Gmail Visualization Tool Reveals Past Web Encounters

Gmail Visualization Tool Reveals Past Web Encounters

MIT's program, “Immersion”, uses personal data to build a map of email history.

Daniela Walker
  • 25 july 2013

As integrated as it has become in our daily lives, we often forget that email was originally just another form of social media, another way to connect with people remotely. Many people have had the same Gmail account for almost a decade, but how often do we stop to wonder what our inbox says about us, our personal connections and how they may have changed. Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a new visualization tool to represent the different connections that exist throughout our email history, specifically for those with Gmail accounts.


The program, called Immersion, gathers the metadata of email (the From, To, Cc and Timestamp) and creates a visual mapping of the varied connections without ever accessing actual email content or subjects. If you have sent a person an email more than three times, they are labelled a collaborator. This is Immersion’s way of differentiating between mailing lists and actual conversations – the number of emails received from the same sender is irrelevant, it is only if you have contact them that a connection is made. Each collaborator is represented as a circle on the map, the larger the circle, the more communication has existed between you and your collaborator. The tool also shows who your top contacts are and clusters people relevant in your email life into different social communities. Immersion co-creator Deepak Jagdish told Mashable:

If you look at the big picture, Immersion is a visual representation of the webs that you have woven with other people through email conversations.

Through Immersion you can see how your communication with different people has changed over the years, where new people have entered your email life and when communication has ceased. It is an interesting and telling survey of your Gmail’s past and like other data visualization tools, an informative way to learn a little bit more about yourself.



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