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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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Appendix: An Information Design Primer


If you want to participate in information design in the context of spaces, take a stroll down the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Walking west from the Capitol, you’ll pass monuments, memorials, and buildings that tell a history of our country. Most herald the numerous successes of country, statesmen, heroes, and culture. Oversized statues of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt gaze toward the Washington Monument. The likeness of Martin Luther King, Jr. looks toward the rising sun over the tidal basin on the Potomac River. The World War II memorial depicts a country of states unified around a central calling. The Smithsonian Museums lining the mall herald the success and promise of American ingenuity. Eventually, on your journey through the picturesque Constitution Gardens lining the expansive reflecting pool, you’ll descend into the pit designed by Maya Lin. Her architecture will take you on a journey of discovery that is unparalleled by the other memorials in the national park. Juxtaposed against the bright, gleaming obelisk of the nearby Washington Monument, Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a glossy wall of black stone that pierces into the earth while reaching out to visitors and demanding interaction. Maya Lin’s design for this monument, like that of many of her others, begs not to be viewed but rather to be experienced.

← 157 | 158 →The monument is a V-shaped wall of black granite that slightly descends into the earth. Inscribed in the granite are the names...

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