The role of perceived proximity in video-mediated communication
As technology for remote communication continues to advance and become more widespread, there is a need for research to attempt to understand the manner in which such technology may most suitably support human communication. This thesis describes a series of experiments which investigated the role of proximity within video-mediated communication. Proximity is one of the most fundamental forms of non-verbal communication used in a face-to-face interaction. Even subtle changes in interpersonal positioning are rich in information which people use to attempt to regulate the behaviour of themselves and others. At present it is unknown whether this type of non-verbal communication is preserved in video-mediated interactions. The aim of the present research project was to investigate whether impressions of proximity could be conveyed across a video link. In addition the research attempts to illuminate the physical parameters which may underpin the perception of proximity and to explore the impact upon users that any changes in perceived proximity may cause. The research uses a wide range of approaches to study the potential impact of proximity including analyses of the structure and content of dialogue, objective and subjective task outcome measures. The research demonstrates that perceptions of proximity can exist in a video-mediated environment and when they do, they can lead to differences in the communication behaviour of individuals communicating across a video link. It is found that when participants interact with a remote interlocutor who appears to be close, they tend to be more interactive. The research goes on to investigate the perceptual basis behind this effect and also considers how this relates to other variables which are known to affect communication, most notably familiarity.