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media meshing

noun [uncountable]

the activity of using hand-held electronic devices (e.g. mobile phones, tablet computers) to make comments or read about a TV programme at the same time as watching it

media mesher

noun [countable]

'In addition, 24 per cent of adults did media-meshing every week in 2012, which involves watching TV while using other media devices in a way that relates to a programme.'

Reuters 31st July 2013

'Media meshers use the internet to enhance their television experience, for example by reading a newspaper live blog about a football match while watching the action on the main screen.'

The Guardian 1st August 2013

There was a time when, if we wanted to express an opinion about a TV programme we'd watched one evening, we'd have to wait until the next day and gather around the office kettle or drinks machine to have a quick chat about the previous night's telly. Indeed, there's even an expression based around this concept – the watercooler moment, defined as a segment of a broadcast which is exciting or controversial enough to get people talking about it at work the following day.

people may tweet, text or Facebook their delight or dismay at the progress of a competitor, the quality of a programme, the result of a competition … or indeed anything at all

In the hyper-connected 21st century however, it seems that watercooler moments could become a thing of the past. The fact is, we simply don't have to wait until we see people anymore, we can just pick up an electronic device and share our opinions with innumerable others on the spot, absorbing and communicating reactions whilst the programme is still being broadcast. This kind of activity, where people have one eye on the TV and the other on a tablet or smartphone, has recently been dubbed media meshing.

Media meshers are people who use wireless connections and the handheld devices at their disposal to enhance their viewing experience. A typical activity, for instance, is to read a live blog of a sporting event while the action is still happening on-screen. Alternatively, people may tweet, text or Facebook their delight or dismay at the progress of a competitor, the quality of a programme, the result of a competition … or indeed anything at all in relation to what they are watching. The men's final of the 2013 Wimbledon tennis championships was a classic example of media meshing in action – as British player Andy Murray worked towards his nail-biting victory, there was an explosion of Twitter activity worldwide, with a torrent of will-he-won't-he? comments eventually culminating in expressions of delight, shock and congratulations from across the globe.

Of course, this kind of activity is just a 21st century take on the concept of multitasking, and indeed it's often described by the more generic term media multitasking. The devices involved, which are different but temporarily connected in relation to the broadcast, are sometimes referred to as integrated media. A further distinction has also been made between two different types of media multitasking. Media meshing involves activities which are related to the TV programme being watched – talking about it on the phone, tweeting about it or using an app that engages directly with the programme in real-time. A practice dubbed media stacking, on the other hand, involves activities which are not related to the TV programme being watched – online shopping, social networking, listening to music or even watching another television programme. Predictably, research reveals that younger viewers are more likely to be media stackers.

Background – media mesher

The term media meshing first appeared around 2005, but hit the spotlight in the summer of 2013, when UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom published a report revealing that one in four British adults regularly use a tablet or other device so that they can comment or read information about the programme they're watching. An alternative expression often used to refer to the same concept is second screening.

The verb mesh dates back to the early 16th century and refers to the action of two things connecting with each other and working together. It's also popped up as a neologism in an entirely different context during the last few years – meshing is a term latterly used to refer to the practice of joining two names together to make a new name for a married couple.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 18th November 2013.

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a form of location that involves the underwater detonation of a bomb which causes sound waves that are picked up by ships

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