CultureViz is a research project by Peter Stoyko exploring how visuals can enhance our understanding of culture. There is an emphasis on how culture works as a system, which complements SystemViz, a sibling project about visualizing systems more generally.

Culture is the set of meanings shared by people in a collective. These meanings are expressed symbolically (via language, imagery, stylized objects, and so forth) and through patterns of behavior (norms, practices, rituals, traditions, and such). The root problem CultureViz tries to resolve is a conceptual one: like water, culture is hard to grasp; it flows through our fingers because it lacks definite form. In other words, culture is a fuzzy, amorphous concept. It need not be. Indeed, culture is an "umbrella" concept that covers many underlying components (such as norms, rituals, and linguistic conventions). These components can be talked about in more straight-forward terms. Each one works differently. Examples are easier to relate to. So, what are all the components of culture? How do they work? How do they fit together as an ensemble? How can they be made more tangible? These are the questions CultureViz attempts to answer.


The Visual Vocabulary of Culture is a visual codex that itemizes all of the various components of culture. It is similar to (and compatible with) the Visual Vocabulary of Systems. Each component is described and assigned an illustrative icon. These can then be arranged and rearranged within various dialogue, learning, and mapping activities. The overall aim is to give groups a shared vocabulary with which to discuss culture in rigorous terms, as well as have a flexible tool with which to visualize the specific cultures that affect them. It is released under a Creative Commons Free Culture license that only requires attribution. The codex can be downloaded in poster form by clicking the download link below.

The poster also presents the Mangrove Model of Culture. The word "culture" is a plant metaphor. It derives from the Latin colere, later cultura, which means cultivation and growth. The Mangrove Model revisits this original metaphor as an organizing device for the various components of culture. Further details are explained in the poster.

Download Visual Vocabulary Poster

Download Icon Design Specification


Writing and tools will be released occasionally, including a forthcoming book on systems change that also applies the CultureViz codex. To stay informed, subscribe to the following e-mail notification. You can subscribe and unsubscribe below.