Where does your email go when you press 'send'?
For most people it either (b) doesn't matter, or (b) flies up into the sky, presumably into a 'cloud of some sort, and then bounces down into the recipient's laptop.
Er, not quite.
As a new email plugin makes clear, your email actually takes a far more circuitous route to get from one place to another, even if the recipient is sitting right next to you.
Email Miles, developed by a FundAnything entrepeneur named Johah Brucker-Cohen, is designed to show you exactly how far your email travels when you send it.
The program scans your emails as they leave, and tracks them as they pass through various servers around the world via miles of cables, fibre and warehouses. It also presents you with information about all the emails you receive, and a link to a map of the path they took to get to you.
The developer, who is looking for $5,000 in funds to develop the idea, said:
"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.
"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."
Brucker-Cohen needs the money to further develop the plugin, and build a physical 'odometer' for email which he will sell, but make available as an open source Arduino project.
Possible further applications include a globe which would animate the path of your emails in real time.
"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."
Some of Brucker-Cohen's previous projects include a 'WiFi Liberator' designed to give free access to paid WiFi networks, and a website hit counter attached to a drill which would destroy a building if it became too popular.