César Hidalgo and a team of MIT researchers have launched a new online project to help people visualize their own metadata.
The program is called “Immersion.” Once authorized, the program scans every e-mail in a user account and creates a picture of their personal network. Using circles and lines, it shows how closely the user is connected to the people it contacts the most often.
When you see it all together, it is, in a way, an out-of-body experience. You’re seeing all of your network and you’re seeing yourself out of it and you’re seeing it from afar and you’re seeing it in one picture. You start realizing that, eventually, you are not interacting with people—you’re interacting with webs of people. Because all the people you’ve interacted with, they’re actually connected in tens or maybe hundreds of indirect paths between them. They exist in your absence. So that out-of-body experience, I’ve found that it was very powerful.