Last week, MIT Media Lab released a new online tool, “Immersion”. The interactive tool allows users to track their own online presence in a way similar to that of NSA and PRISM. Immersion enables users to view all of their past connections since the activation of their accounts and associate them in a simplified visual way. Talk about a trip down memory lane!
The tool works by diving into Gmail accounts and creating links between all outgoing and incoming mail — including all “to”, “cc”, and “from” messages. The result? You end up with a web-like cluster of dots representing everyone who you have ever e-mailed. The dots are color coded to show categories based on relationship and change in size based on how much activity exists between the accounts. Each dot can be clicked on to reveal more specific details; for example, the quantity of e-mails or when they were sent. In order to use Immersion you must first allow the tool to access to your Gmail account. One feature users will likely appreciate is the assurance that the tool will not access the content of e-mails and, when a user wishes to terminate use, it offers a “logout and delete” option.
The program interface makes it incredibly easy to perceive your online interactions and how they have transformed over time. In fact, the website gained popularity so quickly that MIT was prompted to temporarily shut down the website. This begs the question, what is the purpose and why was it instantly so popular? Yes, you can see your connections in a new, visually appealing way but what value does anyone actually get out of it? Aside from potential marketing opportunities, individual benefits remain to be seen. Nevertheless, we’ve had fun exploring!