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Expanding Explainability: Towards Social Transparency in AI systems


Abstract and Figures

As AI-powered systems increasingly mediate consequential decision-making, their explainability is critical for end-users to take informed and accountable actions. Explanations in human-human interactions are socially-situated. AI systems are often socio-organizationally embedded. However, Explainable AI (XAI) approaches have been predominantly algorithm-centered. We take a developmental step towards socially-situated XAI by introducing and exploring Social Transparency (ST), a sociotechnically informed perspective that incorporates the socio-organizational context into explaining AI-mediated decision-making. To explore ST conceptually, we conducted interviews with 29 AI users and practitioners grounded in a speculative design scenario. We suggested constitutive design elements of ST and developed a conceptual framework to unpack ST's effect and implications at the technical, decision-making, and organizational level. The framework showcases how ST can potentially calibrate trust in AI, improve decision-making, facilitate organizational collective actions, and cultivate holistic explainability. Our work contributes to the discourse of Human-Centered XAI by expanding the design space of XAI.
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Expanding Explainability: Towards Social Transparency in AI systems
UPOL EHSAN, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA
MARK O. RIEDL, Georgia Institute of Technology, USA
As AI-powered systems increasingly mediate consequential decision-making, their explainability is critical for end-users to take
informed and accountable actions. Explanations in human-human interactions are socially-situated. AI systems are often socio-
organizationally embedded. However, Explainable AI (XAI) approaches have been predominantly algorithm-centered. We take a
developmental step towards socially-situated XAI by introducing and exploring Social Transparency (ST), a sociotechnically informed
perspective that incorporates the socio-organizational context into explaining AI-mediated decision-making. To explore ST conceptually,
we conducted interviews with 29 AI users and practitioners grounded in a speculative design scenario. We suggested constitutive
design elements of ST and developed a conceptual framework to unpack ST’s eect and implications at the technical, decision-making,
and organizational level. The framework showcases how ST can potentially calibrate trust in AI, improve decision-making, facilitate
organizational collective actions, and cultivate holistic explainability. Our work contributes to the discourse of Human-Centered XAI
by expanding the design space of XAI.
CCS Concepts:
Human-centered computing
Scenario-based design;
Empirical studies in HCI
HCI theory, concepts and
models;Collaborative and social computing theory, concepts and paradigms;Computing methodologies Articial intelligence.
Additional Key Words and Phrases: Explainable AI, social transparency, human-AI interaction, explanations, Articial Intelligence,
sociotechnical, socio-organizational context
ACM Reference Format:
Upol Ehsan, Q. Vera Liao, Michael Muller, Mark O. Riedl, and Justin D. Weisz. 2021. Expanding Explainability: Towards Social
Transparency in AI systems. In CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’21), May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan.
ACM, New York, NY, USA, 29 pages.
Explanations matter. In human-human interactions, they provide necessary delineations of reasoning and justication for
one’s thoughts and actions, and a primary vehicle to transfer knowledge from one person to another [
]. Explanations
play a central role in sense-making, decision-making, coordination, and many other aspects of our personal and social
lives [
]. They are becoming increasingly important in human-AI interactions as well. As AI systems are rapidly
being employed in high stakes decision-making scenarios in industries such as healthcare [
], nance [
], college
admissions [
], hiring [
], and criminal justice [
], the need for explainability becomes paramount. Explainability
is not only sought by users and other stakeholders to understand and develop appropriate trust of AI systems, but
also to support discovery of new knowledge and make informed decisions [
]. To respond to this emerging need for
explainability, there has been commendable progress in the eld of Explainable AI (XAI), especially around algorithmic
approaches to generate representations of how a machine learning (ML) model operates or makes decisions.
CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan Ehsan, Liao, Muller, Riedl, and Weisz
Despite the recent growth spurt in the eld of XAI, studies examining how people actually interact with AI
explanations have found popular XAI techniques to be ineective [
], potentially risky [
], and underused
in real-world contexts [
]. The eld has been critiqued for its techno-centric view, where “inmates [are running] the
asylum” [
], based on the impression that XAI researchers often develop explanations based on their own intuition
rather than the situated needs of their intended audience. Currently, the dominant algorithm-centered XAI approaches
make up for only a small fragment of the landscape of explanations as studied in the Social Sciences [
and exhibit signicant gaps from how explanations are sought and produced by people. Certain techno-centric pitfalls
that are deeply embedded in AI and Computer Science, such as Solutionism (always seeking technical solutions) and
Formalism (seeking abstract, mathematical solutions) [32, 87], are likely to further widen these gaps.
One way to address the gaps would be to critically reect on the status quo. Here, the lenses of Agre’s Critical Technical
Practice (CTP) [
] can help. CTP encourages us to question the core epistemic and methodological assumptions in
XAI, critically reect on them to overcome impasses, and generate new questions and hypotheses. By bringing the
unconscious aspects of experience to our conscious awareness, critical reection makes them actionable [
Put dierently, a CTP-inspired reective perspective on XAI [
] will encourage us to ask: by continuing the dominant
algorithm-centered paradigm in XAI, what perspectives are we missing? How might we incorporate the marginalized
perspectives to embody alternative technology? In this case, a dominant XAI approach can be construed as algorithm-
centered that privileges technical transparency and circumscribes the epistemic space of explainable AI around model
transparency. An algorithm-centered approach can be eective if explanations and AI systems existed in a vacuum.
However, it is not the case that explanations and AI systems are devoid of situated context.
On one hand, explanations (as a construct) are socially situated [
]. Explanation is rst and foremost a
shared meaning-making process that occurs between an explainer and an explainee. This process is dynamic to the
goals and changing beliefs of both parties [
]. For our purposes in this paper, we adopt the broad denition
that an explanation is an answer to a why-question [20, 57, 70].
On the other hand, implicit in AI systems are human-AI assemblages. Most consequential AI systems are deeply
embedded in socio-organizational tapestries in which groups of humans interact with it, going beyond a 1-1 human-AI
interaction paradigm. Given this understanding, we might ask: if both AI systems and explanations are socially-situated,
then why are we not requiring incorporation of the social aspects when we conceptualize explainability in AI systems?
How can one form a holistic understanding of an AI system and make informed decisions if one only focuses on the
technical half of a sociotechnical system?
We illustrate the shortcomings of a solely technical view of explainability in the following scenario, which is inspired
by incidents described by informants in our study.
You work for a leading cloud software company, responsible for determining product pricing in various markets.
Your institution built a new AI-powered tool that provides pricing recommendations based on a wide variety
of factors. This tool has been extensively evaluated to assist you on pricing decisions. One day, you are tasked
with creating a bid to be the cloud provider for a major nancial institution. The AI-powered tool gives you a
recommended price. You might think, why should I trust the AI’s recommendation? You examine a variety
of technical explanations the system provides: visualizations of the model’s decision-making process and
descriptions of how the algorithm reached this specic recommendation. Condent at the soundness of the
model’s recommendation, you create the bid and submit it to the client. You are disheartened to learn that the
client rejected your bid and instead accepted the bid from a competitor.
Expanding Explainability: Towards Social Transparency in AI systems CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan
Given a highly-accurate machine learning model, along with a full complement of technical explanations, why
should the seller’s pricing decision not have been successful? It is because the answer to the why-question is not limited
to the machine explaining itself. It is also in the situational and socio-organizational context, which one can learn from
how price recommendations were handled by other sellers. What other factors went into those decisions? Were there
regulatory or client-specic (e.g., internal budgetary constraints) issues that were beyond the scope of the model? Did
something drastic happen in the operating environment (e.g., a global pandemic) that necessitated a dierent strategy?
In other words, situational context matters and it is with this context the “why” questions could be answered eectively
and completely.
At a rst glance, it may seem that socio-organizational context has nothing to do with explaining an AI system.
Therein lies the issue — where we draw the boundary of our epistemic canvas for XAI matters. If the boundary is traced
along the bounds of an algorithm, we risk excluding the human and social factors that signicantly impact the way
people make sense of a system. Sense-making is not just about opening the closed box of AI, but also about who is
around the box, and the sociotechnical factors that govern the use of the AI system and the decision. Thus the “ability”
in explainability does not lie exclusively in the guts of the AI system [
]. For the XAI eld as a whole, if we restrict our
epistemic lenses to solely focus on algorithms, we run the risk of perpetuating the aforementioned gaps, marginalizing
the human and sociotechnical factors in XAI design. The lack of incorporation of the socio-organizational context is
an epistemic blind spot in XAI. By identifying and critically reecting on this epistemic blind spot, we can begin to
recognize the poverty of algorithm-centered approaches.
In this paper, we address this blind spot and expand the conceptual lens of XAI by reframing explainability beyond
algorithmic transparency, focusing our attention to the human and socio-organizational factors around explainability
of AI systems. Building upon relevant concepts that promote transparency of social information in human-human
interactions, we introduce and explore Social Transparency (ST) in AI systems. Using a scenario-based design, we create
a speculative instance of AI-mediated decision-support system and use it to conduct a formative study with 29 AI users
and practitioners. Our study explores whether and how proposed constitutive design elements address the epistemic
blind spot of XAI – incorporating socio-organizational contexts into explainability. We also investigate whether and
how ST can facilitate AI-mediated decision-making and other user goals. This paper is not a full treatise of how to
achieve socially-situated XAI; rather a rst step toward that goal by operationalizing the concept in a set of design
elements and considering its implications for human-AI interaction. In summary, our contributions are fourfold:
We highlight an epistemic blind spot in XAI – a lack of incorporation of socio-organizational contexts that
impact the explainability of AI-mediated decisions – by using a CTP-inspired reective approach to XAI.
We explore the concept of Social Transparency (ST) in AI systems and develop a scenario-based speculative
design that embodies ST, including four categories of design features that reect What,Why,Who, and When
information of past user interactions with AI systems.
We conduct a formative study and empirically derive a conceptual framework, highlighting three levels of context
around AI-mediated decisions that are made visible by ST and their potential eects: technological (AI), decision,
and organizational contexts.
We share design insights and potential challenges, risks, and tensions of introducing ST into AI systems.
CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan Ehsan, Liao, Muller, Riedl, and Weisz
We begin with a in-depth review of related work in XAI eld, further highlighting the danger of the epistemic blind
spot. We then discuss a shift in broader AI related work towards sociotechnical perspectives. Lastly, we review work
that pushed towards transparency of socio-organizational contexts in human-human interactions.
2.1 Explainable AI (XAI)
Although there is no established consensus on the complete set of factors that makes an AI system explainable, XAI
work commonly shares the goal of making an AI system’s functioning or decisions easy to understand by people [
]. Recent work also emphasizes that explainability is an audience-dependant instead of a
model-inherent property [
]. Explainability is often viewed more broadly than model transparency or
intelligibility [
]. For example, a growing research area of XAI focuses on techniques to generate post-hoc
explanations [
]. Instead of directly elucidating how a model works internally, post-hoc explanations typically justify
an opaque’ model’s decision by rationalizing the input and output or providing similar examples. Lipton discussed the
importance of post-hoc explanations to provide useful information for decision makers, and its similarity with how
humans explain [
]. At a high level, Gilpin et al. [
] argued that the transparency of model behaviors alone is not
enough to satisfy the goal of “gain[ing] user trust or produc[ing] insights about the cause of the decisions,” but rather,
explainability requires other capabilities such as providing responses to user questions and the ability to be audited.
Since an explanation is only explanatory if it can be consumed by the recipient, many recognize the importance of
taking user-centered approaches to XAI [
], and the indispensable role that the HCI community should play
in advancing the eld. While XAI has experienced a recent surge in activities, the HCI community has a long history of
developing and studying explainable systems, such as explainable recommender systems, context-aware systems, and
intelligent agents, as outlined by Abdul et al. [
]. Moreover, XAI’s disconnect with the philosophical and psychological
grounds of human explanations has been duly noted [
], as best represented by Miller’s call for leveraging insights
from the Social Sciences [
]. Wang et al. reviewed decision-making theories and identied many gaps in XAI output
to support the complete cognitive processes of human reasoning [
]. From these lines of work, we highlight a few
critical issues that are most relevant to our work.
First, there is a dearth of user studies and a lack of understanding on how people actually perceive and consume
AI explanations [
]. Only until recently have researchers began to conduct controlled lab studies to rigorously
evaluate popular XAI techniques [
], as well as studies to understand real-world user needs for
AI explainability [
]. Accumulating evidence shows that XAI techniques are not as eective as assumed. There
have been rather mixed results on whether current XAI techniques could appropriately enhance user trust [
or the intended task performance, whether for decision making [
], model evaluation [
], or model
development [
]. For example, Alqarrawi et al. evaluated the eectiveness of saliency maps [
] – a popular explanation
technique for image classication models – and found they provided very limited help for evaluating the model. Kauer
et al. studied how data scientists use popular model interpretability tools and found them to be frequently misused [
Liao et al. interviewed practitioners designing AI systems and reported their struggle with popular XAI techniques
due to a lack of actionability for end users. Recent studies also reported detrimental eects of explanations for AI
system users including inducing over-trust or over-estimation of model capabilities [
], and increasing cognitive
workload [
]. Moreover, while XAI is often claimed to be a critical step towards accountable AI, empirical studies
have found little evidence that explanations improve a user’s perceived accountability or control over AI systems [
Expanding Explainability: Towards Social Transparency in AI systems CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan
Second, in human reasoning and learning, explanation is both a product and a process. In particular, it is a social
process [
] as part of a conversation or social interaction. Current technical XAI work typically takes a product-oriented
view by generating a representation of a model’s internals [
]. However, explanations are also sought rst and foremost
as a knowledge transfer process from an explainer to an explainee. A process-oriented view has at least two implications
for XAI. First, the primary goal of explanation should be to enable the explainee to gain knowledge or make sense of a
situation or event, which may not be limited to a model’s internals. Second, as a transfer of knowledge, explanations
should be presented relative to the explainee’s beliefs or knowledge gaps [
]. This emphasis on tailoring explanation
according to explainee’s knowledge gaps has been a focus of prior HCI work on explainable systems [
]. Recent
work has also begun to explore interactive explanations that could address users’ follow-up questions as a way to ll
individual knowledge gaps [
]. However, sometimes these knowledge gaps lie outside of the system, which may
require providing information that is not related to its internal mechanics [1].
Finally, we argue that AI systems are socially situated, but sociotechnical perspectives are mostly absent in current
XAI work. One recent study by Hong et al. [
] investigated how practitioners view and use XAI tools in organizations
using ML models. Their ndings suggest that the process of interpreting or making sense of an AI system frequently
involves cooperation and mental model comparison between people in dierent roles, aimed at building trust not only
between people and the AI system, but also between people within the organization [
]. Our work builds on these
observations, as well as prior work on sociotechnical approaches to AI systems which we review below.
2.2 Sociotechnical approaches to AI
Our work is broadly motivated by work on sociotechnical approaches to AI. Academia and society at large have begun
to recognize the detrimental eect of a techno-centric view on AI [
]. Since AI systems are socially situated,
their development should carefully consider social, organizational, and cultural factors that may govern their usage.
Otherwise one may risk deploying an AI system un-integrated into individual and organizational workows [
potentially resulting in misuse, mistrust [
], or having profound ethical risks and unintended consequences,
especially for marginalized groups [72, 86, 99].
Researchers have proposed ways to make AI systems more human-centered and sensitive to socio-organizational
contexts. Bridging rich veins of work in AI, HCI, and critical theory, such as Critical Technical Practices [
] and Reective
Design [
], Ehsan and Riedl delineate the foundations of a Reective Human-centered XAI (HCXAI). Reective HCXAI
is a sociotechnically informed perspective on XAI that is critically reective of dominant assumptions and practices
of the eld [
], and sensitive to the values of diverse stakeholders, especially marginalized groups, in its proposal
of alternative technology. Zhu et al. proposed Value Sensitive Algorithm Design [
] by engaging stakeholders in
the early stages of algorithm creation, to avoid biases in design choices or compromising stakeholder values. Several
researchers have leveraged design ctions and speculative scenarios to elicit user values and cultural perspectives for AI
system design [
]. Šabanovic developed a framework of Mutual-Shaping and Co-production [
] by involving
users in the early stages of robot design and engaging in reexive practices. Jones et al [
] proposed a design process
for intelligent sociotechnical systems with equal attention to analysis of social concepts in the deployment context and
representing such concepts in computational forms.
More fundamentally, using a Science and Technology Studies (STS) lens [
], scholars have begun critically reecting
on the underlying assumptions made by AI algorithmic solutions. Mohamed et al. [
] examined the roles of power
embedded in AI algorithms, and suggested applying decolonial approaches to enable AI technologies to center on
vulnerable groups that may bear negative consequences of technical innovation. Green and Viljoen [
] diagnosed the
CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan Ehsan, Liao, Muller, Riedl, and Weisz
dominant mode of AI algorithmic reasoning as “algorithmic formalism” – an adherence to prescribed form and rules –
which could lead to harmful outcomes such as reproducing existing social conditions and a technologically-deterministic
view of social changes. The authors pointed out that addressing these potential harms requires attending to the internal
limits of algorithms and the social concerns that fall beyond the bounds of algorithmic formalism. In the context of
fair ML, Selbst et al.[
] questioned the implications of algorithmic abstraction that are essential to ML. Abstracting
away the broader social context can cause AI technical interventions to fall into a number of traps: Framing, Portability,
Formalism, Ripple Eect, and Solutionism. The authors suggested to mitigate these problems by extending abstraction
boundaries to include social factors rather than purely technical ones. In a similar vein, eld work on algorithmic
fairness often found that meaningful interventions toward usable and ethical algorithmic systems are non-technical,
and that user community derive most value from localized, as opposed to “scalable” solutions [49, 54].
Our work is aligned with and builds on these views obtained through the sociotechnical lens. These perspectives
inform our thinking as we expand the boundaries of XAI to include socio-organizational factors, and challenge a
formalist perspective that peoples’ meaning-making processes could be resolved through algorithmic formalisms. Our
work takes an operational step towards sociotechnical XAI systems by expanding the design space with ST.
2.3 Social transparency and related concepts
Our work is also informed by prior work that studied social transparency and related concepts in human-human
interactions. The concept of making others’ activities transparent plays a central role in HCI and Computer-Supported
Cooperative Work (CSCW) literature [
]. Erickson and Kellogg proposed the concept of and design principles for
Social Translucence, in which “social cues” of others’ presence and activities are made visible in digital systems, so that
people can apply familiar social rules to facilitate eective online communication and collaboration. Gutwin et al.’s
seminal work on group awareness [
] for groupware supporting distributed teams provides an operational design
framework. It sets out elements of knowledge that constitute group awareness, including knowledge regarding Who,
What, and Where to support awareness related to the present, and How,When,Who,Where, and What for awareness
related to the past. Theses theories have since inspired a bulk of work that created new design features and design
spaces for social and collaborative technologies (e.g. [28, 30, 36, 51, 67]).
Building upon social translucence and awareness, Stuart et al. [
] conceptualized Social Transparency (ST) in
networked information exchange. In particular, it extends the visibility of one’s direct partner and the eect on their
dyadic interactions, to also encompass one’s role as an observer of others’ interactions made visible in the network. Their
framework describes three social dimensions made visible to people by ST: identity transparency, content transparency,
and interaction transparency. This framework then considers a list of social inferences people could make based on
these visible dimensions (e.g. perceived similarity and accountability based on identity transparency; activity awareness
based on content transparency; norms and social networks based on interaction transparency), and their second order
eects for the groups or community. Social transparency theory has been used to design and analyze various social
media features and their impact on social learning [18, 78], social facilitation [44], and reputation management [18].
The above work focused on how ST – making others’ activities visible – aects collaboration and cooperative
behaviors with other people. Our work also draws on two other important aspects that ST could potentially support for
decision-making. One is on knowledge sharing and acquisition. As reviewed by Ackerman et al, [
], CSCW systems
supporting organizational knowledge management fall into two categories: a repository model that externalizes peoples’
knowledge as sharable artifacts or objects; and an expertise-sharing model that supports locating the appropriate person
to have in-situ access to knowledge. The CSCW community’s shift from the former to the latter category represents a
Expanding Explainability: Towards Social Transparency in AI systems CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan
shift of emphasis from explicit to tacit knowledge. Transparency of others’ communications could facilitate expertise
location through the acquisition of organizational meta-knowledge (e.g., who knows what and who knows whom), as a
type of “ambient awareness” coined by Leonardi in the context of enterprise social media [
]. This position is also
related to the development of Transactive Memory Systems (TMS) [
] that relies on meta-knowledge to
optimize the storage and retrieval of knowledge across dierent individuals. A suciently uent TMS can evolve to a
form of team cognition of or “collective mind” [46, 103] that can lead to better collective performance [9, 42].
Social transparency could also guide or validate peoples’ judgment and decision as cognitive heuristics. Cognitive
heuristics are a key concept in decision-making [
], which refers to “rules of thumb” people follow to quickly form
judgments or nd solutions to complex problems. By making visible what other people selected, interacted with,
approved or disapproved, ST could invoke many social and group-based heuristics such as bandwagon or endorsement
heuristics (following what many others’ do), authority or reputation heuristics (following authority), similarity heuristics
(following people in similar situations), and social presence heuristics (favoring a social entity over a machine) [
How these ST-rendered heuristics aect peoples’ decisions and actions has been studied in a wide range of technologies
such as reputation systems [
] and social media. In particular, they play a critical role in how people evaluate the
trustworthiness, credibility, and agency of technologies [
], as well as the sources or organizations behind
the technologies [
]. While these heuristic-based judgments are indispensable for people to navigate complex
technological and social environments, they also lead to biases and errors if inappropriately applied [
], calling for
careful study of inferences people make based on ST features and their potential eect.
Our concept of social transparency in AI systems is informed by the aforementioned perspectives, but with several
key distinctions: at the center of our work is a desire to support the explainability of AI systems, particularly in
AI-mediated decision-making. We are not merely interested in making others’ activities visible, but more importantly,
how others’ interactions with AI impact the explainability of the system. Within the view of a human-AI assemblage,
in which both AI and people have decision-making agency, it is possible to borrow ideas and interpretative lenses
from work studying ST in human-human interactions. To study the eects of ST in AI systems, our rst-order focus
is on users’ sense-making of an AI system and their decision-making process, though it may inevitably impact their
organizational behaviors as well.
After identifying an epistemic blind spot of XAI, we propose adding Social Transparency (ST) into AI systems–
incorporating social-organizational contexts to facilitate explainability of AI’s recommendations. This denition is
intentionally left broad, as we follow a broad denition of explainability–ability to answer the why-question. We borrow
the term ST from Stuart et al. [
], and similarly emphasize both making visible of other people in the human-AI
assemblage, and other people’s interactions with the “source”, in our case, the AI system. Dierent from Stuart et al.,
which proposed the ST concept retrospectively at a time when ST enabling features were pervasive in CSCW systems,
we had to consider, prospectively, what kind of features to add to an AI system to make ST possible.
As a formative step, our goal was not to develop a nished treatise of ST in AI systems. Rather, we intended to
create an exemplary design of an AI system with ST and use it to conduct formative studies to advance our conceptual
development. We opted for a scenario-based design (SBD) method. SBD suspends the needs to dene system operations
by using narrative descriptions of how a user uses a system to accomplish a task [
]. SBD allows interpretive exibility
in a user journey by balancing between roughness and concreteness. SBD is an appropriate choice for our investigation
CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan Ehsan, Liao, Muller, Riedl, and Weisz
because it is a method oriented for “envisioning future use possibilities” [
], focusing on people’s needs, evocative,
and has been adopted in prior XAI design work [106].
We started with a range of AI-mediated decision-making scenarios around cybersecurity, hiring (employment),
healthcare, and sales, where a user encounters an AI recommendation and seeks answer to a why-questions about
the recommendation, e.g. “why should I accept or trust the recommendation”. We ran 4 workshops with a total of 21
people from 8 technology companies who are users or stakeholders of relevant AI systems. The scenarios started in a
textual form, then we engaged participants in drawing exercises to create visual mock-ups of these scenarios (hereby
referred to as visual scenarios), and brainstorming together what kind of information they wanted to see about other
users of the AI system, and other users’ interactions with the AI system if they were the user. When it came to types of
design feature that could encode relevant socio-organizational context, people had many suggestions. For instance,
suggestions about knowing what happened to other people getting recommendations from the AI systems, who got
the recommendations, etc. quickly emerged in the discussions. The ideas converged to what our participants coined
as the “4W”—who did what with the AI system, when, and why they did what they did— in order to have adequate
socio-organizational context around the AI-mediated decisions.
We note an interesting observation that the 4W share similarity with the design elements for group awareness in
groupware work [
], with the exception of “why”, which is core to explainability. When thinking how to represent
the “why”, participants suggested an open ended textual representation to capture the nuances behind a decision.
Eventually, we settled on a design of a “commenting” feature (why) together with traces of others’ interactions with the
AI system’s recommendations (what), their identities (who) and time of interactions (when). In the rest of the paper, we
refer to these constitutive design elements of ST as 4W. Figure 1 shows the nal visual scenario with the 4W features
used in the interview study.
We chose a sales scenario around an AI-mediated price recommendation tool, since it appeared to have a broader
reach and accessibility even for workshop participants who did not work in a sales domain. In the study, we intended to
interview sellers as targeted users of such an AI system, and also non-sellers to explore the transferability of the ST
concept to other AI domains, as we will discuss in detail in the next section.
Design choices in the visual scenario: We ran 4 pilot studies to nalize the design of the visual scenario in Figure 1, and
the procedure to engage participants with the design. We scoped the number of 4W blocks to three to strike a balance
between a variety of ST information and avoiding overwhelming the participants, based on what we learned from the
pilot studies. Each of the 4W are represented by one or more design features: accepting and rejecting the AI (action
[what]), succeeding and failing to make the sale (outcome [what]), one’s name, prole picture and organizational role
([who]), a comment on the reasons behind the action ([why]), and a time stamp ([when]). Contents in these components
were inspired by the workshop discussions, and showcase a range of socio-organizational contexts relevant to the
decision. The pilot runs revealed that presenting the entire visual scenario creates cognitive and visual clutter. Therefore,
for the interview, we decided to reveal the ve blocks shown in Figure 1 one by one, with the interviewer verbally
presenting the narrative around each block.
In this section we share the methodological details of the semi-structured interviews.
Expanding Explainability: Towards Social Transparency in AI systems CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan
Fig. 1. Visual scenario used in the interviews, labeled by blocks to be revealed in the interview in order: (1) Decision information and
model explanation: Information of the current sales decision, the AI’s recommended price and a “feature importance” explanation
justifying the model’s recommendation, inspired by real-world pricing tools; (2) ST summary: Beginning of ST giving a high-level
summary of how many teammates in the past had received the recommendation and how many sold at the recommended price;
(3-5): ST blocks with "4W" features containing the historical decision trajectory of three other users.
4.1 Recruitment
As mentioned, we intended to recruit both sellers and non-sellers, who are stakeholders of other AI-mediated decision-
making domains. Stakeholders are not limited to end users. We also welcomed dierent perspectives from designers, data
scientists, etc. With this in mind, we recruited participants from six dierent companies, including a large international
technology company where we were able to recruit from multiple lines of products or sales divisions. The recruitment
was initiated with an online advertisement posted in company-wide group-chat channels that we considered relevant,
followed up by snowball sampling. The advertisement stated two recruiting criteria: First, they needed to have direct
experience using or developing or designing an AI system. Second, the AI system should be interacted by multiple users,
preferably with multi-user decision-making. We veried that these criteria were met through a series of correspondence
(via online messaging) where each participant shared samples of the AI system they intended to discuss.
A total of 29 participants were recruited (17 self-identied as females while the rest as males). The recruitment of
sellers turned out to be challenging, given their very limited availability. By using snowball sampling, we were able
to recruit 8 sellers. For non-sellers, the snowball sampling resulted in participants clustered in two major domains –
healthcare and cybersecurity. We conducted the study in the middle of Covid-19 (a global pandemic in 2020), which added
non-trivial burden to the recruitment process and limited our interviews to a remote setting using video conferencing
tools. Participants’ ID, role, domains and domain experience is shared in Table 1. To facilitate traceability in the data
CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan Ehsan, Liao, Muller, Riedl, and Weisz
presented hereafter, we dierentiate sellers and non-sellers by appending the participant ID with -S for sellers and -NS
for non-sellers (e.g., 1-S for a seller and 2-NS for a non-seller).
4.2 Interview procedure
The semi-structured interviews were conducted online with screen-sharing for the interviewer to present the visual
scenario. All interviews were video recorded including the screen activities. The interview had 4 main parts. In the
rst part, after gaining informed consent, we asked participants to share about an AI system that they were currently
engaged with, focusing on their or their users’ needs for explainability. We also inquired about the socio-organizational
context around the use case, both before and after the AI system was introduced.
The second part involved a deep dive into the speculative design with a walk-through of the visual scenario in
Figure 1. This is where we explored how incorporation of ST can impact an AI-mediated decision-making scenario, as
we revealed the dierent blocks of the visual scenario in a sequenced manner. Participants were asked to play the role of
a salesperson trying to pitch a good price for an Access Management software to Scout Inc. (a client). In the rst block
revealed, the AI not only recommends a price, but also shows a technical explanation–a set of model features (e.g., cost
price, quota goals, etc.) justifying the recommendation. Once the participant showed a good enough understanding on
the Decision Information and Model Explanation portion (block 1 in Figure 1), we asked the participant to give a price
they would oer and their condence level (between 1-10, 10 being extremely condent) given what they saw on the
screen. Next, we revealed the social transparency portions. First, it was the ST Summary (block 2 in Figure 1) followed
by each of the 4W blocks (block 3-5 in Figure 1). We allowed participants to read through the content and guided them
through any misunderstandings. They were encouraged to think-aloud during the whole process. Following this, we
asked participants to share the top three reactions to the addition of the ST features, either positive or critical. After
that, participants were asked to share their nal price and condence level. In addition, we asked them to rank the
importance of the 4W (who,what,when, and why) for their decision-making process and justify their ranking.
The third part was about zooming out from the visual scenario and brainstorming plausible and impactful transfer
scenarios of ST in domains our participants resided. At this point, we also gave them a conceptual denition and some
vocabulary around ST so that they could brainstorm with us eectively. The goal of this part was to explore the design
and conceptual space of ST in domains beyond the sales scenario. For sellers, this meant transferring to their own
sales work context, which helped rening our own understanding of the sales scenario. Once participants shared their
thoughts on the transferability of ST, they ranked the 4W in the transfer use cases. We wanted to see if there are
variations in the rankings as the context switches—an aspect we discuss in the Findings section.
The fourth and nal part involved discussions around potential unwanted or negative consequences of ST as well as
reective conversations on how incorporation of ST can impact explainability of AI systems.
In summary, in addition to open-ended discussions, our interview collected the following data points from each
participant: original and updated price decisions and associated condence levels, rankings of 4W for both the sales
scenario and one’s own domain. While our study was not designed to quantitatively evaluate the eect of ST, we will
report summary statistics of these data points in the Findings section, which helped guiding our qualitative analysis.
4.3 alitative Analysis of the interviews
The interviews lasted 58 minutes on average. We analyzed the transcription of roughly 29 hours of interview data
using a combination of thematic analysis[
] and grounded theory [
]. Using an open coding scheme, two authors
independently went through the videos and transcription to produce in-vivo codes (directly from the data itself).
Expanding Explainability: Towards Social Transparency in AI systems CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan
Table 1. Participant details
Participant ID Role Domain Years of Experience
1-S Seller Sales > 10
2-NS Designer Cybersecurity > 5
3-NS Designer Finance and Travel > 5
4-NS Consultant Gov and Non-prot > 3
5-S Seller Sales > 5
6-NS Designer Health- Oncology > 5
7-NS Data Scientist Cybersecurity > 8
8-S Seller Sales > 3
9-NS Designer Health- Radiology > 5
10-NS Data Scientist Cybersecurity > 10
11-NS Designer Health > 3
12-NS Designer Cybersecurity > 5
13-S Seller Data Analytics > 10
14-NS Data Scientist NLP > 5
15-NS Designer Health- Radiology > 5
16-NS MD/ Data Scientist Health- Oncology > 10
17-NS Manager HR > 5
18-S Seller Sales > 3
19-S Seller Sales > 3
20-S Seller Sales > 10
21-S Seller Sales > 3
22-NS SOC analyst Cybersecurity > 3
23-S Seller Sales > 5
24-NS SOC analyst Cybersecurity > 5
25-NS SOC analyst Cybersecurity > 3
26-NS SOC analyst Cybersecurity > 5
27-NS SOC Data Scientist Cybersecurity > 5
28-NS SOC Architect Cybersecurity > 10
29-NS SOC analyst Cybersecurity > 5
Then we separately performed a thematic analysis, clustering the codes from in-vivo coding to themes. We iteratively
discussed and agreed upon the codes and themes, constantly comparing and contrasting the topics each of us found,
rening and reducing the variations in each round till consensus was reached. We grouped the codes and themes at the
topic level using a combination of mind-mapping and anity diagramming. Our results section below is organized
thematically, with the top-level topics as subsections. When discussing each topic, we highlight codes that add to that
topic in bold.
We begin by sharing how participants’ own experience with AI systems demonstrates that technical transparency alone
does not meet their explainability needs. They need context beyond the limits of the algorithm. Next, based on how
participants reacted to the incorporation of ST in the design scenario, we unpack what context could be made visible by
ST and break down the implications at three levels:
technological (AI)
, and
, as
summarized in Table 2. We further discuss specic aspects of socio-organizational context that the 4W design features
CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan Ehsan, Liao, Muller, Riedl, and Weisz
carry and their eects, summarized in Table 3. Based on input from non-seller participants, we also share insights about
the potential transferability of ST beyond the sales domain. We end this section with participants’ discussions on the
challenges, risks, and tensions of introducing ST into AI systems.
As mentioned, all participants, both sellers and non-sellers, experienced the sales scenario and reected on its
transferability to their own domains. Our analysis revealed substantial alignment between the two groups, possibly due
to the accessible nature of our intentional choice of a sales domain and the content in the scenario. With the exception
of Section 5.6, which focuses on non-sellers’ reection on transferability of ST, we report the results combining the two
groups, but mark their IDs dierently (-Sor -NS) as shwon in Table 1.
5.1 Technical Transparency is not enough
As we began each interview with participants’ own experience with AI systems, a core theme that lies at the heart of our
ndings is the realization that solely relying on technical or algorithmic transparency is not enough to empower complex
decision-making. There is a shared understanding that AI algorithms cannot take into account all the contextual factors
that matter for a decision: “not everything that you need to actually make the right decision for the client and the
company is found in the data” (P25-NS). Participants pointed to the fact that even with an accurate and algorithmically
sound recommendation, “there are things [they] never expect a machine to know [such as] clients’ allegiances or
internal projects impacting budget behavior” (P1-S). Often, the context of social dynamics that an algorithm is unable
to capture is the key: “real life is more than numbers, especially when you think of relationships” (P12-NS). Discussing
challenges in interpreting and using AI recommendations in Security Operation Centers (SOC), P29-NS highlighted the
need for awareness of others’ activities in the organizational context:
Sometimes, even with perfect AI, the most secure thing is to do nothing because you don’t know what
the machine doesn’t know. There is no centralized process to tell us the context of what’s going on
elsewhere, what others are doing. One move has ripple eects, you know. So instead of using [the AI’s
recommendation], they end up basically doing the most secure thing– don’t touch anything. That’s where
the context helps from your colleagues. That’s how actually work really gets done. (P29-NS, a SOC director)
Moreover, even when provided, technical transparency is not always understandable for end users. While describing
how he uses an AI-assisted pricing tool, this seller pointed to how the machine explained itself by sharing a “condence
interval” along with a description of how the AI works, which was meaningless to him:
I hate how it just gives me a condence level and gibberish that the engineers will understand. There is
zero context. The only reason I am able to use this tool is [through] guidance from other sellers who gave
me the background information on the lead I needed to generate a quote worth their time. (P23-S, senior
salesperson using a pricing tool to generate a quote)
In complex organizational settings, answers to the why-question, i.e. knowledge needed to understand and take
informed action for an AI mediated decision, might lie outside the bounds of the machine. As highlighted above,
participants repeatedly desired for “context” to “ll in the gaps” (P27-NS). The ST information in our design scenario
is intended to provide such context. After going through the ST portion, 26 out of the 29 participants lowered their
sales prices, resulting in a mean nal price of $73
8), compared to a mean initial price of $110
based only on the AI’s recommended price of $100. 24 out of the 29 participants also increased the condence ratings
for their decisions, resulting in a mean nal condence score of 8
3out of 10 (SD=0
9), compared to a mean initial
condence score of 6
4(SD=1.7). These patterns suggest that ST information helped participants to set their price
Expanding Explainability: Towards Social Transparency in AI systems CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan
Table 2. Results on the three levels of context made visible by ST and their eects. “–” in the last column indicates first-order to
second-order eect(s)
Levels Context made visible Eects of the visibility
Trajectory of AI’s past decision out-
puts and people’s interactions with
these outputs
Tracking AI performance – Calibrate AI trust
Infusing human elements – Calibrate AI trust
Local context of past decisions and
in-situ access to decision-related
(crew) knowledge
Actionable insights – Improve decisions; Boost deci-
sion condence; Support follow-up actions
Social validation – Decision-making resilience; AI con-
Organizational meta-knowledge
and practices
Understanding organizational norms and values – Im-
prove decisions; Set job expectation
Fostering auditability and accountability
Expertise location – Develop TMS
more cautiously and feel more condent about their decisions, by “help[ing] [them] to understand the situation more
holistically” (P19-S). This participant succinctly summarized this perspective at the end of her interview:
You can’t just get everything in the data that trains the model. The world doesn’t run that way. So why
rely just on the machine to make sense of things that are beyond it? To get a holistic sense of the "why"
you should or should not trust the AI, you need context. So the context from Social Transparency adds
the missing piece to the puzzle of AI explainability”. (P2-NS, a designer of cybersecurity AI systems)
Now we analyze participants’ reaction and reection from seeing ST features, and unpack the “context” made visible
by ST and its eects at three levels:
technological (AI)
, and
. For the subsections
below each dedicated to a level of context, we begin by summarizing the eects of ST, with codes from the data in bold.
These results are summarized in Table 2.
5.2 Technological (AI) context made visible
ST makes visible the socially-situated
technological context
: the trajectory of AI’s past decision outputs as well as
people’s interactions with these technological outputs. Such contextual information could help people
calibrate trust
in AI, not only through tracking AI performance, but also by infusing human elements in AI that could invoke
social-based perception and heuristics.
Records of others’ past interactions with the AI system paints a concrete picture of the AI performance, which
technical XAI solutions such as performance metrics or model internals would not be able to communicate. Participants
felt that the technological context they understood through ST helped them better gauge the AI’s limitations or “actual
performance of the AI” (P10-NS). In fact, after going through the sales scenario, many reported on re-calibrating their
trust in the AI, which is key to preventing both over-reliance of AI and “AI aversion” [21]:
Knowing the past context helps me understand that the AI wasn’t perfect. It’s almost like a reality check.
The comments helped because real life is more than numbers. I am more condent in myself that I am
making the right decision but less trust[ing] the AI. (P12-NS, an XAI designer)
CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan Ehsan, Liao, Muller, Riedl, and Weisz
ST could also aect people’s perception of and trust in the AI system by infusing the much needed human elements
of decision-making in the machine. Participants from each of the domains (sales, cybersecurity, healthcare) highlighted
that “there is a human aspect to [their] practice” (P6-NS), something that “can never be replaced by a machine” (P6-NS).
Adding these human elements allows one to apply familiar social rules. Many participants commented on a “transitive
trust” (P4-NS) from trusting their peers – “people are trained to believe [their] peers and trust them” (P25-NS) – to
trusting the AI system, if others were using the AI systems or accepting the AI’s recommendations. For instance, in
the sales domain of the scenario, a transitive trust is often fostered by an organizational hierarchy or job seniority “as
precedence and permission for doing the right thing” (P12-NS). Radiologists often want to “know who else used the
same logic and for what reason” (P15-NS) when working with AI-powered diagnostic tools. In cybersecurity, “knowing
that a senior analyst took a certain route with the recommendation [can be] the dierence maker” (P28-NS). Some
participants also commented on a positively perceived “humanizing eect” of AI by adding ST, that “[users] would
potentially adopt... showing them like [AI is] supporting you not replacing you” (P6-NS).
The above discussions show that ST could support forming appropriate trust and evaluation of AI through two
essential routes, as established in prior work on trust and credibility judgment of technologies [
]: a central
route that is based on a better understanding of the AI system, and a peripheral route by applying social or group-based
heuristics such as social endorsement, authority, identity, or social presence heuristics. While the central route tends to
be cognitively demanding, the peripheral route is fast and easy, and could be especially impactful to help new users to
enhance their trust and adoption of an AI system.
5.3 Decision-making context made visible
ST also makes visible the
decision context
– the local context of past decisions – for which many participants described
as “in-situ access” to “crew knowledge”
. We will rst elaborate on the notion of
crew knowledge
, then discuss how
a combination of decision trajectory, historical context and elements of crew knowledge could 1) lead to
, which could
improve decision-making
boost decision condence
support follow-up actions
; 2)
provide social validation that facilitates decision-making resilience and contestability of AI.
The notion of crew knowledge emerged during our discussions with many participants regardless of their domains.
When asked to elaborate on the concept, participants dened it as “informal knowledge acquired over time through
hands-on experience”, knowledge that is not typically “gained through formal means, but knowledge that’s essential to
do the job” (P8-S). Crew knowledge is learned "via informal means, mainly through colleague interactions” (P23-S). It
can encode “idiosyncrasies like client specic quirks” (P27-NS). Participants referred to their team as their “crew", with
a sense of identity and belonging to a community membership. We can think of crew knowledge as informal or tacit
knowledge that is acquired over time and locally-situated in a tight-knit community of practice–an aggregated set of
“know-hows” of sorts. While ST features may not explicitly encode a complete set of crew knowledge, they provide
in-situ access to the vital context of past decisions that carry elements of crew knowledge.
The original term used by most participants was "tribal knowledge", which is a term often used in business and management science to refer to unwritten
knowledge within a company. We note that, from an Indigenous perspective particularly in North America, the words "tribe" and "tribal" connote
both an ocial status as a recognized Nation, and also a profound sense of identity, often rooted in cultural heritage, a specic ancestral place, and a
lived experience of the on-going presence of tribal elders and ancestors (past, present, and future). In our case, participants used the word "tribal" in a
non-Indigenous meaning. Being sensitive to potential mis-use of the word, we engaged in critical conversations with potentially aected community
members to understand their perspectives. The conversations revealed that it is best to avoid using that word. We went back to the participants who used
the word "tribal" and asked if "crew" captures the essence of what they meant by "tribe". All of them agreed that the words were interchangeable. As such,
we only present the data using the term "crew knowledge".
Expanding Explainability: Towards Social Transparency in AI systems CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan
The central position of crew knowledge in participants’ responses demonstrates that ST can act as a vehicle for
knowledge sharing and social learning in “one consolidated platform” (P21-S). Participants repeatedly mentioned two
types of insights they gained from ST to be particularly actionable for AI-mediated decisions. The rst is additional
variables important for the decision-making task that are not captured in the AI’s feature space. For example: “I have a
lot more variables that I’m aware of to consider, like, the whole pandemic thing...”(P12-NS). These additional variables are
often tacit knowledge, idiosyncratic to the decision, or constantly changing, making them impossible to be formalized
in an algorithm. ST could support in-situ access to these variables.
Second, ST supports analogical reasoning with similar decisions and their actual outcomes. Participants exhibited a
tendency to reason about the similarity and dierences between the contexts of the current decision and past decisions
made visible by ST. For example: “what did other oncologists do for a patient like that? So, what treatments were chosen
for patients like this person?” (P6-NS) or “I see the reasoning why they didn’t pay the recommended price the other
time... but those were dierent circumstances and look now, they’re were growing customer and we need to push them
up closer to the more protable price” (P1-S).
Gaining actionable insights could ultimately boost decision condence, as most participants commented on increasing
their condence in the nal price. We also observed an interesting bifurcation on how they conceptualize condence in
the AI versus condence in oneself after being empowered with knowledge about the decision context. This quote
encapsulated that perspective well:
The system will go by the numbers but I have my “instincts” thanks to my [crew] knowledge. With these
comments, you can say I also have my team’s “instincts” to help me. So I am less condent on the AI but
more in myself due to the 360 view I have of things– I have more information than the machine. (P22-NS)
Moreover, participants commented that learning from the decision context could also support follow-up actions such
as interacting with clients or “justifying” (P1-S) the decision to supervisors, as illustrated in the quote below:
And I actually learned a lot. I learned from their comments... I feel like this is an education for the next
sale. Even [if it is] another customer, I will be more condent...and know what to do with [the AI’s
recommendation] because I know how to evaluate it. (P12-NS)
Learning about past decisions from others, especially higher echelons of the organizational hierarchy, also provided
social validation. Social validation can reduce the feelings of individual vulnerability in the decision-making process.
While going through the sales scenario, participants would often comment how “the director (Jess) oering discounts
gives [them] the permission to do the same” (P12-NS). Being able to have a “direct line of sight into the trajectory of
how and why decisions were done in the past” (P24-NS) can make one feel empowered, especially if one has to contest
the AI. For most participants, their use of AI systems was mandated by their employers. Many a time, the technology
got in the way, becoming a “nuisance” (P1-S) they needed to “ght” (P5-S). Contesting the machine often requires
time-consuming reporting and manual review, which creates a feeling that one “can’t just say no to the AI” (P25-NS).
This participant elaborated on the vulnerability and how social validation could empower one to act:
People are afraid—they don’t want to screw up. You look like a dumb*** if you end up in the war room
and say you goofed up because you blindly followed the machine. Even if you have at least one other
person doing something similar with the AI, you are safe. Just that knowledge is enough to act less scared.
[If] your neck is on the line, someone else’s is also on the line. It distributes the risk. (P26-NS)
CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan Ehsan, Liao, Muller, Riedl, and Weisz
5.4 Organizational context made visible
Lastly, ST gives visibility to the broader
organizational context
, including the meta-knowledge about the organization
such as who knows what and organizational practices. Dierent from decision context, which makes visible knowledge
localized to the decision, organizational context reects macro-information about the organization. This dierentiation
shares similarity with the concepts of content versus interaction transparency in Stuart et al.’s ST in social network [
which emphasizes that transparency of others’ interactions enables awareness of “normative behaviors as well as the
social structure within a community”. We observed that such awareness could then: 1) inform an
of organizational norms and values
that help
improve decision-making
calibrate people’s overall job
; 2) foster
accountability and auditability
, and 3) facilitate
expertise location
, and if done right, over
time the
formation of a Transactive Memory System (TMS)
]. In short, organizational context made visible
by ST could foster eective collective actions in the organization and strengthen the human-AI assemblage.
Visibility of others’ actions in an organization (what’s done) could translate into an understanding of organizational
norms (what’s acceptable) and values (what’s important), which might be otherwise neglected since "norms are often
not enshrined in a rule book" (P25-NS). From the comments in the scenario, participants were informed of organizational
norms: “the fact that a director oered the discount below cost price means that this is something that’s acceptable. I
might be able to do” (P12-NS) and values: “seeing Jess [the director in our scenario] give such a steep discount and
noting how she did it to retain a customer, tells [us] that relationship matters to this company” (P28-NS). This type of
insight is crucial for making informed decisions and setting overall job expectation, especially for new employees to
“learn about the culture of the company” (P16-NS). The following participant succinctly summarized this point:
The comments...get me a sense of what should be done, what’s expected of me, and what I can also get
away with. It tells me what this company values. This helps me understand why certain things are done
the way they are, especially if they go against what the AI wanted me to do. This actually explains why I
need to do something. (P25-NS).
The enactment of ST in an AI system shared across an organization enables accountability. Participants felt that if
they knew “who did what and why, [then] it provides a nice way to promote accountable actions” (P26-NS). Participants
noted that currently there is a level of opaqueness in workers’ decision-making processes, making it dicult to uphold
accountability, be it during bank audits, sales audits, or standardization on health interventions. ST, according to them,
can provide “peripheral vision” (P29-NS) that can boost accountability by not only making past decisions traceable, but
also socially-situated to better evaluate and attribute responsibilities for, as highlighted by this quote:
I think these comments would be extremely important for audits and postmortems after an attack. The
traceability is huge. (P26-NS, a senior SOC analyst)
That being said, there is a potential double-edged-sword nature to traceability and accountability, where people
might feel they are being watched or surveilled. The same participant (P26-NS) articulated this concern:
You know, there is a dark side to this. If you are part of organizations that love to surveil people, then you
are out of luck. That is why organizational culture is so important... [In our company], we focus on the
problem not the person. But you can’t really say this applies [everywhere]. (P26-NS)
ST also provides awareness of organizational meta-knowledge [
], such as who does or knows what, and who
knows whom. Many participants reacted to the scenario with reaching out to relevant people made visible through
ST: such as “who was driving that sales” (P3-NS), or “reach out to Je just because it’s the most recent and nd out
Expanding Explainability: Towards Social Transparency in AI systems CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan
what’s going on” (P5-S). It shows that ST could potentially solve a pain point for larger, distributed organizations by
supporting expertise location.
Beyond expertise sharing, some participants commented that knowing whom to reach out to could facilitate the
creation of an “institutional memory” (P28-NS), the passing of “legacy knowledge” (P2-NS), and the ability to “leverage
broader resources to lean on” (P8-S). These comments resonate with the core concept of transactive memory systems
(TMS) [
], which explains how a group or organization collectively manages the distribution and retrieval of
knowledge across dierent individuals, often through informal networks rather than formal structures [
]. TMS could
facilitate employee training and benet new members:
You can’t survive without institutional memory.. . [but] it’s never written anywhere and is always in the
grapevines. Even if some of it could be captured like this [with ST], then that’s a game changer... Training
newcomers is hard especially when it comes to getting that “instinct” on the proper way to react to the
[security] alerts. Imagine how dierent training would be if everything was there in one place!” (P28-NS)
A TMS could also facilitate a peer-to-peer support system that gives employees a sense of community:
What I really love is the support system you can potentially create over time using ST. This actually
reminds of the knowledge repo[sitory] my colleagues and I have set up where we add our nuggets of
client specic wisdom which helps others operate better. As you know, we are a virtual team so having
this collective support is crucial. (P27-NS, a SOC data scientist)
Through tight interactions of the community and repeatedly seeing others’ decision processes, a TMS can, over time,
enable to formation of a collective mind [
]–members of a group form a shared cognitive or decision schema
and construct their own actions accordingly. Collective mind is associated with enhanced organizational performance
and creativity. Interestingly, one participat speculated on how ST can be construed as “mindware”:
This almost reminds me of a mindware in a team, sort of like a group mind. Currently, we tie our [security]
incident reports to a slack channel and that acts as a storage of our collective memories... We even have
tagged comments, so when you showed me your thing, it reminded me of that. (P25-NS)
5.5 Design for ST: the 4W
With the eects of ST at the three levels in mind, now we discuss how participants reacted to specic design features
that are intended to reect ST. As discussed in Section 3, our co-design exercises informed the choices of constitutive
elements of ST: Who did What,When, and Why, referred as the 4W. The reader might recall that participants were
asked to rank and justify the relative importance of 4W twice during the interview. The rst ranking was done in
the sales scenario. The second was done in discussing the transferability to participants’ own domains. By explicitly
inquiring about their thoughts and preferences around the 4W, it helped us understand the eects of each of these
design features in facilitating ST and the remaining challenges.
Despite domain-dependent variations, we found overall patterns of preference that are informative. In the sales
scenario, rst, participants wanted to know “what happened?” (mean rank= 1.90). If the outcome was interesting,
then they wanted to delve deeper into the “why” (mean rank= 1.97), followed by “who” (mean rank= 3.03) did it and
“when” (mean rank= 3.10). The relative order of the 4W remained stable when discussing transferability to participant’s
individual domains. Table 3 summarizes the 4W design features and the types of eect they support based on the codes
emerged in the interviews. These codes correspond to the eects of the three levels of context shown in Table 2.
CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan Ehsan, Liao, Muller, Riedl, and Weisz
Table 3. Summary of the design features, supported eect, and rank of the “4W” features
Category Design Features Supported Eect
What Action taken on AI
Decision outcome
Summary statement
Tracking AI performance
Machine contestability (Social validation)
Comments with rationale justifying
the decision
Tracking AI performance
Actionable insights
Understanding organizational norms and values
Social validation
Who Name
Organizational role/ job title
Prole picture
Social validation
Transitive trust (Infusing human elements)
Expertise location
When Timing of the decision Temporal relevance (actionable insights) 4th
5.5.1 What: In our scenario, the “what” is conveyed by two design features – whether (a) a previous person accepted
or rejected the AI’s recommendation and (b) whether the sale was successful or not [the outcome]. There was also a
summary feature of What appeared at the top (block 2 in Figure 1). Citing that the outcome is the “consequence of
[their] decision” (P16-NS), participants felt that it was a must-have element of ST. Participants referred to the “what” as
the “snapshot” of all ST information (P5-S, P8-S, P15-NS, P28-NS) which gave them an overview of the AI’s performance
and others’ actions, and guided them to decide “do I want to invest more time and dig through” (P15-NS). As the scenario
unfolded in the beginning, seeing the summary What feature often invoked a reaction that one should be cautious
from over-relying on the AI’s recommendation, but seek further information to make an informed decision. On a more
constructive note, especially when thinking through transfer scenarios in radiology and cybersecurity, participants
highlighted the need to present the appropriate level of details so that it does cognitively burden the user– “the outcome
should be a TL;DR. The ‘why’ is there if I am interested” (P29-NS).
5.5.2 Why: The “Why” information was communicated in free-form comments left by previous users in our scenario.
Participants often referred to the “why” as the “context behind the action” and “to understand the human elements of
decision-making” (P17-NS). They felt that the “why” could not only help them understand areas that the technology
might be lacking, but also “explain the human and the organization” (P28-NS). “Understanding the rationale behind
past decisions allows [one] to make similar decisions.. . [and] gives you an idea of what you should be doing” (P18-S).
Prior rationales can also “give [humans] a justication to reject the machine” (P7-NS) by "know[ing] why someone did
something similar” (P28-NS). In short, insights into the why can inform AI performance, provide actionable insights
and social validation for the decision, as well as facilitate a better understanding of organizational norms and values.
Social validation, in particular, can enable contestability of AI. On a constructive note, participants highlighted the need
to process or organize the comments to make them consumable: “not all whys are created equal, [and that there is a]
need to ensure things are standardized” (P25-NS). There were concerns that if comments are not quality controlled,
they might not serve the purpose of shedding context appropriately. Citing “no one wants a lawsuit on their hands”
Expanding Explainability: Towards Social Transparency in AI systems CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan
(P26-NS), participants also suggested the need to be vigilant about compliance and legal requirements to ensure private
details (e.g., proprietary information) is not revealed.
5.5.3 Who: The “Who” information in our scenario included multiple elements: a previous user’s name, position and
a displayed prole picture. Participants engaged with the implications of “who” at multiple levels. For many, “who” was
the bare minimum that they needed for expertise location – “if [I] knew who to reach out to.. . [I] could nd out the
rest of the story” (P5-S). For others, knowing someone’s organizational role or level of experience is more important,
because “hierarchy matters” (P16-NS) and one’s experience level inuences the “degree of trust we can place on other
people’s judgement” (P2-NS). Thus the identity information could aect both social validation for one’s own decision
and transitive (dis) trust in AI. On a constructive note, some reected on how “the collective ‘who’ matter[ed]” (P6-NS)
and there needs to be consistency across personnel for them to make sense of the decision. Some participants raised
concerns of the prole picture and the name displayed in our scenario. They felt that these features can lead to biases in
weighing dierent ST information. Others welcomed the prole information because it “humanizes” the use of AI (P1-S).
Here, the domain of the participant appeared to matter – most salespeople welcomed complete visibility; many of the
stakeholders from healthcare and government service domains raised concerns. Such perception dierences across
domains highlight that we need to pay attention to the values in the community of practice as we design these features.
5.5.4 When: The “When” information is expressed by a timestamp. Participants felt that the timing can dictate “if the
information is still relevant” (P11-NS), which informs the actionability of context they gain from ST. Knowing the when
“puts things into perspective” (P16-NS) because it adds “context to the decision and strengthen[s] the why” (P18-S).
Timing was particularly useful when participants deliberated on which prior decision they should give more weight to.
One comment in the scenario highlighted how Covid-19 (a global pandemic in 2020) inuenced the decision-maker’s
actions. At the time of the interviews, the world was still going through Covid-19. The “when” “aligned things with a
timeline of events and how they transpired” (P21-S).
5.6 Transferability of ST to other domains
After participants engaged with the sales scenario, we debriefed them on the conceptual idea of adding ST to AI systems.
We then asked them to think of transfer scenarios by envisioning how ST might manifest in their own domains or use
cases. As Table 1 shows, except for 3 people (P4-NS, P11-NS, P17-NS), our participants came from three main domains:
sales, cybersecurity, and healthcare (radiology and oncology). Here we give an overview of how participants viewed
the potential needs and impact of ST in cybersecurity and healthcare domains.
5.6.1 Cybersecurity: Participants working in cybersecurity domain were unanimous in their frustration about the lack
of awareness of how their peers make use of AI’s recommendations. They saw a rich space where the incorporation of
ST could improve their decision-making abilities and provide social validation to foster decision-making resilience.
For example, many participants felt that ST would be extremely useful in ticketing systems, where the SOC analyst
is tasked with a binary classication deciding if the threat should be escalated or not. Current AI systems have a
high rate of false positive alerting a security threat when there is none. This can be stressful for new analysts, as
“newcomers [who] always escalates things because they are afraid” (P22-NS). Others pointed out ST can provide insights
into organizational practices in the context of compliance regulations. Participants also highlighted ST’s potential to
augment a standardized AI with local contexts in dierent parts of an organization. This would be particularly useful
when the AI was trained on a dataset from the Global North but deployed in the Global South:
CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan Ehsan, Liao, Muller, Riedl, and Weisz
A lot of the companies operate internationally, right? So one of the things we struggle with is working
with international clients whose laws are dierent. On top of that, the system is trained in North American
data. Cyber threats mean dierent things to dierent people—what’s harmless to me can breach your
system. So yeah, if we can do something like this to augment the AI, I think we can catch threats better in
a personalized manner to the client. Also, justifying things would be easier because now you have data
from both sides [humans and AI]. (P26-NS)
Most participants highlighted how visibility of the crew knowledge would be instrumental to pass on “client specic
legacy knowledge” (P2-NS). In fact, many cybersecurity teams have existing tools to track past decisions “beyond
the model details” (P26-NS); for instance, one team manually keep a historical timeline of false positive alerts. This
knowledge helps them calibrate their decisions because “no clients like the boy who shouts wolf every single time”
(P25-NS). However, none of these aspects were integrated. Some even expressed surprise on the similarity after going
through our scenario. This participant commented on how integration of their tracking system could facilitate ST to
improve decision-making:
It’s not like we don’t have crew knowledge now, you know. But I never really thought about the whole
explainability thing from both sides before you showed me this [pointing to the comments in the sales
scenario]. Why just have it from the machine? People are black boxes too, you know. Coming at [explain-
ability] from both ends is kind of holistic. I like it. (P29-NS, a SOC analyst)
Some participants, mainly data scientists, speculated on how one can use the “corpus of social signals” (P10-NS)
to feed back into the machine as training data. They wanted to “incorporate the human elements into the machine”
(P14-NS) or expert knowledge of “top” analysts back into the AI. They wished the ingestion to not only improve the
AI performance, but also to generate socially-situated “holistic explanations”, a point we come back to later in the
Discussions section.
5.6.2 Healthcare (Radiology and Oncology): Our participants in the healthcare space mainly work in the imaging
decision-support domain. Participants felt that ST has promising transfer potential because it would facilitate peer-
review and cross-training opportunities. For radiologists and oncologists, participants highlighted that doctors need
“explainability especially when their mental models do not match with the AI[s’ recommendation]” (P16-NS). This is
where peer feedback and review for similar AI recommendations can be instrumental. One person shared a story of
how oncologists rely on “tumor boards” (a meeting made up of specialized doctors to discuss challenging cases). The
goal is to decide on the best possible treatment plan for a patient by collaboratively thinking through similar tough
cases. This participant equated the tumor board activity to those in the comments, highlighting how the 4W adds a
“personal touch” to situate the information amongst “trustworthy peers” (P6-NS).
Participants also valued the context brought in by ST for multi-stakeholder problems, such as deciding on treatment
plans for patients going through therapy. ST can help ensure the plans are personalized because doctors can not only see
the AI’s recommendation that’s trained on a standard dataset, but can also “consult or reach out to other doctors [who
have] treated similar patients and what were all the surrounding contexts that dictated the treatment plan” (P6-NS).
According to them, one of the strengths of ST was that the technical and the socio-organizational layers of decision
support were integrated in one place, presented side by side, as highlighted in the following quote:
Expanding Explainability: Towards Social Transparency in AI systems CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan
You need both [social and technical aspects] integrated. Without integration in one place, context switching
just takes a lot of time and no one would use it. Just having these things in one place makes all the dierence.
It’s funny how we actually IM each other to ask what people did with the AI’s alerts. (P27-NS)
5.7 Challenges around ST
Providing ST in AI systems is not without its challenges, risks, and tensions. We discuss four themes that emerged from
the interviews on the potential negative consequences of ST. Future work should strive to mitigate these problems.
First and foremost, there is a vital tension between transparency and
. Similar issues have been discussed
in prior work on social transparency in CSCW [
]. Participants were concerned about making themselves visible to
others in the organization, especially with job-critical information such as past performance and competing intellect.
Some were also worried that individuals could be coerced into sharing such sensitive information. For example, P6-NS
commented, based on her experience working with health professionals, that people may be unwilling to disclose
detailed information about their work:
I’ve denitely got on the phone with colleges where they’re like, well, you know, not everybody at my
practices [are willing to talk about it]... just everybody having access to the outcome probably is not great.
Especially if they’re not really in a position...and it just becomes like, a point of contention. (P6-NS)
Some were concerned about revealing personal information. For example, P2-NS reacted by asking: “do I really want
this info about me? Who will see it? What can they do with it?” Several suggested to anonymize the Who by revealing
only general proles such as position or present the ST information at an aggregated level.
The second tension is around
that ST could induce on decision-making. The most prominent concern is on
group-thinking, by conforming to the group or the majority’ choices. Other biases could also happen by following
eminent individuals such as someone in a “senior position” (P17-NS) or “a friend” (P14-NS). As discussed in previous
sections, ST could invoke social-based heuristics, which could support both decision-making and judgment of AI.
However, biases and cognitive heuristics are inevitably coupled, and should be carefully managed. Users in some
domains might be more subject to biases from ST than others. For example, P17-NS were hesitant about introducing
ST features into the human resource domain, for example for AI assisted hiring: “issues of bias, cherry picking, and
groupthink are much more consequential in HR situation” (P17-NS).
A third challenge is regarding
information overload and consumption
of ST. While the design scenario listed
only 3 comments, participants were concerned about how to eectively consume the information if the number of
entries increases, and how to locate the most relevant information in them. There was also a tension in integrating
ST in one’s decision-making workow, which was especially prominent in time-sensitive contexts such as clinical
decision-support. Some participants suggested avoiding a constant ow of ST and only provide ST where needed, e.g.
“[ST] is not the information that always needs to be up in front of their face, but there should be a way to get back
to it, especially when you’re building condence in kind of assistance”(P6-NS). Others suggested providing ST in a
structured or processed format such as “summarization” (P17-NS) or “providing some statistics” (P5-S).
Lastly, a tension for the success of ST lies in the
incentive to contribute
. While there are clear benets for consumers
of ST, it is questionable whether there is enough motivation for people to take the extra eort to contribute, as illustrated
by this quote:
CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan Ehsan, Liao, Muller, Riedl, and Weisz
One thing that we found interesting is oncology... It’s a really hard sell to get them to give feedback into a
system because they’re so time pressed for their workow...they’re giving you work for free. Like, systems
should be doing this for them... but the system can break if they don’t participate in that loop. (P6-NS)
This is a classic problem in CSCW systems [
], which may require both lowering the barriers and cost to contribute,
and incentivizing contributions with visible and justiable benets.
Our results identify the potential eects of ST in AI systems, provide design insights to facilitate ST, and point to
potential areas of challenges. In this section, we discuss three high-level implications of introducing ST into AI systems:
how ST could enable holistic explainability, how ST could strengthen the Human-AI assemblage, and some technical
considerations for realizing ST to move towards a socially-situated XAI paradigm.
6.1 Holistic Explainability through ST
After participants concluded the scenario walk-through, we debriefed them on the concept of ST and the idea of
facilitating explainability of AI-mediated decisions with ST. Despite frequently using AI systems and facing explainability
related issues in their daily workows, many participants were initially surprised by the association between socio-
organizational contexts and AI explainability. The surprise was met with a pleasant realization when they reected
on the scenario and how it could transfer to their real-world use cases. Perhaps their reaction is not surprising given
that the epistemic canvas of XAI has largely been circumscribed around the bounds of the algorithm. The focus has
primarily been on “the AI in X-AI instead of the X [eXplainable], which is a shame because it’s the human who matters”
(P25-NS). The following sentiment captures this point:
I was taught to think [that] all that mattered [in XAI] was explanations from the model...This is actually
the rst time I thought of AI explainability from a social perspective, and I am an expert in this space! This
goes to show you how much tunnel-visioned we have been. Once you showed me Social transparency.. .it
was clear that organizational signals can denitely help us make sense of the overall system. It’s like we
had blinders or something that stopped us from seeing the larger picture. (P27-NS, a SOC data scientist)
A most common way participants expressed how ST impacted their “ways of answering the why-question” (P28-NS)
was how incorporation of the context makes the explainability more “holistic” (P2-NS, P23-S, P6-NS, P27-NS, P29-
NS). Acknowledging that “context is king for explanations.. . [and] there are many ways to answer why” (P27-NS),
participants felt that the ST goes “beyond the AI” to provide “peripheral vision” of the organizational context. This, in
turn, allows them to answer their why-questions in a holistic manner. For instance, in SOC situations “there is often no
single correct answer. There are multiple correct answers” (P2-NS). Since AI systems “don’t produce multitudes of of
explanations”, participants acknowledged that “incorporating the social layer into the mix” can expand the ways they
view explainability (P28-NS). Moreover, the humanization of the process can also make the decision explainable to
non-primary stakeholders in a way that technical transparency alone cannot achieve. For instance, participants felt that
having the 4W can make it easier to justify the decisions to clients and regulators.
While in this work our focus is on how a holistic explainability through ST could better support decision-makers, we
recognize that there are other types of stakeholders and explanation consumers, as well as other types of AI systems,
that could benet from ST. For example, collecting the 4W in the deployment context could help model developers to
investigate how the system performs and why it fails, then incorporate the insights gained about the technological,
Expanding Explainability: Towards Social Transparency in AI systems CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan
decision and organizational contexts to improve the model. Auditors or regulatory bodies could also leverage 4W
information to better assess the model’s performance, biases, safety, etc. by understanding its situated impact. The
contributors of ST information are not limited to decision-makers. For example, with automated AI systems where
there isn’t a human decision-maker involved, its explainability could be facilitated by making visible the social contexts
of people who are impacted by the AI systems.
6.2 Making the Human-AI assemblage concrete
We highlight that a consequential AI system is often situated in complex socio-organizational contexts, where many
people interacting with it. By bringing the human elements of decision-making to the fore-front, ST enables the
humans to be explicitly represented, thereby making the Human-AI assemblage concrete. As one participant put it,
the socially-situated context can ensure “the human is not forgotten in the mix of things” (P25-NS). In our Findings
section, we discussed how organizational meta-knowledge can facilitate formation of Transactive Memory Systems
(TMS) [
], allowing "who knows what" to be explicitly encoded for future retrieval. Over time, the "heedful
interrelations" enabled by TMS and repeatedly seeing others’ decision processes with the AI through ST could possibly
enable a shared decision schema in the community, leading to the formation of a collective mind [
]. This
collective mind is one that includes AI as a critical player. With this conceptualization future work could explore the
collective actions and evolution of human-AI assemblages.
By prioritizing the view of human-AI assemblage over the AI, adding ST to AI systems calls for critical consideration
on what information of the humans and whose information is made visible to whom. Prior work on ST in CSCW systems
has warned against developing technologies that make it easy to share information without careful consideration
on its longer-term second-order eect on the organization and its members [
]. In Section 5.7 we identied four
potential issues of ST as foreseen by our participants, including privacy, biases, information overload and motivation
to contribute, all of which could have profound impact on the functioning of the human-AI assemblage. In general,
future work implementing ST in AI systems should take socioechnical approaches to developing solutions that are
sensitive to the values of stakeholders and “localized” to a human-AI assemblage. For example, regarding the privacy
issue, participants were sensitive to how much visibility the rest of the organization has to their shared activities and
knowledge. When asked how they might envision the boundaries, participants highlighted that one should “let the
individual teams decide because every ‘tribe’ is dierent” (P28-NS).
6.3 Towards socially-situated XAI
Using a scenario-based design (SBD) method, we suspended the needs to dene system operations and technical details.
Some practical challenges may arise in how to present the 4W to explanation seekers. The rst challenge is to handle
the quantity of information, especially to t into the workow of the users. In addition to utilizing NLP techniques to
make the content more consumable, for example by providing memorization or organizing it into facets, it could also
be benecial to give users ltering options, allow them to dene “similarity” or choose past examples they want to
see. Secondly, there needs to be mechanisms in place to validate the quality and applicability of ST information, since
“not all whys are created equal” (P25-NS). This could be achieved by either applying quality control on the recorded
ST information, or through careful design of interfaces to elicit high-quality 4W information from the contributors.
Another caveat is that it is common for an AI system to receive model updates or adapt with usage, so its decisions may
change over time. In that case, it is necessary to ag the dierences of the AI in showing past ST information. Lastly, in
certain domains or organizations, it is not advisable or possible to gather all 4W information, sometimes due to the
CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan Ehsan, Liao, Muller, Riedl, and Weisz
tension with privacy, biases and motivation to contribute, so alternative solutions should be sought, for example by
linking past decision trajectories with relevant guidelines or documentation to help users decode the why information
when it is not directly available.
Several participants, especially those with a data science background, suggested an interesting area for technical
innovation–if “the AI can ingest the social data” (P12-NS) to improve both its performance and its explanations. While
recent work has started exploring teaching AI with human rationales [
], ST could enable acquiring such rationales in
real-usage contexts. As suggested by what participants learned from the 4W, the decision and organizational contexts
made visible by ST could help the AI to learn additional features and localized rules and constraints, then incorporate
them into its future decisions. Moreover, a notable area of XAI work focuses on generating human-consumable and
domain-specic machine explanations by learning from how humans explain [
], which could be a fruitful area
to explore when combined with the availability of 4W information. That being said, it may be desirable to explicitly
separate the technical component (to show how the AI arrives at its decision) and the socio-organizational component
(as further support for or caution against AI’s decision) in the explanations, as participants had strong opinions to be
able to “know how and where to place the trust” (P27-NS).
We view our work as the beginning of a broader cross-disciplinary discourse around what explainability entails in AI
systems. With this paper, we have taken a formative step by exploring the concept of Social Transparency (ST) in AI
systems, particularly focusing on how incorporation of socio-organizational context can impact explainability of the
human-AI assemblage. Given this rst step, the insights from our work should be viewed accordingly. We acknowledge
the limitations that come with using a scenario-based design [
], including the dependency between the scenario
and data. The insights should be interpreted as formative instead of evaluative. We acknowledge that we need to do
more work in the future to expand the design space and consider other design elements for ST, further unpack the
transferability of our insights, especially where this transfer might be inappropriate. We should also investigate how ST
impacts user trust over longitudinal use of ST-infused XAI systems.
Our conception of ST is rooted in and inspired by Phil Agre’s notion of Critical Technical Practice [
] where we
identify the dominant assumptions of XAI and critically question the status quo to generate alternative technology that
brings previously-marginalized insights into the center. Agre stated that “at least for the foreseeable future, [a CTP-
inspired concept] will require a split identity – one foot planted in the craft work of design and the other foot planted
in the reexive work of critique.” [
]. As such, ST will, at least for the foreseeable future be a work-in-progress, one that
is continuously pushing the boundaries of design and reexively working on its own blind spots. We have “planted one
foot" in the work of design by identifying a neglected insight–the lack of incorporation of socio-organizational context
as a constitutive design element in XAI– and exploring the design of ST-infused XAI systems. Now, we seek to learn
from and with the broader HCI and XAI communities as we “plant the other foot” in the self-reective realm of critique.
Situating XAI through the lens of a Critical Technical Practice, this work is our attempt to challenge algorithm-centered
approaches and the dominant narrative in the eld of XAI. Explainability of AI systems inevitably sits at the intersection
of technologies and people, both of which are socially-situated. Therefore, an epistemic blind spot in that neglects the
“socio" half of sociotechnical systems would likely render technological solutions ineective and potentially harmful.
This is particularly problematic as AI technologies enter dierent socio-organizational contexts for consequential
Expanding Explainability: Towards Social Transparency in AI systems CHI ’21, May 8–13, 2021, Yokohama, Japan
decision-making tasks. Our work is both conceptual and practical. Conceptually, we address the epistemic blind spot
by introducing and exploring Social Transparency (ST)–the incorporation of socio-organizational context–to enable
holistic explainability of AI-mediated decision-making. Practically, we progressively develop the concept and design
space of ST through design and empirical research. Specically, we developed a scenario-based design that embodies
the concept of ST in an AI system with four constitutive elements–who did what with the AI system, when, and why
they did what they did (4W). Using this scenario-based design, we explored the potential eect of ST and design
implications through 29 interviews with AI stakeholders. The results rened our conceptual development of ST by
discerning three levels of context made visible by ST and their eects: technological, decision, and organizational. Our
work also contributes concrete design insights and point to potential challenges of incorporating socio-organizational
context into AI systems, with which practitioners and researchers can further explore the design space of ST. By adding
formative insights that catalyzes our journey towards a socially-situated XAI paradigm, this work contributes to the
discourse of human-centered XAI by expanding the conceptual and design space of XAI.
With our deepest gratitude, we acknowledge the time our participants generously invested in this project. We are grateful
to members of the Human-Centered AI Lab at Georgia Tech whose continued input rened the conceptualizations
presented here. We are indebted to Werner Geyer, Michael Hind, Stephanie Houde, David Piorkowski, John Richards,
and Yunfeng Zhang from IBM Research AI for their generous feedback and time throughout the duration of this project.
Special thanks to Intekhab Hossain and Samir Passi for conversations and feedback throughout the years that have
constructively added to the notion of Social Transparency. This project was partially supported through an internship
at IBM Research AI and by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1928586.
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... A large body of XAI surveys focuses mainly on the interpretability of a particular family of models and corresponding explanation techniques. For instance, [53,100,146] investigate explanations for Deep Neural Networks (DNNs), where models often Trust [12,29,48,63,83,132,155,160,161,183,201,207,219] [32,40,57,64,101,106,122,125,131,142,174,186,196,197,205] Fairness [12,23,56,79,85,97,167,186,217] Understanding subjective [21,29,32,40,45,57,64,83,84,87,116,166,167,170,177,188,219] objective [2,7,14,16,21,26,27,29,37,40,45,87,150,153,165,172,177,195,219,231] explanation model [75,101,126,130,150,220,227,231] Usability workload [2,15,48,57,101] helpfulness [2,29,73,153,220,230,231] satisfaction [27,57,83,114,142,161,196,[205][206][207] debugging [18,106,165,195] ease of use and others [2,15,18,29,43,48,58,95,101,106,116,117,127,131,161,177,184,197,220] Human-AI Team [8,20,29,54,67,72,124,125,160] take images as input [53,146]. Joshi et al. [100], however, provide an extensive review for DNNs with multimodal input for instance that of joint vision-language tasks. ...
... Parallel to observed trust measurement, van der Waa et al. [211] ascribe the user's alignment behaviors to the persuasive power of model explanations, i.e., the capacity to convince users to follow model decisions despite the correctness. In self-reported measurements, researchers either utilize well-developed questionnaires or self-designed ones, with the exception of [63] which conducts a semi-structured interview to explore user opinions. Several works [29,32,57,106,142,183,186,205,207] propose their own questionnaires. ...
... Gegenfurtner et al. [74] evaluate 73 sources and point out that the majority of these studies include only five, maybe ten experts. Besides the medical domain, other works [48,63,101,205] also invite subjects with particular professions such as engineers in a technology company. When no specific knowledge is required, however, participant numbers reach up to 740 also for within-subjects designs [72]. ...
Explainable AI (XAI) is widely viewed as a sine qua non for ever-expanding AI research. A better understanding of the needs of XAI users, as well as human-centered evaluations of explainable models are both a necessity and a challenge. In this paper, we explore how HCI and AI researchers conduct user studies in XAI applications based on a systematic literature review. After identifying and thoroughly analyzing 85 core papers with human-based XAI evaluations over the past five years, we categorize them along the measured characteristics of explanatory methods, namely trust, understanding, fairness, usability, and human-AI team performance. Our research shows that XAI is spreading more rapidly in certain application domains, such as recommender systems than in others, but that user evaluations are still rather sparse and incorporate hardly any insights from cognitive or social sciences. Based on a comprehensive discussion of best practices, i.e., common models, design choices, and measures in user studies, we propose practical guidelines on designing and conducting user studies for XAI researchers and practitioners. Lastly, this survey also highlights several open research directions, particularly linking psychological science and human-centered XAI.
... Dhanorkar et al. [16] highlight how explainability needs evolve and depends on who needs what and when. Highlighting an XAI blind spot where the social factors are ignored, Ehsan et al. [19] challenge the algorithm-centrism and propose a design framework for social transparency of AI, by leveraging information about how other people interact and reason with the AI system. ...
... We situate our proposed design process in the RAI ecosystem by taking a proactive, inter-disciplinary and multistakeholder approach that is intended to involve practitioners of diverse roles and end-users. To make the design process adoptable by practitioners, we draw valuable lessons from-and extend-recent work that supports RAI practices through structured but also flexible "scaffolding", such as guiding frameworks [19,25,60], checklists [56], and processes [48,70]. ...
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Mistakes in AI systems are inevitable, arising from both technical limitations and sociotechnical gaps. While black-boxing AI systems can make the user experience seamless, hiding the seams risks disempowering users to mitigate fallouts from AI mistakes. While Explainable AI (XAI) has predominantly tackled algorithmic opaqueness, we propose that seamful design can foster Humancentered XAI by strategically revealing sociotechnical and infrastructural mismatches. We introduce the notion of Seamful XAI by (1) conceptually transferring "seams" to the AI context and (2) developing a design process that helps stakeholders design with seams, thereby augmenting explainability and user agency. We explore this process with 43 AI practitioners and users, using a scenario-based co-design activity informed by real-world use cases. We share empirical insights, implications, and critical reflections on how this process can help practitioners anticipate and craft seams in AI, how seamfulness can improve explainability, empower end-users, and facilitate Responsible AI.
... While many of the uses of digital health discussed in this article are not patient-facing technologies but rather information-processing technologies without a direct user interface, there remain significant concerns around transparency and the role of the technology that must be addressed. The use of AI technologies within decision-making is often invisible to those who are affected by it (e.g., patients affected by AI analysis of their health data), and even visible technology use may still be opaque and difficult to explain [84]. In technologies that are user-facing, safety issues in both information display and user interaction have already been identified in consumer health apps [85]; the expansion of patient-facing tools for data collection, such as our proposal of collecting narratives of lived disability experience, presents further risks of inaccessible system design excluding those who are most meant to be included. ...
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People with disabilities disproportionately experience negative health outcomes. Purposeful analysis of information on all aspects of the experience of disability across individuals and populations can guide interventions to reduce health inequities in care and outcomes. Such an analysis requires more holistic information on individual function, precursors and predictors, and environmental and personal factors than is systematically collected in current practice. We identify 3 key information barriers to more equitable information: (1) a lack of information on contextual factors that affect a person’s experience of function; (2) underemphasis of the patient’s voice, perspective, and goals in the electronic health record; and (3) a lack of standardized locations in the electronic health record to record observations of function and context. Through analysis of rehabilitation data, we have identified ways to mitigate these barriers through the development of digital health technologies to better capture and analyze information about the experience of function. We propose 3 directions for future research on using digital health technologies, particularly natural language processing (NLP), to facilitate capturing a more holistic picture of a patient’s unique experience: (1) analyzing existing information on function in free text documentation; (2) developing new NLP-driven methods to collect information on contextual factors; and (3) collecting and analyzing patient-reported descriptions of personal perceptions and goals. Multidisciplinary collaboration between rehabilitation experts and data scientists to advance these research directions will yield practical technologies to help reduce inequities and improve care for all populations.
... There is a growing communal awareness that explainability is more than algorithmic transparency. That is, solving XAI challenges may require more than just "opening the black-box" [6]. For example, Human-centered XAI (HCXAI) advocates to tackle XAI problems through a sociotechnical view (vs. a purely technical one) [7]. ...
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There is a growing frustration amongst researchers and developers in Explainable AI (XAI) around the lack of consensus around what is meant by 'explainability'. Do we need one definition of explainability to rule them all? In this paper, we argue why a singular definition of XAI is neither feasible nor desirable at this stage of XAI's development. We view XAI through the lenses of Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) to explicate how diverse stakeholders (relevant social groups) have different interpretations (interpretative flexibility) that shape the meaning of XAI. Forcing a standardization (closure) on the pluralistic interpretations too early can stifle innovation and lead to premature conclusions. We share how we can leverage the pluralism to make progress in XAI without having to wait for a definitional consensus.
... The survey lists 10 categories of questions that people might have about an AI system. Nine categories (Data, Output, Performance, How, Why, Why not, What if, How to be that, How to still be this) are from [40], and we added a new Transparency category on expert and social transparency [18]. The survey asks the participant to select questions they "know the answer to" and/or are "curious to know (more). ...
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Despite the proliferation of explainable AI (XAI) methods, little is understood about end-users' explainability needs. This gap is critical, because end-users may have needs that XAI methods should but don't yet support. To address this gap and contribute to understanding how explainability can support human-AI interaction, we conducted a study of a real-world AI application via interviews with 20 end-users of Merlin, a bird-identification app. We found that people express a need for practically useful information that can improve their collaboration with the AI system, and intend to use XAI explanations for calibrating trust, improving their task skills, changing their behavior to supply better inputs to the AI system, and giving constructive feedback to developers. We also assessed end-users' perceptions of existing XAI approaches, finding that they prefer part-based explanations. Finally, we discuss implications of our findings and provide recommendations for future designs of XAI, specifically XAI for human-AI collaboration.
While artificial intelligence (AI) holds promise for supporting healthcare providers and improving the accuracy of medical diagnoses, a lack of transparency in the composition of datasets exposes AI models to the possibility of unintentional and avoidable mistakes. In particular, public and private image datasets of dermatological conditions rarely include information on skin color. As a start towards increasing transparency, AI researchers have appropriated the use of the Fitzpatrick skin type (FST) from a measure of patient photosensitivity to a measure for estimating skin tone in algorithmic audits of computer vision applications including facial recognition and dermatology diagnosis. In order to understand the variability of estimated FST annotations on images, we compare several FST annotation methods on a diverse set of 460 images of skin conditions from both textbooks and online dermatology atlases. These methods include expert annotation by board-certified dermatologists, algorithmic annotation via the Individual Typology Angle algorithm, which is then converted to estimated FST (ITA-FST), and two crowd-sourced, dynamic consensus protocols for annotating estimated FSTs. We find the inter-rater reliability between three board-certified dermatologists is comparable to the inter-rater reliability between the board-certified dermatologists and either of the crowdsourcing methods. In contrast, we find that the ITA-FST method produces annotations that are significantly less correlated with the experts' annotations than the experts' annotations are correlated with each other. These results demonstrate that algorithms based on ITA-FST are not reliable for annotating large-scale image datasets, but human-centered, crowd-based protocols can reliably add skin type transparency to dermatology datasets. Furthermore, we introduce the concept of dynamic consensus protocols with tunable parameters including expert review that increase the visibility of crowdwork and provide guidance for future crowdsourced annotations of large image datasets.
Artificial Intelligence is the technology that is being used to develop machines that could work like humans or simply can have the intelligence relatable to that of humans. But the development of this kind of technology model that mimics humans involves a lot of complex calculations and complex algorithms that are difficult to explain and understand. For this problem, the concept of explainable artificial intelligence (XAI) is developed and introduced. It is the technology that is developed to ease the understanding process of machine learning solutions for humans. It is the concept that is being developed for making it convenient for humans to understand and interpret machine language. Black model machine learning (ML) algorithms are very hard to understand for humans who have not developed them. AI models that involve the methods like genetic algorithms or deep learning concepts are very difficult to understand. It sometimes becomes a very hard task for the domain experts too to understand the ML algorithms of the black block models, so the need for the development of this type of technology was felt. Many times, results are developed with very high accuracy are quite easy to understand for the domain experts. But Explainable artificial intelligence has a great potential to make a change in domains like finance, medicines, etc. It plays a vital role where it is important to understand the results to build trustworthy algorithms. XAI can play a great role in “third-wave AI systems” which include machines that can interact directly with the environment and that can build explanatory models that allow them to develop the characteristics of real-world phenomena. XAI has the potential to play a great role where the organizations need to build trustworthy AI models and to make them trustworthy the explainability of the AI models should be there for others as well. This technology is developed primarily to make AI understandable to those who are practitioners. This book chapter presents a wide and insightful view of XAI and its application in various fields. This chapter also includes the future scope of this technology and the need for the growth of this type of technology.
The opaque nature of many intelligent systems violates established usability principles and thus presents a challenge for human-computer interaction. Research in the field therefore highlights the need for transparency, scrutability, intelligibility, interpretability and explainability, among others. While all of these terms carry a vision of supporting users in understanding intelligent systems, the underlying notions and assumptions about users and their interaction with the system often remain unclear. We review the literature in HCI through the lens of implied user questions to synthesise a conceptual framework integrating user mindsets, user involvement, and knowledge outcomes to reveal, differentiate and classify current notions in prior work. This framework aims to resolve conceptual ambiguity in the field and enables researchers to clarify their assumptions and become aware of those made in prior work. We further discuss related aspects such as stakeholders and trust, and also provide material to apply our framework in practice (e.g., ideation/design sessions). We thus hope to advance and structure the dialogue on supporting users in understanding intelligent systems.
Understanding the recommendations of an artificial intelligence (AI) based assistant for decision-making is especially important in high-risk tasks, such as deciding whether a mushroom is edible or poisonous. To foster user understanding and appropriate trust in such systems, we assessed the effects of explainable artificial intelligence (XAI) methods and an educational intervention on AI-assisted decision-making behavior in a 2 × 2 between subjects online experiment with N=410 participants. We developed a novel use case in which users go on a virtual mushroom hunt and are tasked with picking edible and leaving poisonous mushrooms. Users were provided with an AI-based app that showed classification results of mushroom images. To manipulate explainability, one subgroup additionally received attribution-based and example-based explanations of the AI’s predictions; for the educational intervention one subgroup received additional information on how the AI worked. We found that the group that received explanations outperformed that which did not and showed better calibrated trust levels. Contrary to our expectations, we found that the educational intervention, domain-specific (i.e., mushroom) knowledge, and AI knowledge had no effect on performance. We discuss practical implications and introduce the mushroom-picking task as a promising use case for XAI research.
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The topic of algorithmic fairness is of increasing importance to the Human-Computer Interaction research community following accumulating concerns regarding the use and deployment of Artificial Intelligence-based systems. How we conduct research on algorithmic fairness directly influences our inferences and conclusions regarding algorithmic fairness. To better understand the methodological decisions of studies focused on people’s perceptions of algorithmic fairness, we systematic analysed relevant papers from the CHI and FAccT conferences. We identified 200 relevant papers published between 1993 and 2022 and assessed their study design, participant sample, and geographical location of participants and authors. Our results highlight that studies are predominantly cross-sectional, cover a wide range of participant roles, and that both authors and participants are primarily from the United States. Based on these findings, we reflect on the potential pitfalls and shortcomings in how the community studies algorithmic fairness.
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Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly being adopted by organizations, yet implementation is often carried out without careful consideration of the employees who will be working along with it. If employees do not understand or work with AI, it is unlikely to bring value to an organization. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the ways in which employees and AI can collaborate to build different levels of sociotechnical capital. Accordingly, we develop a model of AI integration based on Socio-Technical Systems (STS) theory that combines AI novelty and scope dimensions. We take an organizational socialization approach to build an understanding of the process of integrating AI into the organization. Our framework underscores the importance of AI socialization as a core process in successfully integrating AI systems and employees. We conclude with a future research agenda that highlights the cognitive, relational, and structural implications of integrating AI and employees.
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This paper explores the important role of critical science, and in particular of post-colonial and decolonial theories, in understanding and shaping the ongoing advances in artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence (AI) is viewed as amongst the technological advances that will reshape modern societies and their relations. While the design and deployment of systems that continually adapt holds the promise of far-reaching positive change, they simultaneously pose significant risks, especially to already vulnerable peoples. Values and power are central to this discussion. Decolonial theories use historical hindsight to explain patterns of power that shape our intellectual, political, economic, and social world. By embedding a decolonial critical approach within its technical practice, AI communities can develop foresight and tactics that can better align research and technology development with established ethical principles, centring vulnerable peoples who continue to bear the brunt of negative impacts of innovation and scientific progress. We highlight problematic applications that are instances of coloniality, and using a decolonial lens, submit three tactics that can form a decolonial field of artificial intelligence: creating a critical technical practice of AI, seeking reverse tutelage and reverse pedagogies, and the renewal of affective and political communities. The years ahead will usher in a wave of new scientific breakthroughs and technologies driven by AI research, making it incumbent upon AI communities to strengthen the social contract through ethical foresight and the multiplicity of intellectual perspectives available to us, ultimately supporting future technologies that enable greater well-being, with the goal of beneficence and justice for all.
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As the use of machine learning (ML) models in product development and data-driven decision-making processes became pervasive in many domains, people’s focus on building a well-performing model has increasingly shifted to understanding how their model works. While scholarly interest in model interpretability has grown rapidly in research communities like HCI, ML, and beyond, little is known about how practitioners perceive and aim to provide interpretability in the context of their existing workflows. This lack of understanding of interpretability as practiced may prevent interpretability research from addressing important needs, or lead to unrealistic solutions. To bridge this gap, we conducted 22 semi-structured interviews with industry practitioners to understand how they conceive of and design for interpretability while they plan, build, and use their models. Based on a qualitative analysis of our results, we differentiate interpretability roles, processes, goals and strategies as they exist within organizations making heavy use of ML models. The characterization of interpretability work that emerges from our analysis suggests that model interpretability frequently involves cooperation and mental model comparison between people in different roles, often aimed at building trust not only between people and models but also between people within the organization. We present implications for design that discuss gaps between the interpretability challenges that practitioners face in their practice and approaches proposed in the literature, highlighting possible research directions that can better address real-world needs.
The need for interpretable and accountable intelligent systems grows along with the prevalence of artificial intelligence ( AI ) applications used in everyday life. Explainable AI ( XAI ) systems are intended to self-explain the reasoning behind system decisions and predictions. Researchers from different disciplines work together to define, design, and evaluate explainable systems. However, scholars from different disciplines focus on different objectives and fairly independent topics of XAI research, which poses challenges for identifying appropriate design and evaluation methodology and consolidating knowledge across efforts. To this end, this article presents a survey and framework intended to share knowledge and experiences of XAI design and evaluation methods across multiple disciplines. Aiming to support diverse design goals and evaluation methods in XAI research, after a thorough review of XAI related papers in the fields of machine learning, visualization, and human-computer interaction, we present a categorization of XAI design goals and evaluation methods. Our categorization presents the mapping between design goals for different XAI user groups and their evaluation methods. From our findings, we develop a framework with step-by-step design guidelines paired with evaluation methods to close the iterative design and evaluation cycles in multidisciplinary XAI teams. Further, we provide summarized ready-to-use tables of evaluation methods and recommendations for different goals in XAI research.
The wide adoption of Machine Learning (ML) technologies has created a growing demand for people who can train ML models. Some advocated the term "machine teacher'' to refer to the role of people who inject domain knowledge into ML models. This "teaching'' perspective emphasizes supporting the productivity and mental wellbeing of machine teachers through efficient learning algorithms and thoughtful design of human-AI interfaces. One promising learning paradigm is Active Learning (AL), by which the model intelligently selects instances to query a machine teacher for labels, so that the labeling workload could be largely reduced. However, in current AL settings, the human-AI interface remains minimal and opaque. A dearth of empirical studies further hinders us from developing teacher-friendly interfaces for AL algorithms. In this work, we begin considering AI explanations as a core element of the human-AI interface for teaching machines. When a human student learns, it is a common pattern to present one's own reasoning and solicit feedback from the teacher. When a ML model learns and still makes mistakes, the teacher ought to be able to understand the reasoning underlying its mistakes. When the model matures, the teacher should be able to recognize its progress in order to trust and feel confident about their teaching outcome. Toward this vision, we propose a novel paradigm of explainable active learning (XAL), by introducing techniques from the surging field of explainable AI (XAI) into an AL setting. We conducted an empirical study comparing the model learning outcomes, feedback content and experience with XAL, to that of traditional AL and coactive learning (providing the model's prediction without explanation). Our study shows benefits of AI explanation as interfaces for machine teaching--supporting trust calibration and enabling rich forms of teaching feedback, and potential drawbacks--anchoring effect with the model judgment and additional cognitive workload. Our study also reveals important individual factors that mediate a machine teacher's reception to AI explanations, including task knowledge, AI experience and Need for Cognition. By reflecting on the results, we suggest future directions and design implications for XAL, and more broadly, machine teaching through AI explanations.