A study on user-controllable social exploratory search

Cecilia di Sciascio, Peter Brusilovsky, Eduardo Veas

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperpeer-review


Information-seeking tasks with learning or investigative purposes are usually referred to as exploratory search. Exploratory search unfolds as a dynamic process where the user, amidst navigation, trial-and-error and on-the-fly selections, gathers and organizes information (resources). A range of innovative interfaces with increased user control have been developed to support exploratory search process. In this work we present our attempt to increase the power of exploratory search interfaces by using ideas of social search, i.e., leveraging information left by past users of information systems. Social search technologies are highly popular nowadays, especially for improving ranking. However, current approaches to social ranking do not allow users to decide to what extent social information should be taken into account for result ranking. This paper presents an interface that integrates social search functionality into an exploratory search system in a user-controlled way that is consistent with the nature of exploratory search. The interface incorporates control features that allow the user to (i) express information needs by selecting keywords and (ii) to express preferences for incorporating social wisdom based on tag matching and user similarity. The interface promotes search transparency through color-coded stacked bars and rich tooltips. In an online study investigating system accuracy and subjective aspects with a structural model we found that, when users actively interacted with all its control features, the hybrid system outperformed a baseline content-based-only tool and users were more satisfied.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication23rd International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces, ACM IUI
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4503-4945-1
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Social search
  • exploratory search
  • social exploratory search
  • recommender systems
  • explainable AI
  • transparency


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