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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 6. Locating Us


← 84 | 85 →·6·


While perusing Portland-area maps in September 2013, Dustin Moore spotted something unexpected. Moore examined the street where his grandmother once resided. To look more closely at her house, he used Google Street view, a service that creates interactive maps through a series of images collected by cameras atop cars. As the cars drive up and down the road, their cameras archive visual images of the locations which are stitched together and uploaded to Google Maps. These images are updated by Google or its users at scheduled but varied intervals.1 The result is a series of static images that capture physical locations at particular moments in time.

In Dustin Moore’s case, the image on screen was shocking. Google Street View captured a panoramic photo of his deceased grandmother Alice sitting on her front porch before she died. In the photograph, Alice is shown sitting on her front steps happily reading the newspaper on a sunny day. “I thought it was such an uplifting and awesome picture because it showed just how laid back and awesome she was. Might not mean much to anyone else, I just thought I would share,” Moore wrote on Reddit, an online content sharing community.2 He says it might have been the last photo of her ever taken. Ultimately, Moore’s Reddit post and the Google Street View image went viral and were featured on local, national, and international news broadcasts. After Reddit users across the globe...

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