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Email Miles is a hardware odometer and free plug-in for Mail and Gmail that prints total miles/countries/continents each email travels.

Screenshot from Email Miles Plugin Result


Email Miles is both a free and open source plug-in for standard email software such as Apple’s Mail and Gmail created by Jonah Brucker-Cohen that scans outgoing emails and their destination servers for their Geolocation, calculates the distance in miles and countries and continents the mail has traveled and tags each incoming email with this info.  The project is also an open source, Arduino based, hardware physical odometer (limited edition of 5) that consists of a personalized device that ticks the number of combined miles a particular user’s emails have traveled. This could be placed at home or in an office and would log the amount of miles it's user has sent emails over the course of a day, month, or years. 


The generation that has grown up using web browsers believes the connectivity delivered by the internet has always been around and will continue to magically be available. The reality is that routers, cables, copper, fiber, servers and immense data warehouses are the invisible backbone to this seamless communication. These structures require nurturing and investment or they fail. The recent advent of ‘Cloud’ computing is taking this immaterial aspect of data transmission to a new level. Everything seems to happen mystically and without cost in the ‘Cloud’. 

How can we get a generation to consider that their communication is actually harnessed in material hardware and infrastructure and the types of business models that they are supporting in their monthly subscriptions? 



Email and digital communications are instantaneous, immediate, and flawlessly received. Unlike traditional mail that is sent in paper envelopes across distances and is typically damaged or shows signs of wear from its travel, email does not exhibit any of these traits. In contrast, Email Miles adds an aspect of spatial travel to email by tagging each email with the distance it has traveled in miles or kilometers, adding a link to a map view of the path, and aggregating these miles onto a personal odometer device.Email Miles relates to my prior work on designing critical network topologies and installations that challenge how networks are perceived and used by millions of people around the world. The project reconnects the ubiquitous qualities of email back to its spatial roots where messages travel great distances over servers, cables, and wireless transmissions. Although there is an increasing trend in digital technology towards the dematerialization of all media, this displacement of physicality is also creating tensions between how people perceive physical locations and their virtual counterparts. The aim of this project is to connect these two realities of online communication with physical distances and bring to light our dependence on these technologies and their tendency to collapse the intermediary spaces between disparate locations and cultures.

"Simulated" Distance Map of Email Message Tagged Onto The End of the Message (Note: This map is not accurate and only meant as an example)


Digital media, although it has brought us closer together in so many ways, has also kept us apart through convenience of use and has separated space from time in that the ease of which we communicate has become so fluid that we often forget the real world or physical distances between us when using digital communication devices.Email Miles is urgently needed because it reminds us of our spatial distance from each other geographically and grounds these distances in a reminder that although these systems are almost magical in their ease of use, they also mask the physical distances between users. 



Email Miles is a new approach to online collaboration because it adds a physical element to common forms of online communication. With the instantaneous nature of digital mail there is often a sense among users that time and location no longer matter and that one can live a fully active digital lifestyle from anywhere in the world. For example, someone on a farm can have just as active a digital life as those in a bustling urban area. 

Email Miles shows the actual distances between the two computers sending and receiving email messages and thus brings both the sender and receiver of the emails closer together in their knowledge of how far the email had to travel to get from one person to the other. This “re-connection” to the physical world reminds us of our proximity to each other and allows for new collaborations between users of email worldwide. As a plug-in for the ubiquitous Gmail and Mail email software, Email Miles could reach a potential audience of over 250 million users.

Email Miles System Diagram

A software API framework will be created from the project, hosted on GitHub, and will enable developers to tag any digital messages with their geolocation information and for that data to be printed in their applications. We are beginning with email, but this framework could be applied to everything from instant messaging, SMS, chat messages, and more. The code for the software and hardware schematic for the odometer will be released open source with a General Public Licenseand the software will also be available with an API including descriptions of all functions necessary to implement this type of visualization for other email clients and networked software and hardware projects.


Developmental 3D Rendering of the Open Source Arduino Based Hardware Email Miles Odometer Device

Email Miles will primarily exist as a software project, but there is also a physical manifestation of the piece in the form of an odometer style apparatus that will keep track of how many miles in total all of the collected emails for a specific person have traveled. Adding this physical box with rotating numbers will help to give the piece a physical manifestation similar to the way a car has an odometer embedded in it’s dashboard. Future versions of the “Email Miles Odometer” could have features such as a sound when specific milestones are met by each user such as total miles traveled, total emails sent each month, etc.... These aspects of the hardware device would also be customizable to each user.

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Email Miles Odometer Demo

By Jonah Brucker-Cohen


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Email Miles Circuit Diagram


Since the project is a plugin for Gmail and Apple's Mail client, it will already have a potential user base of 250 million users of the Gmail service. This amount of users will drive the project to not only innovate but become a standard aspect of email in future versions of the software. The project will cross language and location barriers, live online, and become an instigator for global creativity as users will be able to harvest the location data and use it to create real-time maps, data visualizations, and other forms of information mapping from the data collected. The project will help to usher in a new reality of space and time to digital communications that has seemingly gotten lost amongst the efficiency and flawless nature of online transmissions. The project engages with digital mediums, cartography, art, media, and technology. It encourages users from a wide array of possible contexts and the general public since it works with Mail and Gmail which are becoming ubiquitous.

In addition to the software component, there will be a website that will aggregate people's mileage counts and show a "Hall of Fame" that will rank people based on how far their emails have traveled. So that people without the software can watch how it's being used and those with the software can see how their email activities rank in comparison to others who are using it. The data will be anonymous in that it will only aggregate and rank the numerical counts of miles, not the recipients, senders, or the content of the messages. Users can opt in or out of this ranking and decide if they want to show their names or email addresses with the general public for bragging rights.


What amazing results will happen if people contribute.

4. How much money you need and how it will be spent.

5. What rewards contributors will receive.

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Wear and Tear of Traditional "Snail Mail" Envelopes Is Becoming A Thing of the Past

The project is part of an ongoing investigation of methods and methodologies for increasing the public's awareness of the presence and physical utility of today’s communications networks. The pervasive nature of these networks is such that their physical ubiquity often is forgotten about and spoken of in less grounded terms in the realms of reality and physicality. Since we are physical beings and work / play in a tangible environment, the goal of this project is to bring this physicality back into online space and into the communication tools that we use daily. I hope to further explore this project's goals in more projects that add a physical component to both the experiences and “virtual” worlds and process that we engage with everyday. As can be seen by my previous projects listed below, the intention of this project is an exploration towards further discovery, rather an ends unto itself.


This project will involve collaborators in the form of programmers and cartographers who will help with the aggregation of data and plotting the data onto a shareable map. The project will generate maps in realtime of email messages being sent around the world with an interactive data visualization component that will show the milage accumulated from each message sent and where it was received. The project will manifest in individual user maps, aggregated maps for all users, and more.


1. Fund the production of the project to allow myself and collaborators to work on it at our full attention

2. Get the project produced and useable by the delivery deadline

3. Support my backers and produce all the rewards by the deadline

4. Once version 1.0 is done, I will begin work on version 2.0 of the software which would include elements such as changing fonts, languages, watermarks such as food stains of foods typical of the countries the email passes through, and/or elements like added tire tracks on the page if the email passed through Holland or China (where there are many bicycles/cars), adding flags of the countries the email has passed through, etc...


1. Once funded, the software component will begin development -February 2014 

2. Beta Tests within 1 or so months - April 2014 

3. Components added allowing for rewards to be created - May 2014 

4. Cleaning up Software for Distribution - June 2014

5. Final versions of the software completed - August 2014 

6. Rewards fulfilled and shipped - October 2014


The $30 Reward level includes a custom designed T-Shirt of the path of one of your emails mileage amounts and the countries, servers, and miles the email traveled.

Email Miles T-Shirt Design

Email Miles T-Shirt Design


The $100 Reward level includes a custom designed poster of 100 of your email's distances traced in a data visualization.


Reward Level: $5,000, Dynamic Standing Globe (Mockup) that animates and collects your incoming emails in a dynamic data visualization.

The Dynamic Standing Globe is a live data visualization built into the structure of a standing vintage globe. The lines on the globe would draw dynamically showing the location each email traveled from as they arrive in your in-box. The distance in miles would also be shown on the pathways for each individual email.


PRIVACY NOTE: This project does not track you or your email recipients or senders. It is client side, so it only processes an email after it's arrived in your email in-box, analyzes it, and adds the map link and image. No data besides anonymous parts of the headers are sent to 3rd party servers.

DISCLAIMER: The miles reported are the entire distance the email takes regardless of how indirect this path may be.

For some perspective on my prior work and its relationship to this project, below are several projects that I have completed that examine networks and show how we can change our relationship and experience using and interacting with them:

BumpList (2003)

An Email Community for the Determined

BumpList: An email community for the Determined BumpList functions like a standard, public listserv, but adds the constraints of limited membership (only 5 people could subscribe at once) and the urgency of forcing people to re-subscribe if they get bumped and want to continue the conversations, discussions, arguments in which they are engaged.

WIFI-Liberator (2007)

Wifi Liberator is an open-source toolkit for a laptop computer that enables its user to “liberate” pay-per-use wireless networks and create a free, open node that anyone can connect to for Internet access. The project is presented as a challenge to existing corporate or “locked” private wireless nodes to encourage the proliferation of free networks and connectivity across the planet.

Alerting Infrastructure! (2003)

A Website Hit Counter That Destroys a Building

Alerting Infrastructure! is a physical hit counter that translates hits to the web site of an organization into interior damage of the physical building that web site or organization represents. The focus of the piece is to amplify the concern that physical spaces are slowly losing ground to their virtual counterparts. The amount of structural damage to the building directly correlates to the amount of exposure and attention the web site gets, thus exposing the physical structure’s temporal existence.

Crank The Web (2001)

Hand Crank Your Own Bandwidth

Crank the Web is a browser that allows people to physically crank their bandwidth in order to see a website. Simply enter a URL, start cranking, and text and images appear in the browser window.

PoliceState (2003)

A **Carnivore** Client: Protect, Serve, Subvert.

PoliceState is a Carnivore client that attempts to reverse the surveillance role of law enforcement into a subservient one for the data being gathered. The client consists of a fleet of 20 radio controlled police vehicles that are all simultaneously controlled by data coming into the main client. The client looks for packet information relating to domestic US terrorism.

All of my over 80 networked projects are detailed on my site here:

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Campaign Ended on 2014-05-09

Jonah Brucker-Cohen

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A personal thank you email from me! You will be kept up up to date with the project and be the first to use Email Miles.

3 claimed



You will be kept up to date with the project and will be the first to know when the software will be available.

2 claimed


Beta Access

A thank you listing on the project page and access to the beta software and all versions leading up to launch.

4 claimed



A custom designed Email Miles themed t-shirt.

2 claimed



A poster of 100 of your email's distances traced in a data visualization

0 claimed


Email Odometer

A personal odometer desktop device that will keep track of the miles all of your emails have traveled since you started running the software.

0 claimed