How Technology Shapes the Ways We Move
Combining dynamic stories, cutting-edge research, and deep reflection on the role of space in our lives, Digital Proxemics examines the ways that our uses of physical and digital spaces and our uses of technology are converging. It investigates the role of digital communication in proxemics, offering explorations of the ways digital technology shapes our personal bodily movement, our interpersonal negotiation of social space, and our navigation of public spaces and places. Through the lens of information and user-experience design, it adds forbidden spaces, ubicomp, augmented reality, digital surveillance, and virtual reality to the growing lexicon surrounding proxemics. The result is a spatial turn in the study of digital technology and a digital turn in the study of proxemics.
As our culture changes, our ability to make choices about how to move will be called into question, as will our expectations for what roles technology will play in our lives. As we navigate this intersection, Digital Proxemics is at once a valuable lens through which we can view our shifting culture, a cautionary tale through which we might envision problematic outcomes, and an optimistic projection of possibility for the future of human communication and technology interaction.
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Table of Contents
- Chapter 1. Moving
- Chapter 2. Digitizing Proxemics
- Chapter 3. Distancing Ourselves
- Chapter 4. Bodies in Motion
- Chapter 5. Finding Our Way
- Chapter 6. Locating Us
- Chapter 7. Inhabiting New Environments
- Chapter 8. Developing Literacies
- Chapter 9. Researching Digital Proxemics
- Appendix: An Information Design Primer
- About the Author
- Series index
← vi | vii →PREFACE
When people ask me what I study, I often reply, “Proxemics. The ways we use space.” What fascinates me is that every single time I offer this response, people further that idea based on their own unique experiences of space. They tell me stories about the importance of space in their lives. Some reference interpersonal distance, geography, or gesture. Some describe physical environments or places of particular significance to them. Others ask if I mean interior design, or architecture, or public performance. And still others, the science fiction buffs, immediately inquire about my political leanings: Star Trek or Star Wars? For the record, it’s Star Wars. The study of proxemics can investigate all of these things, but it is fundamentally focused on the behaviors of humans in relation to one another as they use and experience space. Each person has his own view of the ways that space is used in his life, and his own lens for understanding why space matters. The point is that all people feel a connection to space and the ways they use space, even if that connection exists under the surface of cognition, behind the walls of cultural understanding. Proxemics seems obvious when it is described to us and yet the ways we use proxemics every day exists beyond our awareness.
In 1966, Edward Hall coined the term ‘proxemics’ (pronounced präk-SEE-miks) in his book The Hidden Dimension1 to name an as-yet-undocumented aspect ← vii | viii →of our lived experience. His studies of human interactions across cultures led him to describe proxemics as the study of human use of space in personal, social, and public contexts. Now, leading up to the 50th anniversary of the publication of that book, proxemics has been applied widely in business, cultural, social, and educational settings as an important component of nonverbal communication, sociology, psychology, and cultural critique. However, over that half century, the concept of proxemics has remained static while the cultural landscape has shifted, due in large part to the rise of digital communication technologies. This book seeks to examine and reflect upon the role of digital communication in proxemics, offering explorations of the ways digital technology shapes our personal bodily movement, our interpersonal negotiation of social space, and our navigation of public spaces and places. The result is both a spatial turn in the study of digital technology and a digital turn in the study of proxemics.
Digital Proxemics incorporates three themes to explore the human-technology interaction in proxemics: (1) the mutual impacts of us on space and space on us; (2) the lens of experience design theory as a framework for analysis; and (3) the interaction between the digital and the physical in the spaces we inhabit. These three ideas create a foundation for a conversation about how technologies, spaces, and people mutually act upon each other as we experience environments. Whereas much writing on the subject of digital technology and spaces focuses on what digital technology might do for us, this book explores what the same technology might do to us. In addition, it explores the ways we might respond to this intersection through reflection and digital literacies.
Rather than writing in the form of a traditional academic research monograph, I use narratives and stories throughout the book to illustrate the concepts as a reminder that studies of proxemics are studies of self. This focus on proxemics as a window to self and individual culture echoes the tone of Edward Hall’s work on proxemics in the 1960s. In the popular conversation surrounding proxemics, Hall’s text remains the most cited, most referenced work on proxemics. Digital Proxemics is the first text that attempts to refocus proxemics in a digital world, although this type of work is happening among other facets of verbal and nonverbal communication. As such, this concept of digital proxemics will become an enhanced foundation for studying the interaction between human communication and technology surrounding the concept of proxemics. In addition, the study of digital proxemics attempts to reintroduce proxemics for a new generation of scholars, researchers, and citizens as a marker of our lived experience.
← viii | ix →In popular circles, the widespread popularity of the 99% invisible podcast, Eli Pariser’s The Filter Bubble,2 Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together,3 and many other works of cultural reflection speak to the excitement surrounding this kind of text. Howard Rheingold’s Smart Mobs4 discusses the coming connection between mobile technology and users, but veers away from proxemics as a site for cultural shift. In academic circles, research monographs focus on the relationship between mobile technology and public spaces (e.g., de Sousa e Silva & Frith’s Mobile Interfaces in Public Spaces5 and Jason Farman’s Mobile Interface Theory6), yet none discuss the impacts of technology on our understanding of proxemics. This book seeks to enter the conversation at the intersection of the authors mentioned above and others, by providing relatable evidence of cultural shift framed in the context of physical and digital spaces.
Readers of this book might approach it from several vantage points. Students of communication, sociology, anthropology, and related fields should find that this text furthers contemporary thinking about proxemics as we have known it. For these readers, I hope the book functions as a vehicle for digital communication to enter the conversation as well as a resource for connecting with interdisciplinary research and thinking across a wide variety of technologically savvy ideas. Conversely, developers of mobile computing, ubicomp, and digital application technologies should find a call to consider not only what amazing things technology can do in spaces, but also how these technologies might privilege or diminish particular human actions in those spaces. For these designers, my hope is that the book causes us to evaluate technological progress not only by what we create but also how our creations inspire citizenship, community, and conversation. Researchers and thinkers in human communication and technology interaction should find that this text bridges a set of distinct fields that should (and sometimes do) learn from each other. I hope these researchers find proxemics to be a useful construct for integrating the user, ethical quandary, and agency into our ongoing discussions surrounding technology and the human experience. And many readers will evaluate this book as citizens of a rapidly changing and increasingly digitized culture. I hope that all of us will benefit from making visible our uses of space and that we can spend time pondering the importance of today’s choices for the future of digital technologies in the spaces we inhabit.
The chapters in this book examine the ways that our uses of physical and digital spaces and our uses of technology are converging. Chapter one explores our daily interactions with spaces and technologies as actors in our environments, calling on us to reflect on the roles we allow digital technologies ← ix | x →to play in our use of space. The chapter makes the case that we need moments of pause that invite us all to learn about the ways our culture—and our use of space as a marker of culture—is changing in response to digital technologies.
Through an exploration of Edward Hall’s and others’ works on proxemics, chapter two describes major components that ground the study of proxemics, including human distances, territories, and lived experiences in spaces. Then, the chapter explores the cultural shifts that necessitate a furthering of the concepts of proxemics for a digital society. The result is a theory of digital proxemics in which technology allows spaces and users through four actions, giving each the ability to capture, inform, alter, and control the other.
Chapter three applies the concepts of digital proxemics to the flagship notion in proxemics: the interpersonal distancing of the body in relation to others. In this conversation, the four zones of interpersonal distance are envisioned in the context of digital gathering. In addition, this chapter discusses the sociospatial functions of digital technology as both a sociofugal and a sociopetal force.
The first in a series of chapters that contextualizes digital proxemics in specific settings, chapter four focuses on the human body and the ways digital technologies change the physical motion of the body. Digital technologies not only capture, digitize, and alter bodily motion, but they also can function as extensions and extenders of the human body. Opportunities for body-technology connections are discussed, including postural variation, motion capture devices, rotoscoping, prosthetics, and bionics.
Beginning with architect Jan Gehl’s assertion that cities should be designed for people, chapter five examines the impacts of digital proxemics in communities, cities, and geographic locations. The chapter also introduces a new concept of technologies as facilitators of proxemofugal or proxemopetal experiences. By exploring the mapping and re-mapping of environments, sentient objects, and augmented reality, chapter five reflects on our agency—that is our ability to make our own choices—in the navigation of environments, which remains a fundamental component of our connection to places.
Chapter six introduces the concept of the archive as a component of space and place. Significant places for people are characterized by their connections to historical and/or emotional constructs surrounding a location. Spaces locate us in a variety of ways, and this chapter posits that people, digital technologies, and environments all create distinct archives of place that document our movements. Then, the chapter reflects on the relationship among archives, privacy, and surveillance.
← x | xi →Digital proxemics are contextualized in chapter seven through spaces once forbidden to visitors but now accessible via digital technology, as well as spaces created totally in virtual environments. Physical spaces addressed include spaces too small or large to be seen with the human eye, spaces too remote to physically encounter, spaces too dangerous to visit, and private events shared publicly. This chapter also addresses virtual environments as fabricated spaces and places developed using 3D immersive display (virtual reality) devices.
Chapter eight addresses the role of digital literacies in helping us understand and contribute to our lived experience with and through digital technology. Building on common approaches to digital and media literacy, this chapter seeks to complicate our understanding of digital proxemics by positioning users as actors in the spaces we visit and inhabit. Actors, unlike users, possess the ability to be decisive in ways that rewrite and reinscribe proxemic experiences.
Chapter nine investigates the research of proxemics, starting with Edward Hall’s assertions about the study of proxemics as a study of self. First, it compiles and describes the constructs of proxemics: movement of the body, features and territories, interpersonal distance, sociospatial design, and cultural constructs of space. Then, the chapter identifies and explores potential research methodologies used in a variety of the articles and studies presented in the text, including observation, experimental designs, applied research big data, and criticism.
For readers unfamiliar with information design and user-experience design, the appendix introduces experience design as a lens for the study of space, calling on readers to recognize the designed elements of the spaces they visit and inhabit. A synopsis of the field of information design culminates in the shift in thinking from designing information to designing experiences. This shift (reflected in the work of Saul Carliner, Nathan Shedroff, Donald Norman, B. J. Fogg, Maya Lin, and Patrick Jordan, among others) is a result of a focus on the user rather than a focus on content.
Overall, this book is intended to be an exploration of the intersection of physical space and digital technologies. We find ourselves standing at that intersection determining which ways we will move, and the decisions we make today will have repercussions for our future. As I hope you’ll agree, the decisions about which ways we move remain ours to make, for now. But, as our culture changes, our ability to make choices about how to move will also be called into question, as will our expectations for what roles technology will ← xi | xii →play in our lives. As we navigate this intersection together, I hope Digital Proxemics: How Technology Shapes the Ways We Move will be at once a valuable lens through which we can view our shifting culture, a cautionary tale through which we might envision problematic outcomes, and an optimistic projection of possibility for the future of human communication and technology interaction.
John A. McArthur
- XIV, 210
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- ISBN (Softcover)
- Publication date
- 2016 (April)
- gadjets digital space live
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. XIV, 210 pp.