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Proxemics The Semiotics of Space.

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1 Proxemics The Semiotics of Space

2 Edward T. Hall Hall coined the term in 1963
Proxemics is the study of the codes that define space and territory in human social relations Distance between individuals, territoriality, intimacy gradients, public versus private spaces, sacred places, and so on come under the rubric of proxemics

3 Proxemes Intimate: 0 - 18 inches Personal: 1.5 - 4 feet
Emotionally charged bubble reserved for family, friends, lovers Personal: feet Minimum comfort zone between non-touching individuals; within reach for handshakes; informal distance between friends Social: 4 – 12 feet Non-threatening, non-involving; for formal discourse and business; minimum distance within which one can go about their business without seeming rude to others Public: 12 feet and beyond Evasive or defensive action possible at this distance; communication at this distance highly structured, e.g., lecture, performance

4 Proxemics and Culture Of course, these codes depend on culture and history. In North American culture over the last hundred years, there has been both a decrease in the size of the intimate and personal proxeme and an expansion in the social and personal proxeme. In other words, in many cases people demand much more space between themselves and non-intimates while simultaneously requiring less distance between friends, family members, and other intimates.

5 Botticelli, Sandro The Cestello Annunciationc. 1489 Tempera on panel 150 x 156 cm Uffizi, Florence

6 Van Eyck, Jan The Annunciation c. 1435
Oil on canvas93 x 37 cmNational Gallery of Art, Washington


8 John Singleton Copley Colonel William Fitch and His Sisters Sarah and Ann Fitch, 1800/1801





13 Touch Touch is another feature of proxemic analysis.
In Western culture touch is kept at a minimum in public places. Mothers tend to touch their sons more on their chest and shoulders, their daughters on the arms and head. In Japanese culture there is a great deal of tactile communication in childhood but little after adolescence.






19 William Eggleston. Sumner, Mississippi, Cassidy Bayou in the background. 1969-70.

20 You be the expert! What proxemic codes govern:
A handshake between a man and a woman? Between a man and a man? A party at an undergraduate’s apartment? A party at your grandparent’s? A first meeting with a prospective employer? A solitary study session at a big table in the library?

21 The Gaze Related to proxemics in that the gaze also has implications for emotional distance and intimacy. Frequency, duration, and direction of gaze has social consequences. Phatic function: for initiation and maintenance of communication. Looking away signals a desire to keep speaking. Staring indicates a desire for the other to take a turn.

22 The Gaze con’t Expressive function: the eyes (more correctly, the muscles and tissue around the eyes) can signal emotion. Conative function: When the message is focused on the receiver, the gaze of the sender can indicate levels of intimacy, hostility, and so on, e.g., “if looks could kill” . Can also register disdain, aloofness, or low solidarity towards the receiver if the gaze is withdrawn.


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