04-23-2014 | Psychological Geography

From "Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information," Manuel Lima pg. 75

Psychologist Jacob Moreno was born in 1889 in the city of Bucharest, Romania, and spent most of this youth and early career in Vienna, Austria, where he graduated with a medical degree in 1917. While studying at the University of Vienna, Moreno attended Sigmund Freud's lectures and became and early challenger of his theories. While Freud favored meeting people individually in the artificial setting of his office, Moreno believed in the power of group settings for therapy, which could only be accurately conducted in their natural environment -- the street, the park, the community. The latter also opposed the emphasis on the unconscious mind: "Moreno was more interested in the conscious process, the here and now, the creativity of the person, than the unconscious process, the past and the resistance of the 'patient,'" writes Moreno's biographer Rene Marineau.

In order to further pursue his ongoing research on his theory of interpersonal relations, Moreno moved to New York City at the age of thirty-six. The following years saw Moreno become increasingly motivated by the prospect of visually representing social structures, and seven years after his arrival in the United States, at a convention of medical scholars, Moreno presented one of his most famous creations: the sociogram. Moreno's sociogram introduced a graphic representation of the social ties between a group of boys and girls from one elementary school, marking the beginning of sociometry, which later came to be known as social network analysis -- a field of sociology dealing with the mapping and measuring of relationships between people (e.g. kinship, friendship, common interests, financial exchange, sexual relationships). The idea of a measurable sociogram became a decisive turning point in the quantitative evaluation of an individual's role in a community, but it also demonstrated, for the very first time, the enticing power of network visualization.


A year later Moreno expanded many of his initial ideas in what came to be known as the paramount work on sociometry, Who Shall Survive? A New Approach to the Problem of Human Interrelations (1934). The work contains some of the earliest graphical depictions of social networks and exposes Moreno's appreciation for the power of visualization. In his discourse, Moreno explains that the sociogram is not simply a method of presentation but a "method of exploration ... It is at present the only available scheme, which makes structural analysis of a community possible."

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