Drawing the Social: Jacob Levy Moreno, Sociometry, and the Rise of Network Diagrammatics

Drawing the SocialThis text was originally written for a collaborative volume edited by Ursula Frohne and Anne Thurmann-Jajes on Art ‘In-Formation’. Communication Aesthetics and Network Structures. Within its pre-print publication at the CRC „Media of Cooperation“ it remains in its original form, although research on diagrammatics, the history of networking, and Moreno himself has developed further. Most notably, Moreno’s son-turned-sociologist has written a popular book about him: Jonathan D. Moreno, Impromptu Man: J.L. Moreno and the Origins of Psychodrama, Encounter Culture, and the Social Network (New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2014).

The following article discusses the combination of graphical methods and network thought in early sociology. It combines a case study of Jacob Levy Moreno’s sociometric work and diagrammatic practice with media-theoretical thoughts about the characteristics of network diagrams. These are understood as inscriptions that perform both an act of drawing and writing at the same time. Moreno’s mappings, as well as other early visual techniques of social research, are understood along Michel Serres’ understanding of the network diagram as a topo­logical narration. Seen from the vantage point of a history of knowledge, Moreno’s sociometric and performative practices can not only be understood as a contribution to social network thought, but as actual research on the cooperative character of human interaction.