“Value” and “values” are such loaded words. Because the various concepts of both are top of mind as I teach arts entrepreneurship to a variety of student constituencies this semester, I’ve written several times recently about “values,” those ethical concepts that guide decision-making, as well as “value” derived from consumption or ownership. We talk about use value, hedonic value, aesthetic value, and, of course, market value, the only type of value for which price is an accurate proxy. I’m at the same time in the middle of reading Arko Klamer’s new-ish book, Doing the Right Thing: A Value-Based Economy. Until I dug into this book, I had kept separate the two types of “values,” but he is helping me see their connections. Ultimately, what we value is what is important to us. And “value,” as an unspecified quantity, is a measure of the degree to which something (an object, an experience, a relationship, or a concept that undergirds decision-making) is important to me.
When I was getting my MFA in stage design, we learned about another kind of “value” – brightness — and that high value contrast (think bright vs. dark) would create visual interest and draw attention on stage. Perhaps I find the concept of “value” in their ethical and economic senses so fascinating because their contrast creates interest.