measuring value in the arts

June 10, 2007

Another great entry over at Andrew Taylor’s archies. about measurement in the arts. How do you measure quality? creativity? value for money etc? Taylor has this to say:

During the recent Grantmakers in the Arts conference in Boston, the issue of measurement continued to rise and fall in various sessions. After all, if arts grantmakers are in the business of positive change (or sustaining positive things), they inevitably wonder how they’re doing in delivering on that promise. Such evaluation requires both a target and a measure of progress toward that target.
The challenge is in applying existing metrics (dollars, headcounts, activity, test scores) to such complex and hazy goals (truth, beauty, pleasure, wisdom). To this task I humbly submit the following metrics, already spinning around the world for other purposes.
• hedon – a single unit of pleasure, already used in ethical mathematics (don’t ask, I don’t know)
• milliHelen the amount of physical beauty required to launch one ship
• warhol a unit of fame or hype lasting exactly fifteen minutes. Some useful multiples from the Wikipedia include:
• kilowarhol — famous for 15,000 minutes, or 10.42 days. A sort of metric “nine day wonder.”
• megawarhol — famous for 15 million minutes, or 28.5 years. The type of person your parents talk about all the time, but of whom you’ve never heard from anyone else.
If we really hunker down, we could suggest a USRDA for each of the above (U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance). And each cultural production could publicly post the detailed value of its contents: ”Tonight’s performance of Romeo and Juliet contains 250 hedons, 950 milliHelens, and 14.9 megawarhols.”

It got me wondering about what other kinds of sector/industry specific measurement tools could be invented..I particularly like this piece from that WIkipedia entry

Vodka index
The Vodka index is the relation between the price of a liter of standard vodka, and the mean price of a hardbound book in a particular country. While somewhat jocular, it is purported to evince how well literacy fares in a given country.