Created Identities: Hybrid Cultures and the Internet


Ian M Clothier



Homi K. Bhabha has written that authorized power in a hybrid culture 'does not depend on the persistence of tradition; it is resourced by the power of tradition to be reinscribed through conditions of contingency and contradictoriness…' (Bhabha, p. 2). This view of culture is one aligned with concepts of flux and transition. Hybrid cultural identity is created as time progresses, in part based on contingency.
Image 1: It is said that green energy pervades Leistavia - the Constitution contains many proactive conservation measures, in part based in the 1838 Laws of Pitcairn Island.

The boundaries of hybrid cultures are negotiated and able to absorb diverse cultural influences: borders are active sites of intersection and overlap, which support the creation of in-between identities. Hybrid cultures are antagonistic to standing authority and cultural hegemony – hybridisation engenders diversity and heterogeneity, once framed as bastardisation. Heterogeneity and multiplicity are here underlined as important aspects of hybrid cultures.

Heterogeneity, multiplicity and rupture are three aspects of Deleuze and Guattari's rhizome that have been identified by Stephen Wray as similarly characteristic of the internet. This makes the internet an entirely suitable place to manufacture a hybrid cultural identity, with a cultural profile akin to that reported in mainstream news media. This paper maps out the above points with reference to the online/internet project the District of Leistavia welcomes you created by the author.


This paper maps multiplicity, contradictoriness and contingency within a framework of creative practice that is sourced in cultural diversity and facilitated largely via the internet, although inclusive of diverse strategies of presentation. There are both connections and disconnections between the three main sections of the paper. Interconnections between the subjects of hybrid cultures, the internet and Leistavia include aspects of multiplicity, heterogeneity and rupture. However these three subjects do not map directly on to each other. Each is discrete. They overlap at some points however, and these overlaps form the basis for much of the discussion.

The reader is forewarned that while issues of culture and identity are among the most important questions that can be asked, the project that gives the context for this paper happily acknowledges game playing in cultural structures. Reality and fiction are not so much blurred as considered to be a dynamic. Given multiplicity and hierarchical tension are embedded in the subject matter, the paper also indulges in mode switching as the various layers of culture, theory, praxis, negotiation, heritage, trivia, creative license, statistics, profiling, documentation, referencing and opinion are collated, reflected, incorporated, explicated, taken apart and reconstructed.


The District of Leistavia is an internet based hybrid cultural entity. Formative cultural influences are those of Pitcairn Island, Norfolk Island and Estonia. The reasons for the selection of these cultures are that the author is descendant of the first two, and the project was created for exhibition in Estonia as part of ISEA 2004. This paper looks into issues around cultural hybridity and the internet, and reveals ways in which a resultant awareness of processes influenced the creation of Leistavia. Section one introduces Pitcairn-Norfolk culture in the context of a discussion of cultural hybridity as its heritage is not widely known, section two looks at the internet and the third section examines the project.

Aspects of multiplicity and heterogeneity (which will be familiar to readers in cultural theory) are underlined as important to hybrid cultures and the process of hybridisation. The discussion of hybridity is inclusive, incorporating diverse theoretical and cultural perspectives. The sense in which hybrid cultures stand in tension to authority will be discussed in section one, and this tension is reflected in the writing of the paper. In examining etymology for example, the Pocket Oxford is quoted rather than the Oxford Dictionary, and cited material includes references to Latin/Dutch and Singaporean-Malaysian/English dictionaries.

Hybrid cultures are seen to be situated in-between cultures, just as Pitcairn-Norfolk is located between Tahitian and Old English, and Leistavia is placed in-between its three founding cultures. In being located in-between, hybrids are also positioned outside parent cultures in the sense that they are not located entirely within. This in-between location engenders a diversity that creates a third space of its own authenticity, and highlights the way in which borders are complex in hybrid arenas.

While heterogeneity and multiplicity are identified as important to hybrid cultures, they have also been identified as applicable to the internet. Section two of this paper turns to the internet, the facilitation and support mechanism for creating and maintaining much of Leistavia. In effect, the internet allowed for an in-between place, where Pitcairn-Norfolk and Estonian cultural forces were freely interacted and exchanged. It is reasonable to ask for clarification of the capacity of the internet to allow such cultural transaction and this leads the paper towards the concept of the rhizome.

It is now understood that the internet is explainable within the terms of Deleuze and Guattari's concept of rhizome. This theme is introduced here by reference to Stephen Wray's paper Rhizomes, nomads, and resistant internet use which provides a broad view of writing on the subject. The aspects of the rhizome that are important to the Leistavia project and therefore this paper are those of heterogeneity, multiplicity and rupture.

Heterogeneity and multiplicity are common to both hybrid cultures and the rhizome. A third characteristic of the rhizome, that of asignifying rupture, will later illuminate the process of cultural hybridisation in the specific context of Pitcairn-Norfolk cultural output and heritage. An understanding of the concept of rupture which underpins explanations of the process of hybridisation, was utilised in creating the hybrid internet entity Leistavia. However there is no argument that rupture is the only means of discussing process in hybrid culture; rather it is one way. Again, it is the overlap of concepts that is being referred to.

An awareness of the rhizomatic internet was brought together with a reading of hybrid cultures, and the combination formed the rationale for instigating the District of Leistavia project. Section three looks at the formation of Leistavia, specifically the constitution voting questions derived from research into the three formative cultures, and the collated responses to the questions. Given that a process of rupture could underscore cultural hybridisation, then it was considered possible to take any two or more cultures and create a hybrid entity utilising the same processes.

The collated responses are authentic statistics of actual voter opinions, and are similar to statistics widely reported in news media regarding issues of the day. Viewpoints antagonistic to democratic and monetarist political and financial structures were recorded and are indicative of the Leistavian community; this result is among a range of outcomes discussed. The background to formulating the constitution voting questions is then given prior to the questions themselves with replies expressed in percentages.

The status of the Leistavian community is imprecise and ambivalent, partly due to the reality/fiction dynamic. Other reasons are that hybrid cultures have imprecise and dynamic boundaries, and are subject to alteration as time progresses. These are facets of hybrid cultures both online and offline, which will be elaborated upon in the sections following. The discussion proceeds along the line of an investigation into the little known characteristics of the community formed as a consequence of one of the most well known mutinies in British naval and Tahitian colonial history.

1. Hybrid cultures and Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands

Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands

A substantial discourse on cultural hybridity has occurred in cultural theory over the past several years [1]. Much of this discussion is predicated on the locations of hybrid cultures – in borderland city neighbourhoods [2], at the border between countries (for example Mexico and the United States of America [3], as part of the debate framed by post colonialism and within the debate into the consequences of globalisation.

This paper looks to another context for examining cultural hybridity: that of Pitcairn-Norfolk culture, established on Pitcairn Island in 1790 following the mutiny on HMS Bounty. The reason for the interest in this context is firstly the cultural affiliation of the writer. Further reasons are that unlike much debate thus far, the location is neither urban, suburban nor city but rather two tiny islands separated by thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean. The formative Pacific cultures are not the consequence of clashing along a shared border. However, one reading of discourse on city border-land hybrid situations is the awareness that hybrid cultures are not simple mergers of two cultures, but instead result in a so-called 'third space' of their own authenticity. There is currency here to the subject under review.

Post-colonial debate is often predicated on power structures of dominant [usually] European culture over indigenous culture, which is not applicable here, due to historic reasons. The loss of nearly all adult males (i.e. Polynesian and English) in early Pitcairn heritage created a situation where dominant European and customary Polynesian practices were interwoven as influences. The culture is not the result of a power structure based on coloniser and oppressed. The role of women (the only Polynesian survivors) in the first few decades of the culture exactly at the time it was being established was significant if not extraordinary.

Image 2: This images partly shows Thursday October Christian’s house (son of Fletcher Christian) on Pitcairn Island prior to being blown down recently.
While globalisation is a relatively recent phenomenon Pitcairn Island was settled in the late eighteenth century. Intriguingly, the current population of forty seven includes eight websites directly arising from the island, and there is a Friends of Pitcairn mail list that generates between six and twenty six emails per day. However this may simply be a function of the necessity for communication to be facilitated by technology in remote locations.


Pitcairn is itself quintessentially a story of globalisation, given the originating desire of the English to procure breadfruit for slaves in the West Indies, by travelling to Tahiti to secure the plants. The negative impacts of globalisation upon small societies are well reported, but are not applicable in this instance. The uniqueness of the situation necessitates for the purposes of this discussion a brief outline of Pitcairn and Norfolk heritage.

In 1788, HMAV Bounty [His Majesty's Armed Vessel] left England under the naval command of Captain Bligh, charged with the mission of taking breadfruit plants from Tahiti to the West Indies. After a protracted stay on Tahiti, the ship departed in April 1789 shortly after which there was a mutiny led by Fletcher Christian. After the mutiny, the Bounty returned to Tahiti to pick up friends and lovers, though it has been claimed that this was partly by trickery [4]. In December it was discovered that Pitcairn Island had been incorrectly charted on maps and the island was found in January 1790, after which settlement was made.

Within ten years, all but one of the adult males – six men of Polynesian origin and eight out of nine of English origin, perished as a result of racial war, murder, insanity and consumption - Edward Young was the only one to die peacefully, of asthma (Nicolson, p. 218-221) [5]. Consequently, the remaining twelve Tahitian adult women were a considerable influence on all matters in the early years – Pitcairn officially gave women the vote in 1838.

Considerable research and creative activity around Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands has already taken place, going back to the 1930's with Harry Shapiro's now discredited anthropological studies [6]. The mutiny on the Bounty has been the subject of four feature films and a musical. Writers are continually adding to research about the culture, and those of its precedents [7]. Pacific Union College in the USA has a Pitcairn Islands Study Centre.

However the reading of the culture needs to be updated. In the first place it is demonstrably a hybrid culture, though this assertion has not yet been made of Pitcairn-Norfolk. The use of the hyphenated name is an innovation made here. Most commentators refer to Pitcairn Island and Norfolk Island as if they were two separate entities, primarily due to the geographical separation.

The islands do have differences, the main one being that Pitcairn Island was converted to Seventh Day Adventism in the late nineteenth century. Norfolk Islanders are less specific and strict in observance of religion. There is a pattern of conservatism and liberalism, Pitcairn and Norfolk respectively, which has been noted on those rare occasions when Norfolk Islanders have visited Pitcairn.

However, inhabitants of both islands share DNA. The language uses the same words. Family names are common. The reason for the separation was that due to overcrowding, in 1856 all Pitcairners left Pitcairn and settled on Norfolk Island, which was believed to have been gifted by Queen Victoria. The people who live on Pitcairn today are descendants of those who left Norfolk and returned to their birthplace. Most Pitcairn Island descendants now live on Norfolk Island. As such, the connections between the two islands run deeper than the factors of separation.

Hybrid cultures

The Pocket Oxford Dictionary (2000, p. 430) gives the meaning of 'hybrid' as '1 offspring of two plants or animals of different species or varieties. 2 thing composed of diverse elements, e.g. a word with parts taken from different languages.' The root of the term 'hybrid' is the Latin hibrida.


According to the Wolters' Latin-Dutch dictionary 'hibrida' means: 'bastard, Child of a Roman and a foreigner, or of a free person and a slave.' The Grote van Dale dictionary also first cites this original meaning, and then adds: 'something that comprises heterogenous elements.' 'Hybridisation' according to the same van Dale is a common notion in biochemistry (relating to the merging of different types of DNA). And in the social sciences and philosophy the concepts of 'hybrid' and 'hybridity' crop up. In 'Krisis – tijdschrift voor filosophe' hybridity is described as 'the mixture of elements which are different and which are generally separate from each other' … On the basis of a study carried out into the development of Mexican culture it is stated that this culture, as a melting together of different 'authentic' cultures, is a typical example of a hybrid culture – but that at the same time it is highly authentic. Authenticity and hybridity are not opposites but are natural extensions of each other. Hybridity produces new forms of authenticity and is inherent in processes of social and cultural dynamics in which various cultures confront each other (Europan 6).


The above paragraph, from the architectural conference Europan aptly captures a number of important points about hybridity, summarising in one instance the words of a number of writers on the subject. These key elements are those of heterogeneity (diversity in constitution), multiplicity (mixtures of elements) and unique authenticity. These are introduced by reference to genetic bastards, which underscores a theme of antagonism to authority endemic to hybrid cultures.

Racial diversity on Pitcairn created genetic hybrids, children of English fathers and Polynesian mothers (none of the Polynesian men had offspring). The consequent culture that developed did not continue in accord with solely English or Tahitian traditions, but took from both and introduced new elements (the same can be said of Leistavia, with regard to its three formative cultural influences).

As Nicolson and Clarke [8] report of Pitcairn, early generations of the culture wore tapa, cooked in hangi, lived in English styled wooden houses with thatched Tahitian style rooves and no latches on the doors, transported themselves in Tahitian canoes, spoke both English and Tahitian and scented their bodies with the oil of sweet smelling plants. Both sexes had pierced ears and adorned themselves with flowers (Nicolson, p. 82). Weaving in Polynesian style continued until the turn of the 20th century, and until at least the 70's grass skirts were made for the tourist trade (Ford, p. 87).

While the above paragraph lays out cultural lineage along the lines of parentage, part of the unique authenticity of the culture is clearly demonstrated in the Pitcairn Island Laws of 1838. These Laws among much else gave women the vote, made education compulsory for both genders, mixed currencies (dollars, shillings and pence) and laid out the basis for bartering goods. The worst crime was to kill a cat, white birds were singled out for protection and there were extensive paragraphs detailing wood conservation measures and dispute resolution procedures. There were no laws against theft or assault as these were unknown [9]. None of the Laws described in this paragraph can be related specifically to Tahitian or Old English practices (though other Laws have traces), and by the time they were written only women of the Bounty were alive. They indicate the way in which the culture developed solutions to problems as they arose. The Laws were an important influence on Leistavia, in terms of shaping some of the Constitution voting questions (discussed in section three).

Developmental contingency is not a matter solely of Pitcairn-Norfolk heritage, but has been identified as a trace element of hybridity. Homi Bhabha (Bhabha, p. 2) wrote of 'an ongoing negotiation that seeks to authorize cultural hybridities that emerge in moments of historical transformation'. Whilst this passage of historical transformation is perhaps a reference to the transformation of cultures at shared boundaries in cities, it is applicable to Pitcairn-Norfolk cultural heritage, where the transformation had a fixed start date and developed thereafter. Leistavia is reflexive of this as it has emerged in a sequence of moments of internet transformation as part of an art work.

Bhabha (Bhabha, p. 2) went on to say that authorized power is not based on 'the persistence of tradition' but is 'reinscribed through conditions of contingency and contradictoriness that attend upon those who are "in the minority". Hybrid cultures stratify in unique ways, based on contingency rather than tradition. Contingency and contradictoriness are characteristic even where 'minority' status does not apply. As Roy Sanders (Sanders, p. 274) remarked of Pitcairn after visiting between 1951 and 1953:


Pitcairn culture then provides a complex and often paradoxical standard of status measurement… Social cohesion lies only in kinship bonds and economic goods. The sea determines the extent of cooperative behaviour. In order to gain access to food supplies aboard ships, the islanders, to use their own term 'pull together'.


Hybridity disturbs traditions, and replaces tradition with novel solutions. The solution is one that fits the locale. The speaker's chair of the Papua New Guinea parliament, for example, is a cross between the one in the British House of Commons and a traditional orator stool, 'analogous to the kind of hybrid political system being molded' (O'Connell, citing Vale). Boundaries in hybrid cultures are not fixed but negotiable.

Diversification engenders a third space, in-between cultural resources, a space of it's own making and authenticity. In this in-between place, traces of formative cultures can be located, but there will always be aspects that are specific to the hybrid. A very good indication of this is found in George P Landow's discussion of the creation of a Singaporean/Malaysian English dictionary.

Landow reports that the editors of The Times-Chambers Essential English Dictionary worked with five categories of words – the first was 'Core English' (which already includes words from other languages such as bungalow and garage). The second category is for local versions of English – such as the Singaporean and Malay word airflown (meaning freshly imported, high quality). The third group of words are those that are not used in core English – for example sarabat (a strong tasting ginger drink. Notably for an English language dictionary, this third category often includes words for which no English word exists. The last two categories included slang and informal words; an example is zap (meaning to photocopy). Informal words derived from other languages include chim (profound) and malu (shameful). (Landow).

Hybrid cultures being heterogenic engender multiplicities in cultural structures rather than supporting the simple reinscription of tradition. On Pitcairn Island, hand carved items are made by a large percentage of the populace. Many of these items are traceable to Polynesian practices such as carving 'walking' sticks, fish, turtles and other local creatures. In 1823 a Bristol shipwright visited the island and taught new ways to carve [10]. Unfortunately it is not recorded exactly what this person taught or even who they were. As well as Polynesian type cultural output, Pitcairn carving includes book boxes and a carved vase held by a hand. The origin of these designs is not known, however it is assumed a similar process to that of 1823 occurred. Pitcairn carving is a mix of cultural influences while nonetheless being distinctly Pitcairn. This aspect of Pitcairn cultural output will be discussed further in the section which follows, where concepts of heterogeneity, multiplicity and rupture are elaborated upon in a discussion of the internet.

II. The rhizome and the internet

As remarked in the introduction, Leistavia is a hybrid cultural internet based entity. It is reasonable to enquire why it is that the internet might be suitable for such a project, and the answer may well lie in the fact that heterogeneity and multiplicity have been identified by Deleuze and Guattari as aspects of their concept of rhizome, and the rhizome has been found to be an adequate tool in describing characteristics of the internet. There is an overlap of characteristics.

Stephen Wray's paper Rhizomes, nomads, and resistant internet use maps out the concepts of rhizome and nomad over a background of communication theory writing into the attributes and condition of cyberspace, hypertext writing and the internet. Landow's Hyper/Text/Theory and the anthology Technoscience and Cyberculture edited by Arnowitz, Martinson and Menser are given lengthy discussion. Wray then turns to Robin B Hamman's Rhizome@Internet. Using the Internet as an example of Deleuze and Guattari's 'Rhizome' where Hamman concluded that 'the Internet is a rhizome' (cited by Wray, p. 11 of 26).

In the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus Deleuze and Guattari outline the principles of the rhizome. These are given as being: connection, heterogeneity, multiplicity, asignifying rupture, cartography and decalcomania. Connection and heterogeneity are linked by Deleuze and Guattari: ' any point of a rhizome can be connected to any other' (Deleuze & Guattari, p. 7). This is different from trees or similar root structures which have a point that 'fixes an order'. The writers point out that in a rhizome, 'semiotic chains of every nature are connected to very diverse modes of coding (biological, political, economic, etc.).'

This capacity to seamlessly traverse codes resides at the core of the sense in which a rhizome is heterogenic. 'A rhizome ceaselessly establishes connections between semiotic chains… a semiotic chain is like a tuber agglomerating very diverse acts, not only linguistic, but also perceptive, mimetic, gestural, and cognitive'. In a multiplicity 'There is no unity to serve as a pivot in the object, or to divide in the subject' (Ibid., p. 8).

The principle of asignifying rupture refers to the capacity of the rhizome to 'be broken, shattered at a given spot, but it will start up again on one of it's old lines, or on new lines'. Asignifying rupture is an important facet of the rhizome, as the capacity to break apart and reform on old or new lines is the means by which the processes of territorialisation and deterritorialisation are enabled: 'Every rhizome contains lines of segmentarity according to which it is stratified, territorialized, organized, signified, attributed, etc., as well as lines of deterritorialization down which it constantly flees'. In discussing the non-relative attributes of an orchid and a wasp, they write: 'Each of these becomings brings about the deterritorialization of one term and the reterritorialization of the other; the two becomings interlink and form relays in a circulation of intensities pushing deterritorialization ever further' (Ibid., p. 10).

Cartography and decalcomania are also discussed together by Deleuze and Guattari. They regard concepts around that of a genetic axis as a pivot point, and deep structure as 'like a base sequence that can be broken down' (Ibid., p. 12) hence these cannot be principles of a rhizome, as they are 'reproducible principles of tracing'. A rhizome is 'a map and not a tracing… The orchid does not reproduce a tracing of the wasp, it forms a map with the wasp, in a rhizome'. A tracing is arbolic while a map is an open system: 'The map is open and connectable in all of it's dimensions; it is detachable, reversible, susceptible to constant modification.'

Heterogeneity, multiplicity and rupture

Heterogeneity, multiplicity and rupture are the aspects of the rhizomatic internet of interest here, mainly because heterogeneity and multiplicity have been identified as relevant to a consideration of hybrid cultures. The aspect of rupture is here underlined, as it will be contended shortly that the capacity to break apart and rejoin – rupture in the sense of Deleuze and Guattari – is coincidentally typical of hybrid cultures.

Hamman (cited in Wray, p. 11 of 26) writes of the principles of connection and heterogeneity that 'It has been demonstrated here that any point on the Internet, that is any computer, may connect with any other point'. This aspect of the internet will be familiar to many.
On the subject of multiplicity, Hamman (p. 11 – 12 of 26, cited in Wray) writes that 'the user's "multiplicity of nerve fibres" controls the computer's connection… There is even a further multiplicity present when using the Internet and that is the multiplicity of light pixels on the computer screen. Another part of this third principle of rhizomes is that there are no points or positions, just lines in a rhizome'.
This was written in 1996, and it could be contended that a multiplicity of nerve fibres and pixels are at the lower end of scales of multiplicities. The 'controlling multiplicity of nerve fibres' notion comes from Deleuze and Guattari, and their example of a puppeteer. There are however multiplicities of personalities, organisations, purposes, users, identities, cultures, groups, authorities and anarchies evident on the internet. A better reading of the multiplicity of the internet is provided in more recent publications such as Rachel Green's Internet art, where she writes (Green, p. 8):


Both everyday and exotic, public and private, autonomous and commercial, the internet is a chaotic, diverse and crowded form of contemporary public space. It is hardly surprising, therefore, to find so many art forms related to it: web sites, software, broadcast, photography, animation, radio and email, to name just a few. Moreover, the computer, fundamental for experiencing internet art, can be both a channel and a means of production and can take the form of a laptop, a cellular phone, an office computer – each with it's own screen, software and capability – and the experience of the art work changes accordingly.


The principle of asignifying rupture, the capacity to break apart and start again on new lines or old ones, is demonstrated in Hamman's words by 'The Internet or more correctly the computers on it, can route information around trouble spots' (Wray, page 12 of 26).

Hamman is here referring to the originating impulse in creating the internet so that military-industrial data could withstand nuclear holocaust. He also gives the example of users in Europe being excluded from access to certain Usenet groups by a service provider. However a way around the issue was found within a few hours. All users were required to do was log into their usual service provider and then on to a third party service which allowed viewing of the contentious material. (Hamman).

These points can perhaps be added to, given the benefit of several more years of internet usage. Logging into the internet from diverse points – making connections from home, cafes or work then disconnecting and reconnecting later from a different address – is part of daily life. As many people will be aware, it is now possible to access online resources including email from any country with internet access, and in-between national borders such as departure and arrival lounges in airports. Such are the smaller details of this particular subject. It is a point that can be scaled up to one of examining cultural flow.

Whilst heterogeneity and multiplicity were discussed in regard to hybrid cultures and Pitcairn-Norfolk, it remains now to discuss asignifying rupture in terms of hybridity. The argument here is not that hybrid cultures are analogous to rhizomes or rupture in the sense of both having a limited number of shared features, but that the articulation of energy flow in hybrid cultures can be characterised in one sense by rupture. There are a range of cultural flows coursing through hybrid cultures, of which a process that mimics rupture is but one.

When a culture absorbs an influence, a break with the past is made. On Pitcairn, when the method of making a vase held by the hand was taught, a break with tradition occurred, a break away from Polynesian roots. However, when such a vase is made today, a reconnection with Pitcairn tradition takes place. This would be true of the range of cultural outputs on Pitcairn. Similarly when the Laws of 1838 were composed, traces of English or Tahitian culture that were incorporated followed old lines, while aspects unique to Pitcairn followed new lines.

Disconnection and reconnection in the tangled membrane of society, is a process that well describes the means by which a hybrid culture absorbs external cultural influences. Deleuze and Guattari write of disconnection and reconnection engendering rhizomic and arbolic states of systems as deterritorialisation and territorialisation. They introduce these concepts within the context of discussing asignifying rupture.

It is interesting to relate the whole episode of the Bounty saga from leaving England to settling on Pitcairn Island, in terms of territorialisation and deterritorialisation. Firstly, the sailors are territorialised in their local territory – at home. They become deterritorialised by boarding the ship. As Naval company, they are then reterritorialised in a new hierarchy. On arrival in Tahiti, they became deterritorialised with extra-ordinary effect (ship's biscuit is replaced by feasting for example). Staying longer than intended, they entered into the condition of being territorialised on Tahiti.

Called back on board, their Tahiti life is deterritorialised and once again they become territorialised in a Naval hierarchy. Soon after, the sailors mutiny, and put Bligh to sea – literally a deterritorialisation. The Bounty is deterritorialised as a ship in His Majesty's Navy. When Tahitian lovers and friends are taken on board, a dramatic reterritorialisation occurs (both genders living on a previously Naval vessel). It is discovered that Pitcairn Island has become deterritorialised – i.e. mis-charted on maps. On locating the island, the ship becomes totally deterritorialised (i.e. burnt) and Pitcairn Island is territorialised [11].

The description given above relies heavily on the states of becoming territorialised and deterritorialised. But perhaps a more adequate picture of the intensity and dynamism of energy at sea and on land, leading up to the mutiny is provided. The sense in which tradition is broken and re-linked, giving rise to a reinvigorated new condition that leads to further development is conveyed better than many current observances of what occurred. The above description certainly stands in contrast to the standard description of Bounty events i.e. in 1789, there was a mutiny aboard HMS Bounty led by Fletcher Christian against Captain William Bligh who was set to sea in a long boat and sailed across the Pacific to Indonesia, and the mutineers settled on Pitcairn Island.

The internet and hybrid culture

The capacity of the internet and hybrid cultures to be broken apart or shattered and to start again on new or old lines provides an appropriate context for utilising the internet to create hybrid cultures composed of diverse formative influences. In the District of Leistavia, Pitcairn Island, Norfolk Island and Estonian cultural, political and social influences became the context for generating a new cultural space.

Image 3: This image features 'Fat Marguerita' one of the gates to old Tallinn. Articles from the Estonian Constitution were incorporated into the Leistavian Constitution, particularly where these aligned with constitution voting response data.
Some aspects of the formative cultures become parts of the generated culture – in this case the territorialisation follows old lines. Some aspects of Leistavia are not part of Pitcairn-Norfolk culture (for example some aspects of Leistavia are derived solely from Estonian influence), and in that context the reterritorialisation follows new lines.


The process of collating internet based research (and providing active links back to original material) and creating the website for the District of Leistavia project, replicates asignifying rupture well. For example, parts of the Estonian constitution were copied from the source website and pasted into Dreamweaver, where it was formatted appropriately and uploaded to the internet. In other words, a deterritorialisation of Estonian heritage content was made and this was territorialised in a web space known as the District of Leistavia; both places share the right to self realisation, with the Estonian constitution as the origin. The territorialisation involved collating material from the geographically and culturally diverse Pitcairn and Norfolk islands, and putting these together with Estonian content in the internet territory of Leistavia.

III. the District of Leistavia welcomes you

The borders of the District of Leistavia are digital files. In order to create boundaries, some form of constitution was required. This necessitated the generation of questions that could capture information relevant to Leistavia. As such, the constitution voting questions were written following interconnections found between the founding cultures. To be specific on this point, the founding cultural influences on Leistavia are recorded as bias in the constitution voting questionnaire. Any questionnaire has cultural bias, and the voting questions have apparent influences derived from issues of great concern to all three locations, in particular issues around sovereignty and a critique of Western European cultural and financial imperialism.

This critique is shared by many beyond the bounds of Leistavia. One of the peculiarities of the project is that while 'Leistavia' has an identity, it appears to be a fiction, yet the voting that formed the basis of the constitution directly records the actual opinions of those voting.

A research period occurred at the same time as discussions via email and the internet commenced. The aim was to locate topics of importance to the three formative locations. Given the benefit of hindsight, the issues around this process can now be articulated with some clarity.

It became clear while working on the project that a singularity in expression was inappropriate to a multiplicity. Consequently the exhibited project did not consist solely of a website. The website and questionnaire was augmented by an animated loop of images and associated documentation and research for the website, a DVD of images of Leistavia, vinyl prints of the Leistavian crest and language-equations, hard copy prints, leis and an old ladder from the Tallinn hospital. The context for the ladder was that a sense of old architecture was common to all three sources, and a ladder in architectural terms occupies the space in-between planes. This was the multiplicity displayed in Estonia as part of ISEA 2004, that was both 'about' Leistavia and was a multiplicity of the meanings of the notion of 'Leistavia'.

The third section of this paper examines the development and creation of the District of Leistavia. Firstly the collated responses to voting questions are summarised, which provide an interesting view of the opinions of the participants in a created hybrid culture - the summary mimics statistics reported in news media when presenting information around political and other issues. The research behind the writing of the constitution questions is then exposed, and the full list of questions and collated responses for each category is given. Finally, the paper concludes with a brief commentary on results.

Collated voting responses

Voting closed on the final day of exhibition in Tallinn, Estonia. Responses were input to Excel so that percentage statistics could be generated. The results of voting generated some interesting responses.

For example, the openness of cultural borders is contentious in Europe where immigration is concerned, and also in the South Pacific where for example in Fiji the indigenous people have been attempting to maintain control of the government in the face of an expanding Fijian-Indian population. However in voting for the constitution of Leistavia, a substantial majority of respondents (73%) were in favour of keeping cultural borders open.

Similarly, it was considered prior to voting that a degree of sympathy toward the rights of indigenous people might result in a number of respondents being in favour of special rights for some groups. However just over three quarters of voters selected the option of equal rights for all.

The twinning of democracy and monetarist economy were not favoured by respondents, with only 9% of voters opting for a democracy and a mere 5% selecting cash based on gold as the core economic system. The largest percentages of votes (59%) were given to meritocracy as means for selecting the Head of State (the person who has served the community best is selected). Nonarchy (no head of state) received a respectable 30% of votes. The economic system most highly favoured, with over 60% of votes, was ecologically sustainable value. Barter was favoured by 20% of voters and spiritual worth by 14%.

There was a more even spread of votes in the question that asked voters to select species or sub-categories for special protection. While the largest percentage opted for trees and plants (40%), birds, animals and insects received 15, 14 and 10 percent respectively. Primates and aliens received about the same (seven and six percent respectively) with eight percent selecting fish.

Clearly the worst digital crime is government/CIA monitoring of email – this category was selected by 44% of voters. SPAM was next worst, with 26% of votes, followed closely by webcam sites that invade privacy at 19%. Lying about your identity online was not considered a serious crime with only 2% selecting that option. Given the multiplicity of identity allowed by internet identity regimes, on reflection this is perhaps not surprising, but rather a recognition that multiplicity in some identity situations is acceptable.

Respondents were asked to indicate a preference for energy source. One reason for the reply options was to gauge the degree of idealism of the respondents, given that many came upon the voting form in the context of art. A reasonable degree of idealism appears to pervade Leistavia, with Ideas selected by 43% and one fifth of voters selecting Love, as the energy source.

The overwhelming majority of respondents by the huge margin of 91% in favour, 9% against believed all genders should have equal rights in law, endorsing world wide moves to grant gay and lesbian couples the same rights as married heterosexuals.

Intercultural connections and writing the constitutional voting questions

Whilst it would have been possible to take a dictatorial or monarchical stance and dictate a constitution (which has been the strategy for the formation of several internet based cultures known as micronations) [12], questions of legitimacy around this approach arose, partly because research revealed that issues of sovereignty were common to all three formative locations. It was decided to offer alternate types of constitution as options on the voting form.

On Norfolk Island, there has been an ongoing dispute around control of the island and whether or not Australia legitimately has authority there. There is strong resentment at central Australian government imposed initiatives, and the Norfolk Island Self Determination Vanguard lists issues and invites action. Lawyers for some Pitcairn Island men have a case before the Privy Council in regard to whether British Law formally holds over Pitcairn [13]. In Estonia, issues of sovereignty gave rise to a massive political movement [14] in the late 1980's and early 1990's such that secession from Russia was achieved in a bloodless coup with a shadow Estonian government able to step into power relatively swiftly.

Another interconnection found between Estonian, Pitcairn and Norfolk culture that was that the borders of all three have been open to cultural influence and diversity. This has already been discussed in regard to Pitcairn Island cultural practice. As Kalevi Kull wrote

Estonia is a border state in the deepest sense of the word. It has accumulated transition areas of many types of nature and culture, and therefore the concentration of different borders in Estonia is higher than in most other places in the world.


Kylli Mariste (an Estonian who became a collaborator on the project), listed [personal communication] DNA similarities with Latvia and Lithuania, and historical transgressions of borders by Germany, Russia, Sweden and Denmark as all having influence on Estonia. Norfolk Island cultural output forms a diversity without specific roots, with immigrants such as writer Colleen McCulloch among those who have settled there, the souvenir trade, public and independent museums, photographic archives, and a recent reinvigoration of interest in Polynesian forms with businesses such as design label Noa Noa. Question 1 of the voting form reflects the issue of the openness of borders.

Issues recorded in various discussions that arose out of considering the constitution included whether all nationalities should have equal rights, i.e. given there is a world wide concern over the rights of indigenous people, should specific nationalities have preferential rights over others? A certain cynicism regarding democracy, power and money, the influence of organisations such as the International Monetary Fund, and the control exerted by large countries over smaller ones, were registered in the setting of the tone of some reply options - see questions 2, 3 and 4 of the voting form. This cynicism is recorded in contemporary discussions in Estonia around the virtues or otherwise of commercialism following the collapse of Soviet control.

A further located interconnection involved trees. The Norfolk Island flag features a Norfolk pine, for which the island is internationally known; when Mariste was asked for a cultural cliché of Estonia she replied with the vision of a lone tree against a background of sea and sky. The use of wood resource on Pitcairn Island understandably was spelt out in detail in the 1838 Laws, as already mentioned. That is to say, trees and green energy were felt to pervade all three locations. The 1838 Pitcairn Island Laws also provided penalties for harming some sub species (cats and white birds as remarked earlier), and this was used as the context for voting question 5.

For several reasons, question 6 registered the relevance of the digital to Leistavia. These were firstly that the borders of Leistavia were digital. Secondly that primary contact with Estonia was via email and aspects of the culture, history and constitution of Estonia were freely available on the internet [15], in English. Thirdly the Friends of Pitcairn Yahoo.com email list generates huge amounts of email given that the core subject of life on the island revolves around just 47 inhabitants. Fourthly the Norfolk Island forum and direct email contact was used as the basis for discussion of Norfolk Island issues.

The context for question 7 (energy source) reflected worldwide discussion of ecology, the cultural interconnection around trees and arose as an issue in research and email conversation (as well as the previously mentioned query regarding idealistic tendencies).

The constitution of Estonia, written in 1992, recognises the right to self-realisation. Question 8 concerned sexuality – the contentiousness of recognising gay and lesbian rights in San Francisco and by Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches, were international news at the time of creating the project.

Constitution of Leistavia voting form questions and results

Drop down boxes were used so that online participants could select appropriate options, or tick boxes were used to select preferences. The questions are given as they were presented online during the voting period, with some additional information edited out as not of relevance here.
Image 4: Data visualisation of responses to the question ‘How is the Head of State decided?’ Relative sizes are determined by percentage voting responses, and there are overlaps and in between parts to the image.



1. In keeping with the founding cultures of Leistavia, currently the borders are open to outside cultural influence. Should the borders stay open? Select Yes or No from the drop down box.
Yes 77.3%.
No 22.7%.

2. Should all nationalities have equal rights? Answer Yes if all are equal, or No if indigenous rights should be different.
Yes 76.7%.
No 23.3%.

3. How is the Head of State decided? {Select one by ticking your choice}.
Democracy - a millionaire is elected by vote. 9%.
Monarchy - the richest family wins forever. 2%.
Meritocracy - the person who has served the community best is elected. 59%.
Nonarchy - there is no Head of State. 30%.

4. Economic system {select one}.
Barter. 20%.
Cash based on gold. 5%.
Ecologically sustainable value. 61%.
Spiritual worth. 14%.

5. Select two species to be protected {select two}.
Insects. 10%.
Animals/cats/dogs/wild animals. 14%.
Fish. 8%.
Birds. 15%.
Primates. 7%.
Aliens. 6%.
Trees/plants. 40%.

6. What is the worst digital crime? {Select one}.
Lying about your identity online. 2%.
Slow download times. 9%.
SPAM. 26%.
Webcam sites that invade privacy. 19%.
Governments/CIA monitoring email. 44%.

7. Select the energy source for Leistavia {select one}.
Electricity/wood/oil/gas/coal. 7%.
Love. 20%.
Intellectual energy/the energy of ideas. 43%.
Random forces of nature. 27%.
Random forces of humans. 2%.

8. Should all genders (female, male, inter) and sexual orientations be equal in Law? Select Yes or No.
Yes 91%.
No 9%.


Perhaps the most surprising results from voting are (a) the significant rejection of democracy (91% of voters selected other options) as the basis for a system of government and (b) the overwhelming preference for meritocracy. While the ambivalent status of Leistavia perhaps gives rise to caution, the percentages are large enough to be considered indicative of a trend that is real. Certainly the status of these statistics is similar to those reported in news media (television, radio, newspapers and websites) about contemporary issues.

There is an assumption among Western leaders that democracy is the only coherent choice for proper governance of the people. However the results here show that sections of the art community and those that have an interest in the formation of virtual communities, are not inclined to agree as a matter of course. Indeed the presumptive base of the superiority of democracy has not itself been tested, and it would be very interesting to allow voters worldwide the opportunity to select between meritocracy and democracy as proposed bases for governance.

Similarly, there is a presumption that it is natural to value the dollar in economies and this forms the basis for internal government policies worldwide and international intervention in economies by organisations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Results of voting here indicate that at least a significant proportion of people might wish this presumption reviewed, and given sustainability was an option, might well prefer it even where this might mean increased costs to the country/ies involved.

The profile of voters who contributed to the Constitution of Leistavia is contemporary in flavour. Leistavia is a place where cultural borders are open, all nationalities have equal rights, trees and birds are protected, and the monitoring of email by governments is considered worse than SPAM, webcam sites that invade privacy and lying about your identity online. The energy of ideas is greatly respected, and gender and sexual orientations are equal in law. These are the ideals of a networked, international and internationally minded group of voters – a demographic that will play a more significant role in world culture and politics as time progresses. The project in one sense has become litmus of the new global person: internet enabled, politically concerned and ecologically aware. Evidence of this person can be seen in the global response by people, rather than politics, to the Tsunami disaster. As the District of Leistavia traverses 21st century artistic and cultural practice, further projects are anticipated to arise in new contexts.




[1] ‘The current leitmotif of multicultural discourse is hybridity’ (3, p. 1 of 3) wrote Eduardo Manuel Duarte in 1997.
[2] For a discussion of hybridity and the urban environment see Hybrid urbanism edited by Nezar AlSayyad (Oxford: Praeger, 2001).
[3] ‘The floating frontier [of Mexico and America] is a social space of hybridisation’ (4, p. i) according to the editors of Latin American Issues in 1998.
[4] See Glynn Christian A Fragile Paradise: The Discovery of Fletcher Christian Bounty Mutineer (New York: Little Brown and Company, 1982).
[5] Nicolson in his appendix 1 gives a full list of births, deaths and marriages of Pitcairn people.
[6] Excerpts from H. L. Shapiro’s Robinson Crusoe’s Children: The Strange Story of Nine English Mutineers Who, More Than a Hundred Years Ago, Took Up Their Abode With Their Native Tahitian Wives, on a Desert Island in the South Seas—The Life and Heredity of the Descendants of These First Settlers on Pitcairn and Norfolk Islands can be found online in Natural History magazine’s Pick from the Past, May-June 1928 http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/editors_pick/1928_05-06_pick.html (9 December 2004). Shapiro’s much celebrated use of measurement to record profiles and develop a theory of hybrid vigour in descendants is now discounted, as he did not distinguish sufficiently between direct descendants and those with DNA from settlers on Pitcairn and Norfolk.
[7] Robert Langdon (6) is making in interesting case for Tahitian blood being mixed with European before the Bounty episode as a consequence of the disappearance of the Spanish caravel San Lesmes in 1526.
[8] See Phillip Clarke, Hell and paradise: the Norfolk Bounty Pitcairn saga (New York: Viking 1986).
[9] The 1838 Laws are given in full on the District of Leistavia project pages – see the District of Leistavia welcomes you http://intercreate.org/hybridia/index02.htm - the original Leistavia site, which includes a summary of email discussion, internet research and the constitution voting questions. The District of Leistavia is you - the follow on project - is located at http://intercreate.org/hybridia/index.htm and includes a voting summary and constitution. The 1838 Laws are linked from both locations.
[10] This occurrence is mentioned in Angus McBean’s Handicrafts of the South Seas, South Pacific Commission publication, date unknown.
[11] The usefulness of concepts within Deleuze and Guattari’s writing in describing phenomena without complex re-interpretation has been commented on previously, notably in Manuel De Landa’s A thousand years of nonlinear history (New York: Zone Books, 1997).
[12] Wordiq.com gives the following (edited) information about micronations. ‘A micronation (aka cybernation, fantasy country, model country, new country project, pseudonation, counternation, ephemeral state, online nation, and variants thereof) is an entity intended to exist on equal footing with recognized independent states, replace, resemble, or mock. Some micronations are created with serious intent, while others exist as a hobby or stunt. For the most part they exist only on paper, on the internet, or in the minds of their creators and participants.’ For a full history of micronations, see http://intercreate.org/hybridia/pages/micron02.htm
[13] This question has arisen in present times due to British officers of law bringing allegations of sexual misconduct to trial on Pitcairn. The Privy Council is due to make a ruling in 2005.
[14] A 600km human chain demanding freedom for Baltic states was formed on August 23rd 1989 see Küllo Arjakas, http://www.ibs.ee/ibs/history/brief/brief3.html#restore (27 July 2004).
[15] The Estonian constitution can be found at http://www.oefre.unibe.ch/law/icl/en00000_.html with aspects of history and culture at http://www.einst.ee



Homi K Bhabha, The location of culture (London: Routledge, 1994).
Stephen Wray, Rhizomes, nomads, and resistant internet use http://www.nyu.edu/projects/wray/RhizNom.html 1998 (20 May 2002).
Eduardo Manuel Duarte, 'Self as postcolonial pastiche: Historical Artifact and Multicultural Ideal' in Philosophy of Education 1997 http://www.ed.uiuc.edu/EPS/PES-Yearbook/97_docs/duarte.html (15 May 2002).
Jaume Martí-Olivella, Fernando Valerio-Holguín, Giles Wayland-Smith (Eds.), '(De)Constructing the Mexican-American Border' in Latin American Issues [Online] Vol 14(1) 1998 http://webpub.allegheny.edu/group/LAS/LatinAmIssues/Articles/Vol14/LAI_vol_14_intro.html (11 October 2004).
Robert Nicolson, The Pitcairners. (Auckland: Pasifica Press 1997 reprint of 1965 edition by Angus & Robertson).
Robert Langdon, '"Dusky damsels": Pitcairn Island's Neglected Matriarchs of the Bounty saga', in Journal of Pacific History June 2000, http:findarticles.com/cf_0/m2375/1_35/63583964/print.html (17/9/01).
Europan 6, http://www.europan.nl/europan6/euro6_alg_e.html 2001 (8 October 2002).
Herb Ford, The Miscellany of Pitcairn's Island (Mountain View California: Pacific Press Publishing Association 1980). This book is a compilation of the items from the monthly Pitcairn newspaper.
Roy Sanders, Our Island. (Unpublished thesis for Master of Arts, University of Auckland, Auckland 1953).
O'Connell, Architecture and Identity http://www.ithaca.edu/faculty/oconnell/identity/archidenthybrid.htm (15 May 2002).
George P Landow, Linguistic Hybridity: Making a Dictionary of Singaporean and Malaysian English http://www.scholars.nus.edu.sg/landow/post/singpaore/people/language/sme.html (15 May 2002).
Giles Deleuze & Felix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987).
Rachel Green, Internet Art (London: Thames & Hudson, 2004).
Robin B Hamman, Rhizome@Internet: using the Internet as an example of Deleuze and Guattari's "Rhizome" 1996 http://www.socio.demon.co.uk/rhizome.html (8 December 2004).
Kalevi Kull, Estonian Culture http://www.einst.ee/culture/ (19 July 2004).

This article was originally published in Convergence Volume 11 Number 4p 44-59; London, Thousand Oaks and New
Delhi:Sage Publications. Reprint by permission.


Ian M Clothier was born in Christchurch New Zealand, South Pacific, and is maternally a direct descendant of the Tahitians and mutineers of HMS Bounty, a unique hybrid culture. An artist writer, he has exhibited in San Jose (ISEA 2006), Ithaca, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Vancouver, Tallinn (ISEA 2004), Dublin, Hobart and around New Zealand. District of Leistavia projects were also selected for the 2005 Vodafone Digital Art Awards, and by ZKM for Public Assembly. He was awarded an Artist Fellowship by the University of Canterbury in 2005. His written work has been published in the peer reviewed journals Convergence and Digital Creativity, a recent article was published in the German book Kultureller Umbau: Räume, Identitäten, Re/Präsentationen (Cultural Reconstruction: Spaces, Identities, Re/Presentations), and a paper for the US journal Leonardo is due to be published in February 2008.











- © 2007 all rights reserved -