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.
Chapter 9. Researching Digital Proxemics
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RESEARCHING DIGITAL PROXEMICS
From its origins, proxemics has been a tricky subject to research. Even by admission of its originator, Edward T. Hall, human use of space is hidden, nuanced, and tantalizingly complex. In his article, “Proxemics,” written for the journal Current Anthropology in 1968,1 Hall outlines the various constructs and methods for researching proxemics that he deemed valuable at the time. His constructs included features of space, sociospatial and sociofugal designs, relationships between proxemics and language, and interpersonal distance-setting mechanisms. His selected methods included observations, experimental abstract situations, structured interviews, analysis of the lexicon, interpretation of art, and analysis of literature. Even more interesting than his article was the response it generated. Paul Bohannan called Hall’s research “vital” to human research.2 Ray Birdwhistell, the designer of the nonverbal concept of kinesics, credited Hall with the “awakening of an interest in the social perception of space which has been semi-dormant,”3 but later describes some of Hall’s ethnographic techniques as “little more than interesting esoterica for the student of communication.”4 Bernhard Bock wrote that Hall’s research “calls attention to a number of problems of great importance for the sciences of man,”5 while A. Richard Diebold, Jr. suggested that the context-specific nature of proxemics interactions adds to the challenge of research.6 Others responded ← 141 | 142 →with a variety of accolades and criticisms (and often both as is the typical case for most academic audiences). J. E. McClellan sums the sentiments behind...
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