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Posts by arifranklin

Austin and OurPangea: Preserving the Hidden Gem Weird Capital of the World

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Besides the serious food coma epidemic that recently swept across America after Thanksgiving, Austin, Texas is also coming down from hosting the Circuit of the Americas, which brought the first F1 Grand Prix facility to the U.S.

From my perspective as a relative newbie to Austin the whole experience was a pretty exciting testament to the visibility of the city’s growing energy.  But I did hear many residents adopt the faux greeting “Welcome to LA,” a sarcastically pessimistic but admittedly apt statement on Austin’s rapidly changing (these aforementioned people would say ‘selling-out’) community. Austin is growing, there’s no denying that. The rumors say there are a few hundred people moving here every day.

Rumors aside, what everyone in Austin knows for sure is that construction Downtown is constant. New skyscrapers are making our city taller and more expensive. Streets are becoming progressively congested with traffic and after last weekend it’s less unusual to see a Ferrari at a stoplight next to the Austin-standby ‘man-on-a-two-story-bicycle’ mode of transportation. I wrote earlier about the pride people feel about Austin, and there’s already a desperately sentimental fog hanging over the city representing both a longing to stay a hidden gem and a fear that Austin’s ‘glory days’ as capital of the Weird are over.

Our community is still far from normal, but the seeds of commercialization are being planted, making some Austinites feel the need to grasp onto and hold tight the weirdness that has pushed the city to greatness. As an example,  Austin City Limits, a music festival initially created as a way to celebrate the music of Texas by PBS (read: the perfect Austin-weird music fest), has been expanded to two weekends (read: commercialized), and people are starting to consider Fun Fun Fun Fest as one of the ‘realest’ festivals in town.

From OurPangea’s perspective, we know we can’t stop change from happening. In fact, we think change should be embraced because along with every change, no matter how drastic, there is opportunity.  What’s important is being able to remember our history, recognize where we came from and understand why that matters.

So we want to help everyone in Austin preserve what has made it great while it’s still the hidden gem Weird capital of the world. Why do you live in Austin? What do you love most about Austin? What is your favorite memory? What makes Austin your city??

Think of this as an online time capsule made up of your stories. We want to give people a window into our community so they can see why we love Austin and let them love it with us!  Submit your stories and love letters to Austin here!


Community: An Amalgamation Of Smaller Community Groups

“[Austin people] are not either/or. They are and. Coffee and beer. BBQ joints and vegan potlucks. Students and Techies. State-capital bureaucrats and weed-toking slackers — admittedly those are sometimes the same people.”

-Virginia Woodruff, An Open Love Letter to Austin, Texas

In most cases, no one likes being called ‘weird.’ Being weird implies that you’re a little off. If you’re weird you’re not really an outsider, but you’re not quite an accepted member of the community.   Not in Austin, TX. In our community weird is a strived for badge of honor.

Austin Neighborhood Map

Map courtesy of For the Judgmental Austin map, visit

Have you ever been to Austin? Being ‘weird’ here is an affectionate compliment of the highest level.  Austin’s neighborhoods are the embodiment of an almost unbelievable combination of oxymorons and contradictions.  Perhaps no one has described our modernly in-flux, vibrantly weird capital city of the Nation of Texas better than local blogger Virginia Woodruff.   It’s not easy to define what the Greater Austin Community is like, but perhaps I can introduce you to Austin by helping you understand the smaller parts that make it up.

Any community is, at its core, just a coalescence of smaller groups making up a greater whole. The greater Chicago community couldn’t be the same without Wrigleyville and NYC wouldn’t be the same New York community without Brooklyn or Queens. In this way, every smaller Austin neighborhood contributes a flavor and identity to the essence of what we know as the greater Austin community. An Austin without East Austin might take away some of our city’s signature weirdness and an Austin without the food truck culture would certainly make the food scene less unique, exciting, and loved.  An Austin without any part of it – whether that be the prepsters, the hispters, the knitters, or the fitsers – just wouldn’t be the same.

Maybe the most important criteria to understand about the Austin Community is this: Austin people own our Community like UT owns its football team.  We take pride in our community’s strengths, band together to fix its weaknesses, and revel in an appreciation of our local economy. We want it to be ours, but we also want other people to love it the way we do.

Henceforth, we can see a problem. Unless you come to Austin and experience it physically, you can’t feel the essence of our Community. You can’t love it with us. There is simply nothing that captures community interactions in a realistic way online, much less those of a community as interesting and heterogeneous as Austin. In response to this, we are developing OurPangea to leverage the group dynamics that create real-life communities—interactions, experiences, and information –to bring our entire communities online for anyone, anywhere in the world to glimpse. By capturing the “requirements” of community and putting it at your fingertips, we want to empower you to travel the world like never before.

Our Cultural Introduction

continents flag collage map

From looking at previous posts, it’s probably obvious that we at OurPangea consider history to be important. But one of the reasons we think it’s so critical to understand is because in the scope of global civilization, history is inescapable and cannot be limited to any singular culture. Not only can history not ignore any culture, it transcends all by examining the interactions of ethnic groups with different cultural customs. Comparing and contrasting these different cross-cultural exchanges sheds light on both historical and present-day events.

Indeed many of the historical events we have explored –like the spice trade and Erastothenes—are mainly significant because they involved the interaction between one culture with another.  Along this vein, in our posts over the next couple months we are going to explore some amazing cross-cultural partnerships that have effected society and imagine how we at OurPangea want to make an impact by empowering diverse cultures and societies to interact, connect more meaningfully, and hopefully lead to a more enhanced level of global understanding and congruence.

What if Alexander the Great had never conquested?  Or if Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay had not developed such a strong bond on the climb up Everest? It’s hard to imagine how our world might be different if the inter-mingling of cultures hadn’t occurred.  So over the next few months we’ll be exploring these ideas as a tribute to the wonderful cultural melting pot that embodies our world.

We The Lonely People: Our History Exploration

“For most of history, man found his sense of community where he lived, with the people among whom he was born and with whom he died. For some that remains true today. But most of us in city and suburb live in one place, and find ‘community’ in another.”
-Ralph Keyes

Ralph Keyes, pop-culture author and community-proponent, speculated that modern marvels which have consistently pushed us forward as a technological society have simultaneously deteriorated our ability to form a sense of community.

Keyes wrote We The Lonely People, the article that the above excerpt comes from, in the 1970s and the technology he was specifically referring to were the household conveniences that diminished the habit of families gathering together as a household ‘community,’ but his perspectives are no less accurate or out of place in looking at modern advancements like the Internet and social media today.  In the short history of these broad technologies, we’ve been given the ability to instantly ‘connect,’ been granted tools to play words with friends across the nation, and now have the power to pinpoint our exact location anywhere in the world in mere seconds.

Over the past two months, right here on our blog we’ve been exploring how our communities have evolved, been shaped, and improved as they’ve grown throughout history. We wanted to look at various events, people, and trends from history to elucidate the power and importance of being able to understand our history. Even more so, we hoped to imagine the possibilities of a world where we’re able to harness the power of our collective past and use that focus to encourage our communities to become stronger and stronger as we move forward into the future.

Want another look?  Here’s a full list of all of our history themed posts!

The Importance of History
Common Unity
Remembering History and Using OurPangea to Address Global Trends
Ubuntu: I Am Who I Am Because of Who We All Are
A Conversation Over A Gyro
Making the World Spicy…Literally
Museums, Exhibits, And Galleries
The Rise of Cities
The World Goes Further Than What We See
How OurPangea Is Sharing and Creating History
The Big Support Networks of Education In Small Communities
What We All Share: A Sense of Community
OurPangea for Education
How Education Changes The World
How OurPangea Will Change The World

What topics do you want us to explore??

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