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Visualize Your Personal Networks with MIT’s Immersion Tool for Gmail

Screenshot of MIT's Immersion

Did you know you could extract simple information from your emails to visualize how you and the people in your life are interconnected? Three researchers at MIT knew, and they created an online tool to map your personal networks by analyzing metadata from your emails.

The tool, called Immersion, uses only the From, To, Cc, and Timestamp fields of your emails to create a graph that shows how you and your email contacts are connected. Immersion will not access the subject or the body content of any of your emails and, when you finish playing around with your graph, you have the option to delete your data from the app.

How to Use Immersion

Screenshot of individual node on ImmersionCurrently you can only login to Immersion through your Gmail account. By clicking the login button you grant Immersion access to the metadata of your emails. Though Immersion is able to quickly process your information (up to 10,000 emails in 10 minutes) you may have to wait a bit before the app retrieves your information if you try to login to the service now. Immersion is gaining steam on the internet and with the current influx of data requests it is serving users on a first-come, first-served basis.

Once Immersion loads your data it will display colored nodes connected by lines. Each node represents a collaborator, or a person with whom you’ve exchanged at least three emails. Each line represents communication between those people. The resulting graph groups your contacts into clusters of people who’ve had contact with each other. In my Immersion graph, for example, I see my college friends grouped in one cluster and my colleagues grouped in another. Even the small group of elementary school friends I am still in touch with make up a small cluster in my graph. You can also click single nodes to map your common contacts with individuals and to discover how long you’ve been emailing each person and how you were introduced.

Using Immersion to Reflect

Immersion does more than help you visualize who you talk to – it also provides you a glimpse at how your contact with others has changed over time. It allows you to see who you are closest to and who you may have lost touch with. The creators of Immersion hope that the tool can help you gain perspective on not only how email has played a role in your life but also on how you can shape the way you stay in contact with people in the future. “With the speed at which we move during our daily lives, we sometimes tend to lose sight of the bigger picture. With Immersion, we hope you can take a moment and reflect upon how your life has unfolded,” said Deepak Jagdish, one of the creators of Immersion, in Immersion’s promo video.

To learn about how Immersion came to be and to meet its creators, check out the makers’ video below. Or you can jump right in and login to Immersion today.

Did you visualize your networks using Immersion? What did Immersion help you see?

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