Proxemics is about the organisation of space, the distance between people in daily transactions, in houses, buildings and towns (Hall, 1963). Proxemic patterns can be observed in the intimate zone (only emotionally close people are allowed to enter), the personal zone (for friends and family), the social zone (e.g. acquaintances at a social event), and the public zone (more formal interaction, e.g. at a conference). The patterns refer to how close we get to each other.
There are a great many studies on cross-cultural differences in proxemics often leading to the two categories of contact cultures - where people stand closer together - and and non-contact cultures - where people stand further apart. Some studies support this classification, others reject it for its reduction (Parker & Leo, 2011). On the basis of reduction and generalisation, "people in the south" are often described as contact cultures and "people in the north" as non-contact cultures. Apart from cultural effects, gender effects are also discussed in promexics.
Mazur (1977) conducted a study between strangers seated on public benches in parks in Seville, San Francisco and Tangier. After taking photos, he measured the distances between the individuals. In all three cities, people only sat together on a bench when all the other benches were already occupied. In addition, people preferred to sit at the extreme ends of the benches no matter if they were in Spain, the USA or Morocco (Parker & Leo, 2011).
"Touching Strangers": In 2007, the photographer Richard Renaldi started the series of photographs for which he asked (and still asks) complete strangers to touch each other, to physically interact while they pose for his portraits (photos via and via).
Last picture: Rinaldi approached the Yeshiva student Shalom Lasker and told him about the project. When he agreed to take part, the photographer gathered Jeff Desire who worked in the fish market across the street, directed the pose and the photograph was done (information and photo via).
Hall, E. T. (1963) A System for the Notation of Proxemic Behavior. American Anthropoligst, New Series, 65(5), Selected Papers in Method Technique, 1003-1026
Parker, L. & Leo, T. (2011) Proxemic Distance and Gender amongst Australians. Griffith Working Papers in Pragmatics and Intercultural Communication, 4(1/2), 19-25