Social Search and Authoring-Integrative Design, Arts, and Technology - Carnegie Mellon University

Social Search and Authoring


People expend considerable effort everyday gathering and making sense of information online. Whether researching consumer products, comparing vacation destinations, identifying job opportunities or updating fantasy football rosters, we choose to individually spend significant hours each day searching through and considering diverse data sources. Currently, we reap the benefit of all this work in relatively ad-hoc, limited, and small-scale ways. Instead, we envision the development of a social search and authoring framework for capturing and sharing the online sensemaking work of individuals. Our aim is to foster the emergence of a virtuous cycle of social sensemaking with opportunities for novices and experts alike to be engaged in the process of finding, integrating, and curating collections of knowledge and media.


As the first step towards this vision we propose to develop and teach a joint course between the departments of Design and Human-Computer Interaction that will explore the topics of social sensemaking web-based knowledge building tools that support the capture, composition and distribution of collected data into information landscapes. These landscapes will support the integration of discrete web objects (e.g., webpages or segments of webpages) into aesthetic template structures, which may be flexibly ordered (e.g., temporally, semantically, episodically, spatially) to improve the speed and depth of information acquisition. This course will provide opportunities (e.g., through guest lectures, student projects) to build the community that can realize the larger goal of a social search, authoring, and curation framework by redefining how users consume and interact with online content. A focus of the course will be on the development of novel applications directly interfacing with real-world content and datasets. To achieve our goal, we will tap into existing world-class strengths at Carnegie Mellon including Human-Computer Interaction, Design, Machine Learning, Social and Decision Science, Creative Writing, Psychology, Computer Science, Art, Music, and Drama.

  • Cognitive basis for social sensemaking, e.g., categorization, representation, learning, memory
  • Social basis for social sensemaking, e.g., motivation, coordination, sharing
  • Computational basis for social sensemaking, e.g., visualization, machine learning, databases, information extraction, information retrieval
  • Design basis for social sensemaking, e.g., interaction, aesthetics, principles, reflective practice
  • Compositional basis for social sensemaking, e.g. curation, annotation, hierarchy, perspective/point of view, flexible representation

Research Team

Aisling Kelliher, Nikki Kittur