“We need to talk…” UX for Identity of Things conversations

▶⏸⏯⏭⏪⏹⏺⏮⏩◀ Play, Pause, Step Back, Jump Ahead. Our iconography for linear navigation was lifted from olde technology, the VCR, which borrowed it from audio cassette players like the Sony Walkman that recycled commands from larger reel to reel audio tape machines.

Wollensak portable reel-to-reel tape recorder. 📷Bubba73 (Jud McCranie), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

We need a new iconography for identity interaction. Which interactions? What are the identity conversations people want to have with familiar and strange devices?


  • ▶ Can you (or a proxy) have a digital identity conversation with me? Are you able and/or willing?
  • If you’re unwilling, tell me enough to follow up elsewhere.

Getting acquainted

  • Tell me a little about yourself.
  • What’s your name?
  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • What’s your history?
  • Where did you come from?

About me

  • What do you know about me?
  • May I introduce myself?
  • What may I do with you?
  • Could I do more with more permission? From whom?

About the folks behind you

  • What groups are you a part of?
  • Who is your guardian?
  • Who controls you, if not your guardian?
  • What do you do with information you collect? What do they do with the information? Who do you trust?
  • Where does the information go? Physically, I mean. Does it leave the neighborhood? The country?
  • What jurisdictions apply to you?
  • Who governs you? What trade, safety, industry, or regulatory bodies?

About your needs and wants

  • Who takes care of you?
  • If you’re abandoned, what happens to you?
  • What do you need to survive? To flourish?
  • Are you subject to human rights laws? Civil rights laws? Are you more than property?


  • How can I subscribe, follow, join your circle?
  • Would you like to be in a relationship with me? Will you accept my contractual ToS?


  • Who is assuring me this conversation should be trusted?
  • How do I report a problem with this conversation or its content?

I expect many media for these conversations. Oral dialogs in hands-free spaces, textual chat, audible feedback to gestural queries.

P.S. We walked through this and a few other ideas at Identiverse 2021. IoMT At Risk. A Wider Team Critique of Digital Identity Threats to the Internet of Medical Things. Read all the posts from our Identiverse talk.


2 responses to ““We need to talk…” UX for Identity of Things conversations”

  1. Smarter IoT and Healthcare – Wider.Team Avatar

    […] Identity conversations between people and devices. Healthcare, clinical and biopharma research, and regulatory bodies are demanding orders of magnitude more auditability and transparency of IoMT’s identity layer. The quantity, diversity, and novelty of this data overwhelms human cognitive capacity. [see also: “We need to talk…” UX for Identity of Things conversations] […]

  2. Pervasive Identity – Wider Team Avatar

    […] and passwords on timesharing mainframes in the 1960s. Decentralization of computing means brings identity conversations with it, so they pervade our physical world as much as our virtual ones. Pervasive identity is a […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s