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The Lives Behind the Numbers On the Screen: Illustrating the Social Consequences of Economic Change by Telling Stories on the Web

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  • Jocelyn Paine

    () (Virtual Worlds Group)

Abstract

Virtual Economy was developed by the author and colleagues for distance-teaching economics to sixth-form and beginning higher-education students. It runs over the Web (at the time of writing, at http://www.bized.ac.uk/virtual/economy/) and allow students to act as Chancellor, changing tax rates and other parameters, and getting back numeric forecasts for growth, inflation, unemployment and other macroeconomic variables. One problem is that the numbers may mean little to some students. Is 2.6% GDP growth significantly better than 2.4%? Is a 5% unemployment rate high, low, or normal? Why is 20% inflation so bad? In this paper, we describe experiments to relate the numbers to social experience, by generating virtual diaries and newspaper reports showing the effects on everyday life. The generator uses artificial intelligence techniques, and attempts to impose a narrative structure on the output to make it more compelling. The paper includes an analysis of the different ways in which we believe the macroeconomic effects should be interpreted to students.

Suggested Citation

  • Jocelyn Paine, 2005. "The Lives Behind the Numbers On the Screen: Illustrating the Social Consequences of Economic Change by Telling Stories on the Web," Computers in Higher Education Economics Review, Economics Network, University of Bristol, vol. 17(1), pages 31-41.
  • Handle: RePEc:che:chepap:v:17:y:2005:i:1:p:31-41
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. W. Lee Hansen & Michael K. Salemi & John J. Siegfried, 2002. "Use It or Lose It: Teaching Literacy in the Economics Principles Course," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 463-472, May.
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    3. O. Homer Erekson & Prosper Raynold & Michael K. Salemi, 1996. "Pedagogical Issues in Teaching Macroeconomics," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 27(2), pages 100-107, April.
    4. Solow,Robert M., 1998. "Monopolistic Competition and Macroeconomic Theory," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521626163, December.
    5. Peter E. Kennedy, 2001. "Bootstrapping Student Understanding of What is Going on in Econometrics," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(2), pages 110-123, January.
    6. William E. Becker, 1997. "Teaching Economics to Undergraduates," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(3), pages 1347-1373, September.
    7. Frank Hahn & Robert Solow, 1997. "A Critical Essay on Modern Macroeconomic Theory," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 026258154x, January.
    8. John J. Siegfried & Michael K. Salemi, 1999. "The State of Economic Education," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 355-361, May.
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