Social networks

Jacob Moreno network.

Social Networks are models to represent individuals and the relationships between them. The minimal components of a social network are:

Social network analysis is a research field that systematically collects relational data and analyzes it with visual, statistical, and mathematical methods to understand properties and mechanisms of social interaction.

While early approaches in sociology considered network structures (for example Georg Simmel, whose work on fashions we already covered), Jacob Moreno is often credited as the “father” of modern Social Network Analysis in the 1930s. In his 1934 book “Who Shall Survive?”, Moreno shows how to construct sociograms that capture the structure of social relations. The book reports a study of behavior spreading on a boarding school. The figure on the right shows another example of Moreno’s sociograms, this time a social network with positive (friends) and negative (enemies) links between people in a town.

You can find a more complete history of the field in Linton Freeman’s 2004 book, where he shows how Jacob Moreno’s work on the topic was taken from the work of his assistant Helen Hall Jennings. You can find more examples of important women in Social Network Analysis in this brief list by Brian Keegan.

Representing social networks