting more and more popular, as people don’t just watch them but tweet while watching; relay live feeds through their phone cameras, or self-shoot themselves and their mates in front of some triumphant action on the screen.  It seems that smartphones  and tablets may not just claim back our living rooms for communal  activities but help bring us back together again in our public spaces.

Graham Creelman is a member of Ofcom’s Advisory Committee for England