COM 270
Introduction to Theories of Human Communication

Lecture 10: Structuration Theory

I. Introduction

A. Structuration Theory (ST) is a product of the work of Anthony Giddens. Like FT, ST's primary explanatory objective is to account for the existence of repetive and institutionalized practices and patterns of action.

II. Theory of Structuration

A. The basic unit of analysis and explanation for ST are social practices. A social practice is an action or series of actions that is recognized as a coherent whole by group, community, or society.

Ex: Wedding

B. Social practices are comprised of systems and structures.

1. SYSTEMS are observable, repetive behaviors or actions

Ex: Wedding vows

2. STRUCTURES are the rules and resources that enable the behavior or action to occur.

a. A rule is a prescription or requirement for action. I can be written or unwritten; spoken or unspoken; and usually take the form "You must..." or "You shall..." or "You have to..."

Ex: Remove your footwear before entering a local's house in Hawaii.

b. A resource is something that allows you to produce or engage in a behavior or perform an action. (Without the resource, you can't produce the behavior or action.)

Ex: Having car, or knowing someone who has a car, is a resource you need to go swimming at Hapuna Beach.

C. Systems and structures exist in a DUAL RELATIONSHIP.

1. Structures (rules and resources) enable systems (behaviors).

2. Systems (behaviors) reinforce structures (rules and resources).

D. The dual relationship among systems and structures (CALLED STRUCTURATION) produces continuous repetition, and the social practice provides the context that justifies, or makes sense of, that continuous repetition.



A. The process of structuration (continuous repetition), once established, tends to be very stable over time. As long as the systems and structures that produced the repetition are in place, the repetition continues over time.

B. At various times, the repetition can be broken and change can occur (the structuration perocess can be altered.) . This change is shaped and constrained by three factors:

1. Unacknowledged conditions on action.

Ex: Changes in laws regarding who is responsible for a drunk driver has made many people rethink whether they should serve liquor at wedding receptions.

2. Reflexive monitoring -- we intermittently examine the outcomes or consequences of our past actions in light of personal or group goals, plans, reactions, etc.

Ex: In your family, everyone had a formal church wedding. But when you think about the hassles that your sister/brother went through when they had a formal church wedding, you may decide to do something different and elope.

3. Rationalization -- we constantly rationalize (or make sense of our actions retrospectively) to others in light of acknowledged conditions on action and intended or unintended consequences.

Ex: In your family, everyone had a large reception. But you don't want your parents to pay for a large reception and you can't afford it, so when someone asks you why you want a large reception, you decide to be different and go with a small family-only dinner after the wedding.




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