Building Human Values into Recommender Systems


Jonathan Stray, Alon Halevy, Parisa Assar, Dylan Hadfield-Menell, Chloe Bakalar, Craig Boutilier, Amar Ashar, Lex Beattie, Michael Ekstrand, Claire Leibowicz, Connie Moon Sehat, Sara Johansen, Lianne Kerlin, David Vickrey, Spandana Singh, Sanne Vrijenhoek, Amy Zhang, Mckane Andrus, Natali Helberger, Polina Proutskova, Tanushree Mitra, and Nina Vasan. 2023. Building Human Values into Recommender Systems: An Interdisciplinary Synthesis. Transactions on Recommender Systems (November 13th, 2023). DOI 10.1145/3632297. arXiv:2207.10192 [cs.IR]. Cited 40 times. Cited 16 times.


Recommender systems are the algorithms which select, filter, and personalize content across many of the worlds largest platforms and apps. As such, their positive and negative effects on individuals and on societies have been extensively theorized and studied. Our overarching question is how to ensure that recommender systems enact the values of the individuals and societies that they serve. Addressing this question in a principled fashion requires technical knowledge of recommender design and operation, and also critically depends on insights from diverse fields including social science, ethics, economics, psychology, policy and law. This paper is a multidisciplinary effort to synthesize theory and practice from different perspectives, with the goal of providing a shared language, articulating current design approaches, and identifying open problems. It is not a comprehensive survey of this large space, but a set of highlights identified by our diverse author cohort. We collect a set of values that seem most relevant to recommender systems operating across different domains, then examine them from the perspectives of current industry practice, measurement, product design, and policy approaches. Important open problems include multi-stakeholder processes for defining values and resolving trade-offs, better values-driven measurements, recommender controls that people use, non-behavioral algorithmic feedback, optimization for long-term outcomes, causal inference of recommender effects, academic-industry research collaborations, and interdisciplinary policy-making.

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