Capturing the Complexity in Advanced Technology Use: Adaptive structuration theory

Gerardine DeSanctis
Marshall Poole


DeSanctis and Poole contribute to the organization sciences in two distinct ways. First, they insightfully probe and characterize the deep structures that exist within both the technological artifacts and the work environments within which these artifacts are applied (within the context of a given technology-group decision support systems). Second, they describe and illustrate innovative strategies for collecting data on these structures. In doing so, the authors have laid an extremely strong foundation for future scholarship exploring the "evolution-in-use" as well as the organizational impacts of advanced information technologies.



This article offers Adaptive Structuration Theory (AST) as a way of looking at IT in organizational change. The main benefit offered by AST is that the technology and the human/technology interaction are both considered. To that end, the article places AST within two theoretical frameworks of technology use and change in organizations, the decision-making school and the institutional school. Decision theory is a positivist approach that focuses on the technology. Institutional theory is an interpretive approach which focuses on the social situation of the technology implementation. AST is offered as an integrative approach rooted in what the authors call the social technology perspective, rooted in structuration, as AST looks at the technology itself as well as resulting social actions. AST is considered through the use of a group decision support system (GDSS). This article primarily proposes and advocates for AST as a lens through which to consider organization change, communication and technology implication.

APA Citation

DeSanctis, G., & Poole, M. S. (1994). Capturing the complexity in advanced technology use: Adaptive structuration theory. Organization Science, 5(2), 121-147.

About the Study

Links to Article
Mode Technology-enhanced
Publication Type Journal Article
In Publication Organization Science
Type of Research Critical or postmodern
Research Design Mixed methods
Intervention/Areas of Study Course design
Level of Analysis
Specific Populations Examined
Peer-Reviewed Yes
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest Learning effectiveness
Student Sample Size
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