I was interviewed by James Royal-Lawson and Lisa Welchman for the UX Podcast. Among other things, we talked about a fundamental tension I’m exploring for my upcoming WIAD keynote:

Our default – I’m not going to generalize here – but I think that for many of us our root impulses are to say we want to make this environment as personalizable as possible and we want to make it as accepting to folks from all sorts of different perspectives, all sorts of different backgrounds, all sorts of different abilities.

And I think that’s an incredibly noble and important direction to aspire towards. But I also think that we need to acknowledge that at the end of the day we have to establish some degree of common ground for the place to be able to be coherent and to be distinctive and to set itself apart from other parts of the world.

This conversation that we’re having would be challenging if the three of us were speaking in different languages, for example. We have come together to speak – and we’re speaking in English. That entails some degree of, I guess, giving up of parts of our identity. English is not my native language, and it’s something that I do willingly to be able to participate in this conversation and to have it be a fruitful and flowing conversation. And I think that this notion of accommodating different folks stands in tension with the notion of creating a degree of coherence; of developing some kind of group identity that allows us to identify as a certain bank’s customers or members of a professional community or what have you.

What’s the right balance between accommodating individual identity and fostering group identity? Sometimes these directions can be in alignment, but often they’re not. How do we choose? Information environments reify social structures, so those of use who design them must address these questions.

Listen to the episode or read the transcript.