It seems that the living room is back in fashion. It used to be the case that the family would spend much of its time in one room, as likely as not watching television together. Some years ago, however, with the advent of PC-based entertainment, the family tended to disperse to various terminals in different rooms.
But the pendulum is swinging back. According to a survey carried out by Ofcom (the UK communications regulator) the family is re-congregating in the living room. It seem that this is largely down to the proliferation of portable devices – tablets and smartphones.
While we are physically present in the same space, however, we are not really focussed on the same activity. We are each plugged into our own device; if we are watching something together, as likely as not we will be live-tweeting, or typing on our laptops or tablets with one eye on the screen – what Ofcom calls media-meshing, media stacking, or, collectively, media multi-tasking – and they helpfully provide the following definitions for these terms, as follows:
Media meshing is conducting activites or communicating via other devices while watching TV; these activities are related to the TV programme being watched. Media stacking is conducting activities or communicating via other devices while watching TV; but these activities are not related to the TV programme being watched. Combined, they make up media multi-tasking.
You can also read about the survey in an article in the Guardian, here.