The word proxemic is used to describe the different levels of space around a person in social situations. For instance, there is inter-personal space, extra-personal space, and so on. When speaking, one's proximal space quite large. On the Internet, one's digital presence can be large or small depending on their research, presence, and the awareness of their identity by others. Proxemics are often unstated rules of culture and culture groups.
The concept of Proxemics was first introduced by Edward T. Hall in his book The Hidden Dimension in 1966. "Body spacing and posture," according to Hall, "are unintentional reactions to sensory fluctuations or shifts, such as subtle changes in the sound and pitch of a person's voice. Social distance between people is reliably correlated with physical distance, as are intimate and personal distance...".
Interpersonal space differs country to country. In the United States the space between people in social situations is larger than the space between cultural groups in Latin America or the Middle East. For instance, "in much of Asia, people gravitate towards other people. For example, if you are alone in an elevator in the Philippines and another person enters, he will probably stand right next to you. That person doesn't want to speak to you; it's just the local custom. If you are sitting in an Indian movie theater surrounded by empty seats and an Indian enters, he is likely to sit next to you. And in Indonesia, if you are standing on a virtually empty escalator, an Indonesian may walk down until he is standing on the same step as you. This sort of behavior often drives North Americans to distraction, but it is considered appropriate in many parts of the world".
The concept of proxemics is a part of paralanguage. In real life, non-verbal communication such as stance, spatial distance, and non-verbal communications such as gestures and clothing make up paralanguage, contributing to 70% of a communication pattern. Online, paralanguage takes the form of profile pictures, wall posts and other creations of self, as these are the non-verbal ways in which online participants build their identity online.
An example of how information technology is affecting proxemics is proximal notification in geolocation technology. Proximal notification is a method by which a device, human or object is notified when another device, human or object is in certain range of another. For example, a user's GPS-enabled phone could data to the server at regular intervals. These points would be used used to create an accurate, real-time map that the other party could easily see. The system would then be able to detect when two people are a certain distance of one another. When the two users are a certain distance apart, an SMS or Push notification message could sent to both parties.
- Hall, Edward T. (1966). The Hidden Dimension. Anchor Books. ISBN 0-385-08476-5.
- Wikipedia article on Proxemics
- Global Business Basics - The Problems of Proxemics by Terri Morrison and Wayne A. Conaway, 2004.
- Engleberg, Isa N. Working in Groups: Communication Principles and Strategies. My Communication Kit Series, 2006. Pg. 133.