Social-spatial interaction, proximity, and distance: from face-to-face to virtual communications

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The article aims at a contextualization and conceptualization for the spatial extent of social communications, coupled with a presentation of the cumulative evidence in this regard. The contextualization of the spatial extent of social ties is anchored within the pre-commercial Internet kind of tyranny of space, as well as within contemporary interpretations of Internet-related distance and space/location. Before the introduction of the commercial Internet, the maximal possible distance for individual travel and communications dominated social-spatial interactions, thus limiting social ties mainly to the local sphere. This domination of distance has been replaced by an optionality of distance, made available through Internet communications, facilitating people’s choice for the preferred spatial extent of their social communications. The emergence of space optionality has revealed, through studies of numerous Internet communications platforms, a prevailing human preference for proximity in virtual communications, or a minimization of the distances separating between communicating parties. Thus, a priority for local virtual, as well as for face-to-face, communications, still dominates the spatial patterns of social interaction, which is true for other spatial outreaches by individuals, such as for shopping and financial investments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-412
Number of pages19
JournalApplied Mobilities
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Social-spatial interaction
  • distance decay
  • domination of distance
  • optionality of distance
  • preference for proximity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Transportation
  • Urban Studies


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