Birth of SNA

We all know that social network analysis is the systematic research of connections, which is based on

  • early works of sociology,
  • modern graph theory,
  • and social psychology.

But honestly how was today’s Social Network Analysis (SNA) born ?

Some of the late 19th centuries thinkers, like Émile Durkheim, started wondering about the nature of societies. The problem of understanding the connections between people and systems appeared, therefore a tool, which is able to depict complex structures was needed.

What happened afterwards? Unfortunately from the beginning, scientists have been talking about networks, but for decades, there was no way to make them visible.

In the early 1930s there was a pandemic of runaways from New York Training School for Girls in Hudson. The superintendent asked Jacob Moreno to provide solution. Moreno, and his assistant, Helen Jennings had to examine 500 girls (including their intelligence, social activities and their feelings for each other).

For the latter, they used a revolutionary — and surprisingly easy — new method.

They developed sociogram, a systematic method for the graphical representation of networks. In their drawings dots represent people, and lines represent relationships. What they found was surprising: the runaways did not escape because of conscious decisions, but rather because their place in the network. As Durkheim predicted, social structures often have power over individuals.

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