Proxemics

Proxemics is a term coined by Edward T. Hall describing the study of the “personal bubble” or the amount of space that people feel necessary to set between themselves and others.  Hall felt this study was not only valuable in interpersonal communication but directly connected “the organization of space in [their] houses and buildings, and ultimately the layout of [their] towns”.  Hall was especially interested in identifying cultural differences in relation to personal space.  He used biometric concepts (smell, touch, temperature, etc) to organize and explore the ways people interacted in space and invented a pictorial and numerical system to note variations in interaction.  The video below gives a brief overview of his work in proxemics.

Interestingly, I was first introduced to the concept of proxemics through a book on improvisational choreography titled The Intimate Act of Choreography by Lynne Anne Blom and L. Tarin Chaplin.  In the book, Blom and Chaplin cover many ways to consider space including stage space, geometry, environment, floor pattern, personal space, and many others.  They write about considering space an active participant within the choreography and also address how choreography can violate dancer’s sense of personal space by forcing other dancers into closer proximity than they would allow outside of the studio.

See also:  

Hall, Edward T. (October 1963). “A System for the Notation of Proxemic Behavior”. American Anthropologist65 (5): 1003–1026. doi:10.1525/aa.1963.65.5.02a00020

Hall, Edward T. (1966). The Hidden Dimension. Anchor Books.