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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 8. Developing Literacies


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My family and I were recently window shopping at an art gallery near our home. We enjoy seeing the world through the perspectives of different artists and searching for meaningful original artwork. Among several pieces of art in the window at this particular gallery, the proprietors included a television screen on the storefront that scrolled through images of featured artwork in their collection. As I watched the images move in slowly and then linger in succession, my then three-year-old daughter walked up to the window to get a closer look. Reaching out her arm, she swiped the glass.1 Much to her dismay, nothing happened. I walked up to encourage her not to touch the television. But then I noticed something curious. On the glass housing the screen, dozens of tiny little fingerprints littered the images. The prints almost all created smears from right to left. Like my daughter, the toddlers in our city and their little hands were trying to interact with a static display by swiping the current image to see the next one. I watched as another child walked up and attempted to interact with the display. He, too, was saddened when it did not respond. Many of the adults observing the scene might have been pleasantly surprised if the television was a touch screen. All of the youngest children on site were surprised that it wasn’t.

← 121 | 122 →At the turn of the last century, education...

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