The Community Layer: A New Frontier

The Community Layer: A New Frontier

August 31, 2023

Exploration of the Hyper-Aware Web

Across the life of the Internet, we’ve experienced multiple transformations of technology, culture, and media. In web3, it’s important for us to remember all the hard work that went into building the Internet as we know it, especially since younger crypto users might not be aware of our history.

With that in mind, here we’ll explore a history of hyper-terms as coined by computer inventors across the last nearly 50 years that describe how people have utilized new technologies.

As new terms are being coined within the web3 ecosystem, you’ll be introduced to hyperstructures, hypercultures, hypercommons, and hypercuration to describe how we are utilizing the protocols, memes, public goods, and curated media in onchain and offchain activities.

It’s even more important that we give concrete examples and thoughts on how you can take action today to begin making your experience in web3 a more whole and playful adventure.

This is what I’m calling The Hyper Community Model, a series of layers that connect culture and technology. Just as the internet has a Network Layer to connect its various protocols through open systems like HTTP (websites) and SMTP (email), we now have exploratory structures such as DAOs, immutable protocols, and onchain identifiers that fulfill cultural needs.

One really important takeaway from my research on this topic is that early web builders faced very similar challenges we continue to face today when building interfaces. This essay is a study of curated materials from thought leaders in the web3 space, not meant to be entirely organic but a recounting of our current ecosystem.

Hypertext, Hyperlinks, Hypermedia, Oh My!

These first beautifully crafted democratic interfaces for users to travel through gave us portals into billions of lived experiences across the globe. As of 2023, over 1.13 billion websites have been created. Linking to and from them gives us the immersive experiences we love today.

They also gave way to the first online community boards for decentralized messaging systems dating back to a blizzard in 1978, like BBS and, eventually, Usenet.

In 1987 Apple introduced the HyperCard system, where users could click between stories linked together, which, at its most basic level, gave people opportunities to influence how they viewed information. Sound familiar? (see: Instagram, Tiktok)

The hyperlink has been around since the 60s, coined by Ted Nelson and utilized more widely by Tim Burners-Lee, giving web users building blocks to craft narratives and literally link people, places, and experiences together at the birth of the world wide web. This seemingly simple concept created an explosion of information readily available that simply was not possible. Now you can begin to see how these tech innovations eventually led to IPFS links to blockchain data today.

Hyperlinks and embedded media ushered in a new era of globally distributed content. It started with universities and research centers, then reached homes through US phone lines and beyond.

These early hyper inventions created a culture in the early days of the web we continue to emulate by crafting relationships, except now through decentralized blockchain networks like Ethereum and, increasingly, layer2 protocols like Optimism, Zora, and Base, NFTs that drive culture, and new onchain social networks like Lens and Farcaster.

The Future of Media and The Community Layer

As a network engineer, I spent many years of my career thinking in layers, models, systems, and processes. As a community builder who has utilized multiple platforms; frameworks and models naturally emerge as guides for engagement where members thrive.

These models have historically been grounded in centralized platforms for the past 20 years or so when “web2” started taking off.

Even non-crypto communities are beginning to take up community ownership models, so it’s well worth it to explore these systems for anyone not building for a web3-native community.

The 7 layers of the OSI model 

In networking systems, there are seven layers that make up packet destinations and transmissions. These are:

  1. Physical Layer: This layer deals with the physical transmission of raw data over the network medium.
  2. Data Link Layer: Responsible for creating a reliable link between two directly connected nodes, addressing, and error detection.
  3. Network Layer: Focuses on routing and forwarding data packets between devices across different networks.
  4. Transport Layer: Manages end-to-end communication, ensuring data reliability, segmentation, and reassembly.
  5. Session Layer: Controls the establishment, management, and termination of communication sessions.
  6. Presentation Layer: Handles data format translation, encryption, and compression to ensure compatibility between different systems.
  7. Application Layer: Provides network services directly to applications, enabling user interaction with the network.

The 4 Layers of the Hyper Community Model

Now, when it comes to creating an easy-to-understand Community Model, we have four main layers to consider which route to how crypto users are demonstrating their use of new tech.

More of our lives at the edges of the Internet are thrust onchain through art and culture, and as community builders, we ask ourselves how and why we are centering others through groups of people who actually care about one another, not just hyper-financialization and gamification. The layers of this model are less like a vertical and more like a revolving door that allows users to step into any portal that fits their needs at a given time.

Hyperstructures by Jacob (read more)

First up, we have Hyperstructures. Documented in 2022 by Jacob, the co-founder of Zora, who describes this layer as crypto protocols that can run for free and forever, without maintenance, interruption or intermediaries.

Hyperstructures have a few distinct qualities that are required for them to operate as such. These include:

  • Unstoppable: the protocol cannot be stopped by anyone. It runs for as long as the underlying blockchain exists.
  • Free: there is a 0% protocol-wide fee, and runs exactly at gas cost.
  • Valuable: accrues value that is accessible and exitable by the owners.
  • Expansive: there are built-in incentives for participants in the protocol.
  • Permissionless: universally accessible and censorship-resistant. Builders and users cannot be deplatformed.
  • Positive sum: it creates a win-win environment for participants to utilize the same infrastructure.
  • Credibly neutral: the protocol is user-agnostic.

The rising stars of hyperstructures are Zora and Base of the OP Stack. They are intrinsically non-extractive in nature and provide distribution through shared fees to the community, curators, and minters of onchain media. This is important to the hyper community model because it gives power to the individual and collective users of the infrastructure, reinforcing power with rather than power over systems.

Hypercultures by LGHT (read more)

If hyperstructures are protocols that run free and forever, then hypercultures are the creative context through which memetic cultures also live free and forever. This flow from culture to protocol takes users through an adventure never seen before in online or onchain experiences.

The important piece here with hypercultures is the context that brings people together to create culture together. It’s an onchain bonding activity. This redefines the meaning of creativity by allowing new modes and potential members to plug into activities onchain. With a dash of your own creativity, you could craft the next hyperculture of your own invention.

Examples of hypercultures:

  • Zora - Zorb
  • Nouns - Noggles
  • Nike Swoosh, Just Do It slogan, dotswoosh
  • Batman - Bat symbol, black and gold colors (a personal favorite)

Hypercommons by gami (read more)

Hypercommons sees a return of the Nouns ecosystem that’s one of those revolving doors in their own right. They’ve certainly earned their place in the Hyper Community Layer on multiple fronts, from creating Noggles glasses down to the DAO funding structures to allow their hyperculture to reverberate through a very specific type of hypercommons model utilizing what gami calls a “positive-sum world.”

Hypercommons are, in essence, common goods or often referred to as public goods. They are onchain mechanisms for positively affecting our onchain and offchain world. This is a movement to provide unwavering support to sewing the seeds that create brighter futures for us all, and you can be part of that world.

Examples of hypercommons:

Hypercuration by Riley Blackwell (read more)

Hypercuration is where all these layers come together as media and community connections combine to filter and sift through the noise of the web to send signals of incredible ideas, applications, and people that make up our growing ecosystem. This layer is particularly dear to my heart as a community builder, marketer, and creative as curation gives us all a unique part in collaborating as a collective.

Community builders are natural curators of people, allowing space for connecting others to the best the Internet has to offer by pulling on the strings that glow in every part of this vibrant space. I’ve defined hypercuration by the context for crypto culture, crafted freely, flowing through communities that enable and enforce the interfaces through which luxury media is co-created within and on top of hyperstructures.

Examples of hypercuration:

  • Cloud Scouts - facilitates and curates community building and marketing resources through peer development
  • HUG - connects artists with collectors through curation and discovery
  • Take Up Space - curates media of all shapes and sizes through an intersectional lens
  • Boys Club - a social DAO for the always online, always on trend
  • RADAR - research and imagination community accelerating better futures in multiplayer mode

How You Can Get Involved

You might think that as the number of users of web3 tech dwindles that there isn’t much going on, but it’s actually quite the opposite. I’ve seen first-hand that there’s more than enough to go around when it comes to applications being built, communities that need contributors, and protocols to participate in the upside of their creation.

The saying “bear markets are for builders” holds true. Those building on the fringes of the web consistently enjoy unfair advantages when new technology gains adoption. And whether more people adopt onchain tech is yet to be seen, but one thing is true, diving headfirst into this space offers too much upside to ignore, and the work you collaborate on doesn’t need to be speculative in nature.

In the following weeks, we’ll explore how community, marketing, and identity management builders are contributing to these spaces in meaningful ways to give actionable steps for readers.

You’ll gain insights into how they work, why they create the media we consume, and what this means for the future of the web through the various community layers.

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Meet the writer

Riley is an online and onchain community builder. She's facilitated online connections since 2012 in areas like gaming, fashion, and education and has been actively building in web3 since 2021 to take identity, governance, and marketing to their intentional, values-driven next levels at the edges of the web.
Riley Blackwell
Founder, Cloud Scouts, freelance community strategist, and writer.
Riley enjoys talking to builders of all stages about identity and community in web3 and spends her free time watching sci-fi films and learn