My Map (A Self-Portrait)

A visualization of my social network formed from 60,000 emails from my personal archive.

Email became an integral part of my life in 1998. Like many people, I have archived all of my email with the hope of someday revisiting my past. I am interested in revealing the innumerable relationships between me, my schoolmates, work-mates, friends and family. This could not readily be accomplished by reading each of my 60,000 emails one-by-one. Instead, I created My Map, a relational map and alternative self portrait. My Map is a piece of custom designed software capable of rendering the relationships between myself and individuals in my address book by examining the TO:, FROM:, and CC: fields of every email in my email archive. The intensity of the relationship is determined by the intensity of the line. My Map allows me to explore different relational groupings and periods of time, revealing the temporal ebbs and flows in various relationships. In this way, My Map is a veritable self-portrait, a reflection of my associations and a way to locate myself.

My Map can be viewed as a large scale static print (40″x40″ archival inkjet) or as an up-to-date dynamic visualization (see Quicktime video above). The interactive program is written in Java and uses the Processsing libraries, MySQL and various other libraries. The software includes a custom IMAP email client and a VCF address book parser that parses contact information and their images. This particular visualization strategy was influenced by similar cicular relational structures such as CAIDA, SCHEMABALL, GNOM, etc. Much of my initial email visualization research was influenced and inspired by the work of Judith Donath’s Sociable Media Group at MIT — particularly the work of Fernanda Viegas.

Individual connections can be highlighted.
Smaller groups can be examined.
A date range can be chosen.
Detail from the print.
Detail from video installation.