Workshop: HCAI@NeurIPS 2022, Human Centered AI

Social Construction of XAI: Do We Need One Definition to Rule Them All?

Upol Ehsan · Mark Riedl

Keywords: [ social construction of technology ] [ XAI ] [ Explainable AI ] [ sociotechnical ]


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.

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