Claire Black: Role of internet devices in the home

‘DID you hear me?” Of course, this question tells me that not only is no response required, any offered will be seen as a declaration of domestic warfare.

Claire Black
Claire Black
Claire Black

I mean what are the options? “I heard you but I couldn’t be bothered to answer”. Fail. “No, I didn’t hear you because you’re right I was too busy trading jokes with someone I’ve never met and most likely never will on my Twitter timeline rather than being engaged with you, my life partner, as we sit together in our very own living room.” Big, fat, fail.

It is true, I have irritating habits. One is leaving lots of change in all my jeans pockets meaning that every time I take them off or fold them, a shower of coins cascades to the floor. Another is tweeting while watching TV. I am a sucker for #bbcqt and #celebritymasterchef – I like watching programmes with the added backing track of a gaggle of complete (for the most part) strangers saying (for the most part) funny stuff, while R sits next to me despairing at my online addiction.

Sad I may be, but according to new research I’m not alone.

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More than half of us now own a smartphone and nearly a quarter of homes own a tablet. A fifth of our homes contain six or more internet enabled devices. Six. That’s a lot of cat videos. More than this, according to Ofcom, these devices are transforming our living rooms into digital media hubs. Their report states that 91 per cent of UK adults watch the box in their main living space at least once a week. That’s an increase of three per cent from 2002. More than that, half of us regularly multitask with other media while watching. We are, in the jargon, “meshing”.

Hooray, the headlines say, we’re on our way back to the good old days of gathering round the goggle box, mugs of cocoa clasped in our mitts, to enjoy each other’s company and share in an important cultural and social bonding experience. Really?

Don’t get me wrong – I recognise these statistics because I am this person. In a completely non-scientific guesstimate of my own, I’d reckon that at least 75 per cent of the time I sit in front of the telly I am also perusing my laptop or, more often, my phone. I might be writing emails, I might be browsing bed linen or watching a video on how to tie a bow tie. Yes, I do all of this whilst sitting beside another real person, ostensibly watching the same telly programme as them, but is this reason to celebrate? I’m not so sure.

Don’t get me wrong, I love gadgets and I love the internet, but gathering together on our sofas to sit largely ignoring each other but in constant communication with a bunch of strangers isn’t exactly progress, is it?

DAUGHTER of an opera singer and a teacher, former deputy mayor and speech writer, fan of indie band, The Wedding Present, and ferocious campaigner. If any aspiring politician out there – or perhaps even someone, maybe even a girl, with no intention of being a politician – is looking for a reason that they might actually become one, they could do worse than look at Stella Creasy, MP for Walthamstow. From her fight to tackle payday lending (props to Kezia Dugdale MSP who’s been doing the same up here) to her recent travails on Twitter, not omitting her stupendous smack down of Toby Young on Newsnight last week, Creasy is a brilliant example of what politicians can be: dynamic, principled, brave. Oh yes, and funny.

IT’S funny how things change, isn’t it? When I was a nipper, I, along with several of my siblings, had handmade fur coats, fashioned from a full sized one that my granny no longer wore. What can I say, it was the 70s. Then, when I was of an age when the only shoes I wore were Doc Martens and I used to get all protesty at the drop of a hat, wearing fur was regarded as the ultimate no-no. It was absolutely unconscionable unless you were an Edinburgh lady of a particular vintage who’d kept her fox fur from the first time round, not having been handy enough with a Singer to inflict it on another generation.

And yet, according to the September issue of British Vogue, although 95 per cent of British women would refuse to wear fur, 69 per cent of designers have incorporated fur into their collections for autumn/winter 2013. So, do fashion designers know something that the rest of us don’t? Or will the red paint wielding protesters rise once more? «

Twitter: @scottiesays