Digital commensality: Eating and drinking in the company of technology

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Spence, Charles
Mancini, Maurizio
Huisman, Gijs
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Commensality is a key aspect of social dining. However, previous research has identified a number of pros and cons associated with the incorporation of digital technology into eating and drinking episodes. For instance, those who are distracted by digital technology may eat/drink more (that is, they may overconsume) as a result of their failure to attend to the food-related sensations that are thought to cue the termination of eating. Similarly, it has often been suggested that the use of mobile devices at mealtimes can disrupt the more commensal aspects of dining/drinking (at least among those who are physically present together). At the same time, however, looking to the future, it seems clear that digital technologies also hold the promise of delivering opportunities for enhanced multisensory experiential dining. For instance, they might be used to match the auditory, visual, or audiovisual entertainment to the eating/drinking episode (e.g., think only about watching a Bollywood movie while eating a home-delivery Indian meal, say). Indeed, given the growing societal problems associated with people dining by themselves, there are a number of routes by which digital technologies may increasingly help to connect the solo diner with physically co-located, remote, or even virtual dining partners. In this review of the literature, our focus is specifically on the role of technology in inhibiting/facilitating the more pleasurable social aspects of dining, what one might call “digital commensality.” The focus is primarily on Westernized adults with reasonable access to, and familiarity with, digital technologies.
Digital dining , Mukbang , Social dining , Digital technology , Virtual commensality , Solo dining
Spence, C., Mancini, M. and Huisman, G. (2019) 'Digital Commensality: Eating and Drinking in the Company of Technology', Frontiers in Psychology, 10, 2252. (16pp.) DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02252