Toilet Paper and M&Ms

I have asked (aka, required) the undergraduate students in my advanced arts entrepreneurship seminar to blog weekly about their experience in class and in launching a collaborative enterprise, the core activity of the semester. It is only fair that I do the same. It is in that spirit that I answer a question posed to me by a colleague:

Why the heck did you bring a roll of toilet paper to class?

Toiletpapier_(Gobran111)As we begin to talk about the way artistic production and arts firms engage in the larger social system we call “the economy,” I wanted students to consider what might motivate an audience member to engage with their artistic work. Do they need it? Or do they want it? Does the audience for live music, for example, “consume” a concert hedonistically or for its use value? Rather than lecture on the topic drawing from the likes of Hirschman and Holbrook (it’s a small seminar class, after all) I wanted to engage them more viscerally and kinesthetically in these questions. So…I passed around a roll of toilet paper and said “Take what you need for the day.” There was an uncomfortable moment and a slight giggle, so I started things off, pulling enough TP off the roll to last a day. We ended up with piles of product in front of us of sizes that varied noticeably by gender. Then I pulled out a large M&Ms_(8065581663)bag of M&Ms and passed it around with the same direction, “Take what you need for the day.” Nods and smiles ensued – they got it. Some students took none of the candy, a couple of people (including me) took three dear little chocolate bits saying it would be just enough to satisfy their chocolate addiction for the day. From here we were able to talk about audience, about hedonic and use value, about pricing and, when I asked them to throw away half of their toilet paper, how scarcity might affect value and pricing.

I had fun. I think the students did too. And then we launched into the entrepreneurship theories of Schumpeter and Kirzner…

[Images: Toilet paper by Brandon Blinkenberg, CC 2.5; M&Ms by Christopher Michel, CC 2.0]

About lindaessig

Linda Essig is director of Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Programs at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University, including its award-winning arts entrepreneurship program, Pave: http://pave.asu.edu The opinions expressed on creativeinfrastructure are her own and not those of ASU. You can follow her on twitter @LindaInPhoenix and "like" the Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship at http://www.facebook.com/pages/pave-program-in-arts-entrepreneurship/386328970101 Find Pave's journal, Artivate, at http://artivate.org
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