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OurPangea For Education

art education collage title

Education without schools – radical, disturbing, I know.

What I should say is education can exist without schools, but it requires having something to learn from. I grew up with the Internet. When I had questions I could always ask Google. What I really wanted, however, was to hear from other people because other people can validate you in a way a statistic cannot. Education can exist if there are experts we can talk to, and it’d only be better if there were communities of experts we could easily find.

As OurPangea grows we want to see the rise of expert communities. All of those interested people who have done their research, thought about it, and need to discuss should be able to easily connect with communities of like-minded people. They shouldn’t have to spend time searching for those people, they should be able to look at a directory, find them, and start talking.

In a sense, these communities of experts are no different than a classroom; there is simply no teacher, just interested students. Each individual will have their own perspective to share and everyone can learn from each other. Each community can create, collect, and share their ideas. The community itself becomes the teacher, encouraging each student.

I may seem to imply that education is relegated to classical fields such as math, language, and science – it’s not. On OurPangea education shouldn’t be relegated to anything. We want to encourage the arts in the ways our school system cannot. We want to build communities of artists for their sake and for the sake of those interested. There is no limit to what a single person might be interested in and we want to make sure we can connect them to people who share that interest.

It’s disturbing that finding other people with similar interests is so hard. And it will take a radical solution to make the process better. Education without schools is a supplement to the classroom. It’s for all of the things schools can’t afford to teach and encourage. It’s for all of the little things in life that might fall through the cracks if they are not nurtured. And all you need is one person. Just one person who believes in that small interest. Someone to encourage and support you.

OurPangea is built to help you find that one person, for that one interest, in that one moment.

A Conversation Over a Gyro

A few days ago I took a visit to our apartment’s corner convenience store for a gyro. After a short wait, my friend and gyro chef extraordinaire Gabbiano paused before handing over the goods.

gyro lettuce tomatoes lamb delicious

“Can I ask you a question?” he started, with a hint of frustration. “How do I find someone online?  I have a name, but nothing came up on Facebook or Google. What’s the best way to find them?”

My mind spun. This was a perfect way to introduce someone to OurPangea and a textbook example of what it makes easier in day-to-day terms. In other words, this should’ve been a slam dunk answer. I wanted to tell him to sign-up for OurPangea which would let him find anyone as long as he knew the name or community the person is in (for example, Austin, Texas or Texas Gyro-lovers). I wished I could say “no prob, Gabbiano.  Just sign up, type in your friend’s name, and everyone that matches will show up. From there you can narrow it down by location.”

However, OurPangea is not live, so instead of those things I wanted to tell Gabbiano, I shrugged and answered, “Facebook and Google are really the best way right now.”  Seeing frustration and disappointment on his face I wished him luck and encouraged him that once our system was up this type of thing would be much easier.

A couple days later Noah and I were grabbing lunch with a few people to give a quick demo of our prototype and get their thoughts. We started off by going through the photos, a feature that aggregates all photos uploaded within a community’s groups. Through voting, the most popular photos become the main profile photo that represents the entire community.  Our friends thought that was so cool.  They started to imagine the possibilities themselves.

What if I took the photo that defined my city?

These two conversations happened independently, in a relatively short period of time. It says to us that what we’re doing is something that people want to use and see the value in.  We want your actions to have an impact on the community around you, and we created OurPangea to broadcast the most popular content, photos, and people of any given community. Picture how much value your interactions (posts, photos, events, opinions) could add if each public activity was broadcast to your city en masse? Your college or residence hall would be changed forever.

We’re into community building. We think there should be a better way to discover and participate in your communities. We’ve found a better way to represent real-life communities online by crowdsourcing the culture that makes them unique.

That’s what we’re doing. What you do with OurPangea is up to you.

The Why In Community

texture infographic green brown

For the longest time community was all we had. It was vital to survival. Over time we forged civilizations to support us, but our community roots never left, they adapted. Today, in the fast paced modern world a sense of community is as important as ever. We seek it out in the area surrounding us and we seek it out online. When we seek community online and offline we gain a sense of belonging from what we find. If only the two were more closely intertwined. 

What if I could use the Internet to find the communities around me? What if the communities around me were also online?

I can use Google.com if I know exactly what I am looking for, and even then it won’t drum up communities as readily as I’d like.

I can use Facebook.com to get in contact with the people I already know.

I can use Meetup.com to find a few events in my area or any other event site for that matter.

But there is nothing I can use to discover the communities around me and actually participate and feel welcome in them. The Internet remains its own place. There are some forum communities on the Internet but I can’t easily use these to meet new people in my area. The ability to find local communities is missing on the web, and inversely, real life communities don’t use the web to bridge the period of time the people are away.

If we created a place on the web to replicate the communities you’re a part of we’ll create a place where other people can go to find you, and where you can go to find them. We need to do a better job of using the web to create and aid communities. We need OurPangea.

The Internet is a Community…Well, sort of.

Cultivating connections and organizing them into meaningful communities can do a lot for the Internet.

circles disorganized desk paperwork office

In many ways the Internet has turned into one of the largest communities in the history of the world. It serves as a meeting place, an information hub, an entertainment device and a business avenue. Since its inception, our Internet has created so many connections, many of which reach across oceans, over mountains and across continents. However, the Internet is lacking in two very important areas: organization and meaning.

Sure, you can find almost anything online in a matter of seconds and the Internet can connect you to someone half a world away, but until now this great tool has failed to provide us with a real structure to organize our connections and grow true online communities on a grand scale.

The connections we form online tend to be a part of our offline social networks. These networks might include co-workers, classmates, family members, friends, acquaintances, celebrities or your local milkman. Services such as Google+ have begun to catch on to the user need for structure, providing a system for organizing those connections into circles that can be extremely helpful in expediting and optimizing communication within those circles.

It’s still not enough.

Although circles are a truer version of what life is like in the real world, we all know that life is far more complicated than just designating a friend as part of your “school” circle or your “arch nemesis” circle. That’s still not a community.

A community is not just a place where you can communicate with other specific users, it’s a place where you can organize, collaborate, promote, schedule or whatever else you need to do. Yes, you can do a lot of this simply by messaging certain groups of people, but truly mobilizing those people can be difficult without the necessary tools, especially if not all of the people in a group live near one another. It’s difficult to form and maintain meaningful connections when online communication has made communication so much less personal.

To form and maintain meaningful connections we need something more out of the Internet. Meaningful connections take time to develop and generally spring from common interests. It is such meaningful connections that are the most fundamental components of a true community.

What we need is a personal space that provides us with the tools to organize our own communities and grow rewarding, even life-altering relationships. We need something organic and OurPangea will provide a user experience that is powered by the context of each relationship we have. On OurPangea users will find that they will have unprecedented freedom to define, curate and evolve each relationship they have with more meaning than before. These features overcome the gray areas that exist in current networks and context will give users more accurate insight into how each of their relationships play unique, key roles in the structure and function of their real world communities.

The Internet needs a new kind of network and OurPangea, the Community Network, is poised to change the way we see and interact with our world.

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