Emails we weave: MIT's Immersion shows big picture

Jul 03, 2013 by Nancy Owano weblog

(Phys.org) —Suddenly metadata expands from a marketing buzzword heard years ago at think tank seminars about the next information age to mainstream political headlines in 2013. The NSA firestorm has popularized the term and planted it in most people's minds. MIT's César Hidalgo, professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab, has an intense technology focus on that term and is prepared to enlighten people about their own metadata. If knowledge is power, then Hidalgo and his team have a project in mind that may empower people to leverage the chance to see their email information in a different way. The team's underlying question is fetching enough: What if people have control over their own metadata, able to view it, learn from it, and even delete it? For Hidalgo and his colleagues, Daniel Smilknov and Deepak Jagdish, their online project, dubbed Immersion, is about "self-reflection, art, privacy and strategy.".

People who sign up to participate in Immersion give the project their Gmail address and password; Immersion currently supports Gmail accounts. It scans every email in the person's account and scrapes the metadata to create a portrait of the person's personal network. Content of the email is not involved; only the fields of From, To, Cc and Time. Taking that information, a map evolves showing interconnections with lines and sized, color coded circles. The map shows how the user is related to the 100 most-contacted people in the mailbox.

Why would anyone want to get immersed in the first place? One argument is that Immersion permits you to get a larger perspective on your email life and at the same time have a of knowing that you can always delete your data. "Just like a cubist painting," said the team, "Immersion presents users with a number of different perspectives of their email data." At a time when users milk the opportunity of for self-promotion, a metadata view of one's email life might flip the coin toward self refection. Another value is that "it presents users wanting to be more strategic with their professional interactions, with a map to plan more effectively who they connect with," according to the team.

Being able to pull the off switch is especially emphasized: Upon logging out of Immersion, the project participant is presented with a choice to save or delete the data, which contains compressed email metadata and user profile.

Explore further: Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

More information: immersion.media.mit.edu/

via Boston

Related Stories

Facebook draws user ire with email switcheroo

Jun 26, 2012

(AP) — In yet another change that upset users, Facebook has replaced the email addresses users chose to display on their profile pages with (at)facebook.com addresses.

Microsoft embraces a Google service for a change

May 14, 2013

Microsoft's disdain for Google doesn't extend to all of its rival's products. In a rare bit of cooperation, Microsoft's Outlook.com is giving users of its free email service the option of logging into Google Chat to exchange ...

Recommended for you

Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

Aug 26, 2014

People on Facebook and Twitter say they are less likely to share their opinions on hot-button issues, even when they are offline, according to a surprising new survey by the Pew Research Center.

US warns shops to watch for customer data hacking

Aug 23, 2014

The US Department of Homeland Security on Friday warned businesses to watch for hackers targeting customer data with malicious computer code like that used against retail giant Target.

Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

Aug 22, 2014

The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

Should you be worried about paid editors on Wikipedia?

Aug 22, 2014

Whether you trust it or ignore it, Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world and accessed by millions of people every day. So would you trust it any more (or even less) if you knew people ...

How much do we really know about privacy on Facebook?

Aug 22, 2014

The recent furore about the Facebook Messenger app has unearthed an interesting question: how far are we willing to allow our privacy to be pushed for our social connections? In the case of the Facebook ...

Philippines makes arrests in online extortion ring

Aug 22, 2014

Philippine police have arrested eight suspected members of an online syndicate accused of blackmailing more than 1,000 Hong Kong and Singapore residents after luring them into exposing themselves in front of webcam, an official ...

User comments : 0