You only have to catch a commuter train at rush hour to see how deeply the idea of constant communication has become entrenched in our daily lives.
Whereas only a relatively few years ago the much parodied ‘I’m on the train!’ phone calls were as much a source of amusement as annoyance, today the majority of people going to or from work will be online via a phone, laptop, or tablet.
This effect is now being seen to have a marked impact onto home life too. Two factors, highspeed broadband and domestic Wi-Fi, have combined to make it easy and efficient to be online at any time and in any location at home and this is brining changes to the way we interact with media.
A survey commissioned by GAME.co.uk found that millions of Brits are now ‘double screening’ because they watch television and play computer games or text and use social media via a mobile phone or tablet at the same time.
The study found that 79% of the 2,000 respondents regularly watched the TV with their phone, laptop or tablet also to hand. A further 46% went on to say that sometimes they use two different devices while watching television.
The effect of social media is one factor that this new behaviour can be attributed to, with almost one in five people saying that they like to communicate with their friends about the show they are watching on Facebook or Twitter at the same time.
It isn’t just the emergence of the tablet form factor of the familiarity of smartphone internet access that is driving the new ways of doing things either. The emergence of second screen gaming such as the PS Vita, which has been designed as a companion device or second screen device for the PS4 is a perfect example of how separate technology industries are moving towards the acceptance of new user expectations.
The games industry has had to innovate to keep pace both with what gamers themselves expect in a device as well as making sure that smartphones and tablets don’t encroach on their domain in the same way as they did with digital photography and the effect that has had on camera sales.
There is much talk about the way in which the speed of development in hand held screen devices made actually be hardwiring our brains to adapt to their use. The notion that attention spans have been adversely affected can be countered with the results of reports such as the one from GAME.co.uk.
Double or triple screening may indicate a lack of directed attention but the ability to multi task across several streams of information is something that previous generations may have struggled with.
The jury might still be out though, as the researchers found that 43% had to re-watch a programme because they were so busy ‘double-screening’ that they didn’t pay enough attention to it.
However, more than a third of those questioned said they do their online shopping whilst watching TV and one in five play games at the same time. This means the gaming industry has had to target their services accordingly to keep up with the demand of their audience. Recent developments in this vein include the PS Vita which can be used as a second screen device for the next generation PS4.
Juggling three screens might seem like overkill, but there is definitely a sea change underway in terms of how we interact with devices and content in the home.
Ian Chambers, Chief Digital Officer at the company responsible for the new research summarized:
“Digital technology is advancing at an incredible pace and we’re constantly developing all our channels to make sure we’re delivering for our customers. The evolving digital environment brings together so many aspects of life: gaming, entertainment and day-to-day activities like doing the shopping. It’s no surprise this study highlights how commonplace triple screening is today.”