Proxemics in virtual space

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Several academics (Jeffrey and Mark, 1998; Krikorian et al. 2000) shows that the notion of personal space also exists in virtual environments (like 3-Dimensional worlds : Active World or Online Traveler). They found that personal space seems to influences behaviors within a virtual world. A certain social distance is kept and spatial invasions produced anxiety-arousing behavior (like verbal responses, discomfort and overt signs of stress) with attempts to re-establish a preferred physical distance similar to physical world observations. The authors suggest that the participants “are developing perceptions of virtual environments that mirror perceptions of real environments”. This leads to a transfer of social norms such as personal space from the real world to virtual space. Physical proxemics are translated into social interactions into virtual environments. Smith et al. (2000) analyzed graphical chat logfiles and found that spatial management occurred in a very similar manner than in the physical space, considering proximity and orientation. For instance, participants maintained personal space (like in Jeffrey’s experiment) and seemed to stand near and look toward those with whom they spoke. The graphical component of such virtual environment is important since people clustered together when interacting as they would do in face-to-face interactions.