Proxemic: what it is and how it helps us understand spaces

Proxemics is the study of the relationships and communication that human beings make through space and through the distances we put between ourselves and towards things that surround us.

Then we will see what proxemics are, What this theory brought to the communication sciences and how it differs from other forms of non-verbal communication, such as kinaesthesia.

    What is proxemics?

    Proxemics is a theory that emerged in the 1960s was developed by American anthropologist Edward T. Hall, Who studied how we perceive space in different cultures and how we use it to establish different relationships.

    In other words, proxemics is the study of proximity, And how closeness allows us to communicate with each other and even build relationships and a special worldview.

    Also known as proxemics, it is considered part of semiotics (which is the study of the signs we use to communicate) because it pays attention to how the physical distances that are established in different cultures make us communicate in different ways and not necessarily verbally.

    In other words, proxemia includes not only individual communication skills, but also the way in which social and cultural norms over space limit or condition these skills. This is why it is considered to be one of the most complex branches of human communication systems.

      Communication systems and certain types

      To explain in more detail what the proxy is, remember that human communication is a very complex system. In basic terms, this involves understanding and using a set of signs and symbols to convey certain information (e.g. ideas, feelings, opinions, emotions, moods, etc.).

      In other words, the process and the ability to communicate it is not limited to language skills (Like being able to speak or understand a language), but it involves a much more complex set of actions in which our body always participates.

      The standard and most basic communication scheme consists of two main characters: a sender and a recipient; who are the ones who send, encode and receive a message.

      This message can include both linguistic signs, as well as words, phrases or sentences; like bodily movements which also convey information. In turn, this information, and the way it is organized and transmitted, depends on the social, geographical and cultural situation in which the sender and the recipient find themselves; as well as their own grammatical, discursive, strategic and sociolinguistic skills.

      Two major types of communication are generally recognized: verbal and non-verbal, which are not really separate from each other, but are manifested both in every relationship we establish with other people.

      Non-verbal communication and the difference between proxemics and kinesics

      Verbal communication is that which is established from linguistic signs and symbols transmitted by speech. For its part, non-verbal communication is that which is established through non-verbal signals that they convey information about the character, personality or mood.

      These latter signs may include, for example, crying, laughing, screaming (which are paralinguistic signs); or, they can involve gestures, signals or mimes (which are kinesthetic signs). Both types of signs, paralinguistic and kinesthetic, are elements of basic nonverbal communication. But there is also another type of non-verbal communication which is more complex because it involves the cultural and social elements that define the way we use the body and space, and even the time to convey information in different contexts and situations. .

      The latter are the proxemic system (the signs are essentially habits on the use of space, For example, the distances we maintain between ourselves depending on whether we are at home with our partner or at the office with colleagues); and the chronemic system (where the perception and use of time in different cultures is mainly studied).

      In other words, the difference between proxemics and kinetics is that the former refers to the non-verbal communication established by the physical distances we place when we relate; and kinesics is non-verbal communication that takes place through bodily movements such as gestures and also through proprioception.

      Its importance in communication and social studies

      According to Hall, the physical distances we establish are determined by cultural norms that tell us, for example, what the boundaries are in public space and what they are in private space, or what do the word inside and the word outside mean in terms of furniture or individual spaces inside the house; spaces that are also influenced by the age, gender or social rank of each.

      Proximal rules, in addition, are those who reaffirm a set of human beings as a “group” and not like the others, that is to say that they delimit the characteristics that some people have in common, reinforcing the intra-group identity, and sometimes making inter-group identity difficult.

      This is why it has important effects on the communication we establish with our group of members and similar groups, and allows us to understand how we construct a particular image of the world, as well as the rules of coexistence in different contexts.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Cisteller, A. (2014). Non-verbal communication and effective communication. ELUA Journal, 28: 125-150
      • Schmidt, S. (2013). Proxemia and intercultural communication: non-verbal communication in the teaching of i / li. Doctoral thesis to obtain the degree of Doctor of Spanish Philology, Autonomous University of Barcelona.
      • Losada, F. (2001). The lived space. A semiotic approach. Notebooks of the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences of the National University of Jujuy. 17: 271-294.

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