I’ve been taking a break from working on the How the Economy Works tutorial. Thank you to those who shared it with others! However, I’m still having trouble (as far as I can tell) getting it in front of people for whom this content is not already at least somewhat familiar.
To try some new directions, a few weeks ago I started on a much shorter interactive tutorial, “How Loans Create Money“, incorporating balance sheets more centrally into the page-by-page narrated tutorial format in a way that I hope is accessible to more people than those who benefit from the Macroeconomic Balance Sheet Visualizer. Since then, this has become a hot topic in the econoblogosphere, with debates between Paul Krugman, Steve Keen, Scott Fullwiler, and others! It’s very foundational stuff.
Tentative near term plans in rough order of priority:
- Finish publishable draft of How Loans Create Money tutorial.
- Finish publishable draft of Macroeconomic Circular Flow Visualizer — it’s a bit like the Macroeconomic Balance Sheet Visualizer, but lets you control leakages and injections and view changing flow volumes, deficits & surpluses, etc.
- Attempt to bring the How the Economy Works tutorial to a higher professional standard of visual and audio quality to help with potential appeal to newcomers.
- After that, there are numerous possibilities for additional tutorial content (and it will get easier as the underlying content engine evolves)… Feel free to make content requests!
How the Economy Works — a Visual Tutorial seeks the right audience of would-be learners. This seems most likely to be:
- People who would like to learn more about the nuts and bolts of how the economy works and some of the things wrong with conventional wisdom, but don’t have the time or patience for the econoblogosphere, academic papers, or textbooks.
- Newcomers to MMT interested in a “quick start” overview before delving deeper into the core MMT material available at Mosler Economics, Billy Blog, Economics Perspective from Kansas City, etc.
The feedback a few months ago when I put the first draft online was positive and responses suggested the material worthy of recommending to others. (And I have been attempting improvements ever since, though the core set of topics/pages covered has not changed, so you probably won’t see much that’s new if you’ve already gone through it).
So lest it just gather dust, please consider passing the link on to interested friends / family / etc if you believe doing so could be beneficial. I hope at least a few will use the variety of available mechanisms to give feedback on which parts are easy to understand and which parts still need more clarity… and optimizing the content as I get feedback will be an ongoing project for me.
Some people requested more breadth and depth of content. I still hope to cover many more topics (an aspirational roadmap is here) using current and new visualization mechanisms, but given the time involved in producing multimedia content like this, I don’t want to get too far ahead of having an audience for the content. The good news is with the content platform improving by the month as I tweak it, future content will be less time consuming to create.
Of course I know I have to do some work to promote this content too, and do have a few ideas on where to start. But I’d be glad to hear suggestions.
I’ve published an updated copy of the “How the Economy Works” basic tutorial that incorporates some of the changes mentioned in my last post.
- Improvements to user interface layout and controls (with more still needed).
- Redesigned and re-written introductory page and making the choice for audio more prominent.
- Updated content for pages 2-8. Revisions are still needed on page 9 onwards, with some topics likely to be split into separate tutorial(s).
- Initial integration of animations with the step-by-step narration flow.
If you’re already gone through the first version, it’s probably not worth your time to try it again yet… but if you do, please feel free to comment here on what you think are the best next priorities.
The current plan includes:
- Finish re-working the existing content (especially pages 9 onwards).
- Add optional interactive exercises at the end of each page to help reinforce the concepts.
- Expand the optional details (graphs, links to more info, etc)
Once the content is a bit further along it will become more important to find volunteers without prior exposure to these ideas and get feedback on what is working well and what isn’t. Once the introductory tutorial is solid enough to stand alone, I hope to begin to branch out more into a series of new tutorials covering other macroeconomic topics in more detail.
I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time on these visualizations in the last month+, but that only means the gap between what I’ve created and what I STRIVE to create keeps growing bigger! (i.e., I keep thinking of new things). Unfortunately actual implementation of these things proceeds one step at a time. But, I hope to be able to show a bit more progress within the next month. Some of my next priorities include:
- Improvements in user interface and layout for the “how the economy works” tutorial
- Better integration of the visual animations with the tutorial’s step-by-step explanatory dialog
- More progress on an as yet unpublished circular flow simulator that lets you control the economy’s leakages and injections and watch what happens
- Rethinking the “how the economy works” tutorial. My initial goal had been to use visuals and audio to give a “crash course” intro to macroeconomics (the enlightened MMT perspective) in ten minutes of content or less. Unfortunately the current tutorial contains twenty minutes of audio alone, even without the optional text content. So I will probably try to carve out a shorter and simpler intro tutorial and begin work on a series of more detailed subject-specific tutorials that will be separate. Please feel free to comment if you have feedback on this.
- Finding a way to make the “how the economy works” intro tutorial more interesting and curiosity-inspiring to newcomers.
- Integrating a comment system with the visualizations and tutorials to allow visitor feedback and discussion.
Thanks to those of you who have tried out the preview draft version of the How the Economy Works Visual Tutorial and submitted feedback!
Twelve people have answered the three-question mini-survey at the end. Everyone who answered considered the tool to be helpful (or already knew the material) and thought it was on track to be something worth recommending to others. And if you have a more negative impression I hope you will share your comments too, even if anonymously, in the spirit of improvement!
The third survey question asked what needed the most work, with the following choices (up to three votes per person):
- Visuals (prettier diagrams, colors, etc)
- Animations & interactive content
- Voice narration
- Quality of current text/audio content
- Depth of text/audio content (more advanced details)
- Breadth of text/audio content (more topics)
Nobody checked the box for “quality of current text/audio content”, but otherwise the votes were distributed almost evenly across the choices — there were either two or three votes for each item!
It seems that no one aspect of the tutorial so far is significantly behind the others, so I’ll keep working away on improving it across the board (my “to do” list has been growing faster than I can implement it, even before I asked for feedback 🙂 ). I’ll announce major updates or batches of updates to this blog, but make the incremental changes in silence.
Please feel free to offer additional feedback via the comments section of this blog, or via the feedback form and survey embedded in the tutorial if you prefer. I am also planning to attach comment threads to each page in the tutorial, but that’s not ready yet.
Welcome to the EconViz.org blog!
This blog will announce notable updates to the content and functionality of the visualizations and tutorials on EconViz.org.
It is also intended as a forum for visitors to discuss the site and suggest improvements. To that end, the blog may occasionally feature polls, side by side demonstrations of new content possibilities, etc, along with a request for votes and comments to help guide the direction of new development.
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Thanks for your interest!