SystemViz is a research project by Peter Stoyko exploring how visuals can enhance systems thinking, especially as it relates to inter-disciplinary, collaborative design. Findings are expressed as visual codexes and other applied tools. Phase One of the project is an exploration of the visual notation techniques used to express systems across disciplines. Phase Two is an exploration of the theoretical literature of various disciplines—in the natural science, social sciences, design disciplines, and managerial disciplines—to distil the basic elements and dynamics. These elements and dynamics are then abstracted into generic types and displayed with an illustrative icon. This is called a Visual Vocabulary, which is being released under a Creative Commons Free Culture license for all to use and modify. Watch this space for further information about the project, including a third phase about using "motion signatures" to analyze and communicate systems.

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One implementation of visual vocabulary codex is as a set of chips for group-dialogue sessions. (See poster for overview.) A chip is a printed square with rounded corners. Each square features a vocabulary item with an icon and description appearing on the face. This form is compact enough for many mapping exercises while large enough to include a legible description of each item. The chips can be printed on-demand at low cost through Moo (or other printer) and the print-ready files can be downloaded below. They can also be printed on sheets of paper using a standard office printer, then cut into squares. Those files can also be downloaded below.

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The SystemViz Visual Vocabulary is an open-source project published under a Creative Commons Free Culture license. The license includes: the general taxonomy and the taxonomy icons, plus all the system element icons, labels, and basic descriptions. The hope is that others will find innovative uses for the model. Source files can be downloaded below. There has been a great deal of interest in translating the visual vocabulary into other languages. If you can help with those efforts, please get in touch at the inquiries address of Elanica.

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VERSION 1.5.1. Goal drift changed to goal shift to remove negative connotation, with boundary movement changed to boundary shift to add consistency. Reappropriation changed to (re)appropriation, affecting alphabetical order, with wording changes that broaden the concept slightly. Description of support structure expanded. These changes coincide with a presentation at the 65th meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (slides) and the alpha build of the interactive web app. [02.07.21]

VERSION 1.5.0. The final expansion of Version 1 of the Visual Vocabulary, rounding out the set to 200 elements and dynamics. Future expansions will be labelled Version 2 (small modifications will all be under 1.5.X.). Additions include: turbulence, tolerance, translation, correspondence, observer influence, period, dissipation, and exaptation. A few icons have been revised to make more consistent with the icon composition rules: integration, reappropriation, and multi-function. Risk asymmetry has been turned into a more general asymmetry element that includes risk, among other things. Some rewording took place for instruction, disruptor, parallelism, lag, amplifier, (de)activation, trail, and equilibrium. Self-similarity was removed because it mostly referenced an overall system pattern and the core dynamic is contained within holon. [01.02.21]

VERSION 1.4.0. The largest expansion of elements to date: load balancing, expulsion, recursion, derivation, entrainment, objectile, and risk asymmetry. Peter Jones suggested recursion and "entailment," the latter of which is broken down into several elements depending on meaning (enabler, parallelism, and cascade, with derivation and entrainment rounding out the potential variations of the concept). [26.09.20]

VERSION 1.3.0. Addition of three elements: field, diversion, and check. Changes coincide with webinars held for the United Nations Development Programme's Accelerator Labs. [09.06.20]

VERSION 1.2.2. A minor clean up of wording in anticipation of translation of the visual vocabulary into other languages. [24.03.20]

VERSION 1.2.1. Workshops revealed the lack of a basic domain-space element is an oversight, so that element was added in anticipation of a virtual session at OCADU, Toronto, Canada. [22.03.20]

VERSION 1.2.0. Addition of three elements: reactivity, dynamic balance, and reappropriation. Changes coincide with lecture and workshop held at Centro de diseño, cine y televisión, Mexico City, Mexico. Workshop exercise notes are available here (PDF). [08.03.20]

VERSION 1.1.0. Addition of three elements: accumulation, dampener, and cross-domain risk, with added footnote. New elements propagated to other downloads. Office chips have major categories placed on separate sheets to make color coding easier with printing on colored paper. [02.12.19]

VERSION 1.0.2. Minor clean-up of text to remove awkward grammar. [21.11.19]

VERSION 1.0.1. Modifications: spelling corrections, colour adjustments to chips, and change of Symbolic Milieu icon. Release of open source packages. [06.11.19]

VERSION 1.0.0. Launch of the Visual Vocabulary poster at RSD8 Conference at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, USA, plus the first public trial of the chips in a conference workshop. [18.10.19]