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The Right Tool for the Job: Towards a More Rigorous Approach to Visualizing Sociological Theory

Mon, August 13, 4:30 to 6:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 4, 405


The visualization of social theory is an important, if not essential, part of the development and communication of our theoretical ideas. While most theorists use figures of some kind, few if any have formal training, or guiding rules or principles for the representation of theory. This has often led to poor visualization efforts, and the visual culture of sociology continues to lag behind the natural sciences. The intent of this paper is to serve as a practical guide for social theorists, by providing insights surrounding which type of geometric and diagrammatic forms are useful for what kind of sociological theorizing, as well as demonstrating the pitfalls of visualizing sociological theory in practice – focusing specifically on paths, lines and arrows, and circles. Our hope is that this paper will serve as both a resource and an imperative for a better and more thoughtful approach to how sociologists visualize theoretical ideas.


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