Decentralized Playground:
Geocities, Zines, and Community

According to the Merriam-webster dictionary, community is a unified group of individuals. The groups are unified because there are common characteristics shared between the individuals, and the shared characteristics can be various: common interests, common history, common geographic location and so on.

Centralization vs. Decentralization is an interesting question in technology and online communities. Many social media present as decentralized platforms, where users are free to generate content by themselves and explore whatever they would like to see. However, those web traffic goes through centralized servers. The feeds curated by algorithms only show the users the thing they want to see, hence a one-sided view of the world is constructed, which could probably lead to increased bias and polarization. In this way, Centralized social media is not an effective way to connect people to each other.

This publication explores two decentralized communities—zines and Geocities—both unofficial publication with unprofessional graphic expression. In contrast to the centralized social media, by producing zines and networking with each other on Geocities, people become producers instead of merely consumers, creating their own spaces rather than living within the confines of those made for them. No one is in absolute charge of the two communities. Zine publishers and Geocities users created contents and maintained their communities with love of expression, sharing, and communication.

There are also interesting differences between zines and Geocities. The most obvious one is that the zines have the materiality the Geocities don't have, which helped people form relationships rooted in physical realities easily. Geocities also has its uniqueness: the neighborhood townships were analogous to the township in reality. The community, while based online, gave users a sense of geographical experience. There are users who live next door and further off, and these features were represented visually.

While the two decentralized communities are not perfect, through these dynamic communities, we can see how people practiced self-expression and responded to the heavily branded mainstream media in the late 20th century.


This online publication explores two decentralized communities—zines and Geocities—and their history, social context, visual expression and ideology.

Jade Ning
RISD 2021
Critical Issues Studio



Decentralized Playground:
Geocities, Zines, and Community

According to the Merriam-webster dictionary, community is a unified group of individuals. The groups are unified because there are common characteristics shared between the individuals, and the shared characteristics can be various: common interests, common history, common geographic location and so on.

Centralization vs. Decentralization is an interesting question in technology and online communities. Many social media present as decentralized platforms, where users are free to generate content by themselves and explore whatever they would like to see. However, those web traffic goes through centralized servers. The feeds curated by algorithms only show the users the thing they want to see, hence a one-sided view of the world is constructed, which could probably lead to increased bias and polarization. In this way, Centralized social media is not an effective way to connect people to each other.

This publication explores two decentralized communities—zines and Geocities—both unofficial publication with unprofessional graphic expression. In contrast to the centralized social media, by producing zines and networking with each other on Geocities, people become producers instead of merely consumers, creating their own spaces rather than living within the confines of those made for them. No one is in absolute charge of the two communities. Zine publishers and Geocities users created contents and maintained their communities with love of expression, sharing, and communication.

There are also interesting differences between zines and Geocities. The most obvious one is that the zines have the materiality the Geocities don't have, which helped people form relationships rooted in physical realities easily. Geocities also has its uniqueness: the neighborhood townships were analogous to the township in reality. The community, while based online, gave users a sense of geographical experience. There are users who live next door and further off, and these features were represented visually.

While the two decentralized communities are not perfect, through these dynamic communities, we can see how people practiced self-expression and responded to the heavily branded mainstream media in the late 20th century.

This online publication explores two decentralized communities—zines and Geocities—and their history, social context, visual expression and ideology.

Jade Ning
RISD 2021
Critical Issues Studio