How about a Fitbit for social interaction? Instead of measuring steps and calories, such a device measures proximity of others and verbal interactions. The device communicates with similar units to determine social distance from other individuals and microphones to capture verbal interactions. Pioneered, among other places, at MIT, such devices bring wearable computing to social scientific research. An interdisciplinary team reported in Nature that sociometers reveal that women in small collaborative groups are more physically proximate to other women. In other contexts men and women did not show any differences. The results sound a bit underwhelming, but the technology promises some interesting overtures, especially for reopening the fascinating field of proxemics, pioneered by Edward T. Hall. Now we can finally find out how large and elastic are the bubbles of privacy and how social interactions vary across micro-cultural groups.
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