Proxemics is a term used to denote the study of our use of space and it describes the distance between people and their interaction. This distance is measurable, and can dictate our feelings. It can make us anxious or relaxed. This term was introduced by Edward Hall in the 1950’s. Proxemics can be classified into two territories, physical and personal. Physical territory is the space that we are required to occupy, given conditions and situations. An example is a classroom, wherein desks or chairs are proportionally spaced and arranged, and all of them are facing the front rather than the center of the room.
The other is personal territory. It is the space that we bring with us, the barrier or “Personal Bubble” that determines the most suitable distance between a person and another on certain situations that will make both of them comfortable. Another importance of proxemics is the capability to appropriately use personal territory. Personal territory is divided into four areas; public, personal, social, and intimate. Public space is the distance claimed between a speaker and the audience. It ranges from 12 to 25 feet from the person.
Social space is closer, ranging from 4 to 10 feet. This space is used to communicate with business colleagues and also used to separate strangers in public places, such as bus stops and waiting sheds. Personal space is much closer, from 2 to 4 feet; this space can be used in conversations between friends and family members. The closest of all is the intimate space. Ranging from 0 to 1 foot, it has a high chance of physical contact. It is reserved for activities done up close, like whispering, kissing, and embracing.
Personal territories, however, varies according to location and culture. A personal space in one country can be a social space in another. For example, I have read that in Japan, there is almost physical contact between subway passengers because the population to area ratio is higher compared to the United States. In the United States, it is unlikely that people tends to clump together, even on the subway, because we have too much space allocated for other people to make us comfortable.