The virtual exhibition, Peuples des eaux, gens des îles : l’Océanie, presents a prototype of the ECHO/CHEO project (Encyclopédie Culturelle Hypermédia de l’Océanie/Cultural Hypermedia Encyclopedia of Oceania). It is currently available only in French. Nonetheless, the three graphs Ancêtres (Ancestors), Maison (House) and Wantok display nodes that will be easily understandood by the English-speaking public. By clicking on them, you can access several photographs of objects that form part of the Oceanic collections of the Musée de la civilisation in Québec, and of the Musée d’Aquitaine (Bordeaux) and the Musée des Arts Africains, Océaniens et Amérindiens (Marseille). QTVR manipulations of several of these artefacts are also available. Finally videos and sound recordings document several nodes.

Hopefully, we will be able to provide a complete English version of the site in a not too distant future.


- To presents elements of the history and cultures of the peoples of Oceania in a language that can be understood by the general public. We can learn many things that can help us to become better human beings.

- To implement a virtual college bringing together Oceanians and scientists specializing in Oceania, which will develop and increase knowledge in a cumulative way.

- To illustrate the bearing of the attractor-attraction basin model as a means of representing knowledge in the social sciences and the humanities.


The implementation of this site is the result of the joint effort of the Musée de la civilisation, in Québec and the Université Laval Faculty of Social Sciences. The main architects of the site as well as the international contributors to texts and hypermedia material – scholars and institutions – are listed in the credits.

Financial support was provided by the Fonds pour l’autoroute de l’information (FAI) of the Québec, Ministère de la culture et des communications, as part of the Québec/France ECHO project, with contributions from the Ministère de la culture et de la communication of France and the French Embassy in Ottawa. Grants from the Research Development Initiatives program of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and from the Fonds pour la formation des chercheurs et l’aide à la recherche (FCAR) (Québec government) also contributed significantly to the development of the site. Other partners include CREDO (Centre de documentation et de recherche sur l’Océanie, Marseille) and the EHESS (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris).


This model is based on a concrete pragmatic approach that goes beyond the confine of broad academic categories. Instead, tangible, semiotic meaningful keywords are used. Consequently, the word HOUSE is used instead of VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURE, ANCESTORS replaces TRADITIONAL RELIGION, and WANTOK ("ONE-TALK") (, i.e., a Pidgin term that stands for all those who, speak the same language and band together in Pacific towns and cities to form relatively fragmented or stable communities) is used instead of URBAN ANTHROPOLOGY.

This “attractors” and “attraction basins” representation of knowledge on Oceania constitutes an innovative method derived from neurosciences. Thus, a set of associated nodes gravitates around Ancestors, which “attracts” them, with some nodes (hypertext) intersecting partly with nodes clustered around House and Wantok. Such graphic representations aim to illustrate Oceanic polysemy as it expands along the concentric circles of which an attractor is the centre.

All the graphs have the same basic configuration. The ATTRACTOR is in the centre of three concentric circles on which the nodes stand to form its ATTRACTION BASIN. Each node refers to a concrete “keyword” in Oceanic terms, and its position on one of the three circles corresponds to its semantic distance from the ATTRACTOR at the centre. The diffraction of some nodes over several vectors illustrates the polysemic scope of cultural symbols.

Attractors and their attraction basins constitute moving galaxies whose dynamics vary from one Pacific population to another. ECHO/CHEO should, in time, provide the means to visit Oceania, taking into account the various configurations (attraction basins) according to the parameters selected by the user.