Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Adaptive Structuration Theory (Poole)

Summarize the AST Theory:

Marshall Scott Poole established the adaptive structuration theory (AST) to respond to two issues existing in the social structure of small-group communication. The first is the issue of group stability versus group change and the second is the dilemma of free will versus determinism. Poole’s theory is centered on the idea that every member of a group is responsible for the creation and recreation of the group structure through their interaction of dynamic rules and resources. Poole created his theory based on the key principles in Anthony Gidden’s macrotheory of structuration. Gidden believes that people, in general, act out of free will and that the social structures that they create are dynamic. Poole applied these concepts and named his theory as adaptive structuration as he noticed that members of task groups deliberately adapt social structures to accomplish their decision-making goals.

The AST suggests that whenever members of a group interact, they have an effect on the group structure. This is not intended to mean that interaction causes change in the group structure since the very same interaction could occur to keep the structure of the group unchanged as well. AST also goes on to explain how group members are akin to skilled and knowledgeable actors who tend to raise issues of morality, communication and power in every group action. Poole notes that even in small-groups, communication does matter and that the AST has a critical edge as well. The AST suggests that groups go through a process of appropriation based on its members’ personal relationships and topic expertise so as to arrive at a decision. Poole went on to apply the AST on how groups use computerized group decision support systems (GDSS) to make group decision-making more effective and efficient. He believes that GDSS gives all members of a group the equal opportunity to participate and allows for anonymous idea generation and balloting, hence avoiding the issue of group-think. However, Poole warns that while the GDSS should ideally be used to fulfill the goal of the group, it could also be abused by some members to thwart task accomplishment for personal goals.

Compare the AST with the Cultural Theory:

The cultural theory can be compared to the AST in terms of how group members interact and achieve goals. If the cultural theory were to be applied in a small-group setting, it would suggest that groups interact symbolically, rather than verbally. Hence, by creating shared meaning and beliefs through the use of metaphors, narratives and/or rituals members of a group would be able to work for the interest of the group rather than indulging in group-think. The adaptive structural theory however, suggests the importance of verbal communication instead of symbolic communication. There one aspect that both these theories can be said to be similar would be that both suggest that rules and proper structures do exist in any group situation although; in cultural theory they are established symbolically rather than verbally as in the adaptive structuration theory.

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