Happy Financial Literacy Month!

by Liana Gamber Thompson and Lana Swartz

April is National Financial Literacy month. Although it may seem slightly outside the purview of a civic engagement research group like Civic Paths, between the Occupy movement and Students for Liberty, we’ve begun to see money matters popping up more and more in our research. With confidence in economic stability at a low, Americans have begun to see personal financial decisions as having political and civic dimensions. Nevertheless, attempts to teach financial literacy tend to avoid the political, focusing instead on seemingly “neutral” best practices like budgeting and saving.

Occupy George

Occupy George turns bills into infographics

After the jump, check out some examples of groups trying to grapple with the idea of finance, both personal and macroeconomic, from an Alternative Reality Game (going on right now!) about electronic trading and financial crisis to a fanvid about economist Friedrich Hayek by young libertarians.

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The Visual Culture of the Occupation: Month One and Counting

(Photo: Ed Schipel)

Dr. Alison Trope, Clinical Associate Professor, USC Annenberg
Lana Swartz, PhD Student, USC Annenberg

Since September 17, the Occupy Wall Street movement has produced an overwhelming array of visuals, offering a significant lens on the movement itself, its ties to history, its divergent voices, perspectives and styles, as well as its multiple distribution channels from mainstream outlets to social media. Despite the criticism from experts who do not necessarily see much potential in Occupy’s “brand,” the visual aspects of the protest clearly have impact and traction. Although it would be impossible to fully assess this rich visual output, this blog post attempts to understand its emergent themes as well as the potential uses and value attached to visual commentary and protest.

Jump to:
Politics and Visual Culture
Wall Street Protests and History
The Revolution Will Be Hashtagged: Culture-Jamming and Rewriting Popular Culture
Targets: The 1%, America, The Banking System
Tactic: The Face of the Faceless
Tactic: Ready to Go and Ready-Made
Tactic: Making the Occupation Visible
Final Thoughts

Next: Politics and Visual Culture

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Ghoulish ATMs, It’s a Wonderful Bank, and Bloody Valentines: Personal Finance as Civic Communication

On April 5, 2010, President Obama issued a proclamation (PDF) declaring April “National Financial Literacy Month.” It was a call for collective agency and responsibility, positioning the “recent economic crisis” as the “result of both irresponsible actions on Wall Street, and everyday choices on Main Street.” He condemned the financial industry, but also noted, “We are each responsible for understanding basic concepts: how to balance a checkbook, save for a child’s education, steer clear of deceptive financial products and practices, plan for retirement, and avoid accumulating excessive debts.” Global economic disaster became a wake-up call for quotidian financial literacy.

About a month before, a headline from the parody newspaper the Onion declared, “U.S. Economy Grinds To Halt As Nation Realizes Money Just A Symbolic, Mutually Shared Illusion.” It begins, “The U.S. economy ceased to function this week after unexpected existential remarks by Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke shocked Americans into realizing that money is, in fact, just a meaningless and intangible social construct.” The revelation radiates out from Bernanke, and bewildered traders show up out of habit for the opening bell to blankly stare at “meaningless scrolling numbers on the flashing screens above.” President Obama is depicted alone with his coin collection, muttering, his mind “too blown” to hold a press conference. Would-be bank robbers laugh with security guards about the “absurdity of the idea of $100 bills.”

The Onion article and Obama’s declaration of National Finance Literacy Month are metonyms for money’s position in what Time called the “great recession.” Money is both central and illusory. There seems to be a growing sense that money is system of socially contingent shared meanings and practices– far from the totally rational method of exchange we have sometimes imagined it to be. However, this awareness alone bestows neither the knowledge to monitor banking reform legislation nor to climb out of credit card debt. However, it does put the meaning of money into play.

After the jump, I take a closer look at groups that have seized this opportunity to infuse even traditional uses for money with new significance, undermining the taken-for-granted authority of financial institutions and turning personal banking into a form of civic communication. Plus, since we’re beginning the holiday season, there’ll be some ideas for a slightly late Halloween, an early Christmas, or a rather early Valentine’s Day!
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News and Notes

Matea Gold from the LA Times covers the controversy among feminists surrounding The Daily Show’s newest hire, Olivia Munn, the first female correspondent in seven years.

“Pictures, videos and slogans on T-shirts are tools of modern expression, and with a phenomenon as omnipresent as Twilight, fans should be free to engage, manipulate, remix and remake,” writes Christina Mulligan in the Washington Post.

Laura McCann from Neiman Journalism Lab writes about a new Pew Internet and American Life Project on Americans’ mobile device and wireless habits, which finds that young people are using texts to make donations. McCann wonders what about the potential impact of Apple’s donation app ban.

TED Talk on the value for innovation of copying in fashion by USC’s Lear Center’s Johanna Blakley.

On Boycotts and Buycotts: in our PDF readers

Here is a selection from what some of us are reading this week. Thoughts?

Michele Micheletti (2002). Consumer Choice as Political Participation. Statsvetenskaplig Tidskrift. 105 (3).

Dietlind Stolle and Michele Micheletti (2005). Politics in the Supermarket: Political Consumerism as a Form of Political Participation. International Political Science Review, 26 (3).

Richard A. Hawkins (2010). Boycotts, buycotts and consumer activism in a global context: An overview. Management & Organizational History, 5 (2).

Michele Micheletti and Dietlind Stolle (2008). Fashioning Social Justice through Political Consumerism, Capitalism, and the Internet. 22 (5).

@BPGlobalPR Speaks Out

Note: On this blog, sometimes we’ll post more in-depth thinking, and sometimes we’ll just take note of relevant news, events, readings and such. This is the first of that second kind of post.

Leroy Stick, a pseudonym for the twitterer behind @BPGlobalPR, recently released a statement and gave an interview. With more than 140,000 followers, the biting and hilarious @BPGlobalPR has ten times the followers of official BP twitter feed, @BP_America. More after the jump. [Read more…]