Structurational perspective

The recursive relationship between everyday activities and the social structures that are the medium and the outcome of the activities. Central to a structurational perspective is the recognition that social structures (such as genres) do not exist "out there," but are constituted through the ongoing actions of knowledgeable human agents, actions that are shaped, in turn, by the structures (Yates & Orlikowski, 2007, p.69).


Yates, J. & Orlikowski, W. (2007). The PowerPoint presentation and its corollaries: How genres shape communicative action in organizations. In M. Zachry & C. Thralls (Eds.), Communicative practices in workplaces and the professions: Cultural perspectives on the regulation of discourse and organizations. Amityville, NY: Baywood Publishing Company. 67-92.


Yates and Orlikowski use the example of PowerPoint presentations, claiming that the "PowerPoint presentation has emerged as a powerful and complex communicative structure that both reflects and shapes organizational practices while also enabling and constraining a range of social actions and outcomes" (2007, p. 87). In a more general example, Anthony Giddens, the originator of structuration theory, discusses childrearing, noting that "is easily forgotten that children 'create parents' as well as parents creating children.  The arrival and development of a child reorders the lives of the adults who care for it and interact with it.  The category 'mother' is given by the arrival of the child, but the practice or enactment of motherhood involves processes of learning that stretch back before and continue after the birth of the child" (Giddens, 1979, p. 130).

Other Notable Uses: 

Berkenkotter, C., & Huckin, T. N. (1993). Rethinking Genre from a Sociocognitive Perspective. Written Communication, 10(4), 475–509.

Miller, C. R. (1994). Rhetorical Community: The Cultural Basis of Genre. In A. Freedman & P. Medway (Eds.), Genre and the New Rhetoric (pp. 67–78). London: Taylor and Francis.

Original Use: 

Giddens, A. (1979). Central problems in social theory: Action, structure and contradiction in social analysis. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Contributed by: 

Dylan Dryer, Emerging Genres Class, NC State University, Spring 2010, Carolyn Miller

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