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Understanding Money

A new free online course aims to help us all better analyse how we understand money.

The past decade has changed the ways in which economics has been understood and taught, and to reflect this academics at the University of Southampton have teamed up with the University of Edinburgh, the University of Manchester, Lancaster University and FutureLearn to develop Understanding Money: The History of Finance, Speculation and the Stock Market:

Their Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is open to everyone a draws on literary, cultural, visual and historical studies to explore and explain how money and investment work.

Using the representations of finance in visual culture and literature, the course explores big questions about money: what is it?  What does it do?  How  has our understanding of  money and investment changed over the years? 

The MOOC makes the outcomes of two AHRC-funded research projects widely available: the touring exhibition Show me the Money: The Image of Finance 1700 to the Contemporary and the History of Financial Advice.

“This is incredibly important discussions for us all to have,” says PI Nicky Marsh, Professor of English Studies, University of Southampton.

“Despite the fact that money affects almost every aspect of our lives most of us understand very little about it. Only 15% of British MPs understand how the economy makes new money, according to a recent survey.”

The course explores the social means of credit, debt and the role of the market, and dives into four financial crises:  the South Sea Bubble, the Railway Mania of the nineteenth century, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.

It explores contemporary art, novels and journalism and analyses how they present information to the public. 

The researchers have worked with art galleries, the Money Advisory Service, the Finance Foundation. “We've tried to expand the debate about how money is made and to explore how rational and efficient our assumptions about the financial market really are,” says Professor Marsh.

In particular, the team have focused on the way the Arts and Humanities have influenced our understanding of both money and the market as new questions are asked about how finance functions and who it serves.

“We are interested in how different disciplines see money,” says Professor Marsh.

“We tend to see money through the prism of economics but other disciplines have a huge amount to offer.

“Looking back to 2008 we now know that economists weren't making the best decisions and so we want to broaden the debate. Financial crises keep repeating themselves and seem to happen for similar reasons. The more people who are in on the world of money and making different kinds of decisions about money, the better.

“'Financial literacy' as we currently understand it doesn't give you a better understanding of money, it just makes you more accepting of the system as it is. We need to move beyond that.”

The critical approaches of literary, cultural and visual and historical studies have played an important part in these debates and have offered new ways of understanding money, credit, speculation and investment.

“The MOOC has been a fantastic way of providing a more detailed engagement with this research and has allowed us to bridge the gaps between our teaching, our research and our public engagement activities.”

This three-week Open Online Course will launch on 18 March. Sign up at: www.futurelearn.com/courses/understanding-money.

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