What are Social Structures?
Social structures refer to the patterns and relationships between and within groups. When social structures exist within a single group, they pertain to repeating behaviors. Social structures are vast and complex, but you can sub-divide and conceptualize them in many different ways.
For example, social structures can be both institutional and relational. In an institutional setting, behavior is influenced by norms, cultural factors and formalities. Relational social structures include any sort of relationship between people, regardless of the system they belong to. For example, a user experience (UX) designer may be friends with the janitor because they share an interest in quilting or skiing. Such a bond is included in the relationship social structure, but not in the institutional structure.
Another common approach for organizing social structures is dividing them into two tiers: microstructure and macrostructure. The microstructure contains the singular elements or components of the social structure, including individuals. Macrostructure is the relationship between distinct groups. For example, you can chart the macrostructure amongst the many design teams of different design agencies.
By analyzing networks and structures, a designer can get a deeper and more intimate understanding of the environment that their future product will have to face.
Literature on Social Structures
Here’s the entire UX literature on Social Structures by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:
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All open-source articles on Social Structures
Social Systems and Their Role in Product Adoption
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