Gestural Semiotic System Rubric: Definitions

Gestural Semiotic System Rubric: Definitions
Codes and
Definitions and Descriptors
Bodily Contact
The way in which people make contact through touch, where and how they touch, and the
parts of their body that make contact indicates relationships and the nature of those
The space between people can indicate a relationship and the nature of that relationship.
Its meaning and interpretation are modified by cultural and social conventions. The
concept of ‘personal space’ is a critical aspect of proximity as it determines the comfort of
those involved and the nature of their relationship. It is also influenced by cultural
How the body is presented to others in the interaction, eg. whether participants face one
another, are at an angle, turned to the side or away from each other. Body position can
indicate power, intimacy, aggression, compliance or respect in relationships.
Hair style, colouring or costume, clothing, jewellery, make-up and props, such as a walking
stick, contribute to appearance and indicate personality, social status and culture.
Can indicate agreement or disagreement but angle and tilt of head towards others when
nodding can also affect interaction and indicate power, intimacy, aggression, compliance or
Eyebrow position, shape of eye, position and shape of mouth, size of nostrils can be used
singly and in combination to indicate relationships and the nature of them and also
emotion, mood, agreement, disagreement or disinterest. All are socially or culturally
Movement of head, arms, hands and legs, feet or the surface features of bodily
communication can indicate emotional arousal or a particular emotional state, eg. rough or
jerky movements might indicate lack of control. The nature of the gesture can indicate
relationships, eg. a very emphatic movement of the arm or hand could indicate authority or
The way in which a person stands, sits or lies down can indicate interpersonal attitudes,
their emotional state or the nature of their character. For example, a rigid upright posture
leaning toward and over another person could indicate superiority or a person who likes to
dominate. The ways in which a person uses their height, weight and build as part of their
posture can indicate similar aspects of attitude, emotion and character.
The way in which a person’s gaze is realised and where it is directed can indicate
relationships or the relative importance of something. Gaze can be directed (specifically
and intentionally focused on someone or something) or non-directed (general scanning and
not focused)
The angle of the gaze can indicate attitude, relationships and power, eg. an eye level gaze
could indicate equality between the participants, top-down dominating someone or
something, bottom-up would indicate that someone or something has power over you. The
nature and length of the gaze (how the eyes are used and how long the gaze lasts) can
modify the intention. For example, an eye level gaze that is prolonged with narrowed eyes
can be confrontational rather than equitable.
Orientation or
body position
Head nods
Gaze and eye
The length of gaze (time spent) can indicate power, intimacy or dismissal.
The stability of gaze can also modify intent: it might be steady, fluctuating or hesitant, each
of which imply different emotions, moods or relationships. For example, a hesitant gaze
may indicate a relationship that is new or just beginning, a fluctuating gaze may indicate
The gaze of a participant in a text is represented in a text can also be directed at the reader
or viewer of the text. The effect of this direct gaze is to demand the attention of the
reader/viewer and a relationship with the participant. This will influence the meaning
making of the reader/viewer.
Anstey and Bull, Evolving Pedagogies p. 97