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Digital Proxemics

How Technology Shapes the Ways We Move


John A. McArthur

The study of proxemics – the human use of space – is reimagined for the digital age in this book, a compelling examination of the future of the ways we move. Whereas much writing on the subject focuses on what digital technology might do for us, this book explores what the same technology might do to us.
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.
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Chapter 4. Bodies in Motion


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Waiting in line is no fun. Unless you’re in Walt Disney World. Just when the line-up is getting boring, a costumed staffer comes to take pictures with all the kids, or a playground emerges around a hidden corner, or a visual display lights up as an animated character launches into a monologue of jokes. The art of the queue is one that Disney World has advanced overtime, inspiring people to stand in line for popular attractions and also to (sometimes) enjoy their time spent waiting. By some accounts,1 Disney has been so adept at queue formation that Disney’s Imagineers have become the standard bearers of experience design in contemporary queue theory, the study of the mathematical construction of waiting lines. I once became so enamored with a queue area at Walt Disney World that I blocked the queue for several minutes to participate in the experience. Why? The intersection between bodily movement and digital technology caught my attention in an unexpected place and in a way I had not experienced in a queue before.

In late fall 2012, Walt Disney World initiated a soft opening for its new Fantasyland attractions including “Enchanted Tales with Belle,” featuring the live-action heroine and characters from Beauty and the Beast, and “Under the Sea—Journey of The Little Mermaid,” in which Ariel, the title character, recounts her story through a ride featuring the ocean floor, populated with ← 49 | 50 →animatronic characters.2...

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