The Measurement Used Can Alter The Impact Of Your Work

Long time readers know that I resist the use of economic impact as a measure of value for arts and culture for many reasons. The late potter-philosopher Carter Gillies was really effective in calling attention to the myriad ways in which using inappropriate measures of value would result in meaningless data and incorrect beliefs and assumptions.

Seth Godin recently made a post that illustrated that the measure you use shapes how you perceive the impact and value of the work you do. This brings the concept that just because you can measure it, doesn’t mean the result is meaningful to a more personal, relatable level.

Godin observes that we have long been indoctrinated to believe that completion of a task is a measure of productivity.  But, he asks, if “I did all my homework” is a measure of productivity, what has the practice of completing your homework ever done for you?

The actual measures of productivity that might be useful range quite a bit:

• I did enough to not get fired.
• I did enough to get promoted.
• I did enough to get hired by a better firm.
• I solved a problem for a customer who was frustrated.
• I changed the system and now my peers are far more productive.
• I invented something that creates new possibilities and new problems.
• I created new assets that I can use (and others can as well).
• I didn’t waste today.

Pick your measurement and the impact of your chores will change.

Just because you can measure productivity in terms of work completed, it doesn’t necessarily yield results that are meaningful–except perhaps to whomever is selling the work you have completed. But there are other measurements of value that can be applied to your work, some of them far more meaningful than others. The impact of that meaning could have–and I use this term intentionally–immeasurably more value than just units of work completed over time.

Guaranteed Basic Income Programs Seem To Benefit Those With Concrete Goals

Long time readers know I tend to pay attention to news about guaranteed basic income programs, particularly those that have artists as a target group. Thanks to a CityLab link to a story on Los Angeles’ recent foray into providing guaranteed basic income, there is more data about what approaches are most effective. This program didn’t target artists as a group, but it has some good insights.

Like most stories on the subject, there were many heartening stories about the successes people had and continued to experience after the program ended. However, this article also mentioned those who were doing well while they were receiving the $1,000 month funds, but once the program ended found themselves faced with living in their cars. Anecdotally, at least those who had problems after the funding ended weren’t spending that much differently than those who continued to thrive. (i.e. the biggest spurge spending was on rather modest once a week meals)

What seems to be the differentiating factor is whether people had concrete goals they wanted to achieve prior to receiving the monthly payment:

Participants that do achieve a measure of economic mobility, she said, are those who already had concrete goals or plans.

“What happens with guaranteed income is that it smooths that income volatility … and it creates predictability,” Castro said. “When you have that floor, that scarcity starts to go away. And we know that it calms the mind, it calms the spirit, and it creates space for people to re-imagine an alternative future, or to maybe take steps toward a goal that they’ve always had but have not been able to actualize.”

Abigail Marquez, general manager of L.A.’s Community Investment for Families Department, which ran BIG:LEAP, called guaranteed income “one effective strategy” for ending generational poverty in L.A. Such programs must be paired with workforce development, economic development and housing strategies, she said.

Knowing this, one concern I would have is that guaranteed basic income programs not gradually evolve guidelines similar to foundation grant programs where candidates for receiving the money have to provide evidence of having goals they are pursuing and just need a little bit of help gaining stability. Unfortunately, it is easy to imagine this happening because the folks putting up the money want to hear success stories and know their funds are being used effectively. Little by little, the unrestricted use nature of guaranteed basic income can become a little more restricted.

On the other hand, I feel like guaranteed basic income for artists becomes an even better idea since artists generally always have projects in mind they want to pursue. Though I am sure there are some who would say some of those projects aren’t as practical as the goals people in the L.A. Times story were working on.

News Of Their Retirement Has Been Greatly Exaggerated. AARP Doesn’t Care

I had to cackle when I saw this post by jazz critic and music historian, Ted Gioia:

For those for whom the image isn’t populating, he writes”

I’m not sure whether I’m depressed by the AARP sponsoring the Stones, or applaud it as the obvious move.

But whether you love it or hate it, this is one more sign of the music culture’s obsession with what’s old and aging.

I am mostly submitting this for everyone’s general entertainment rather than to make an attempt at any sort of meaningful statement. I don’t have any strong thoughts on music culture’s obsession with what’s old and aging. I do think there is a degree of irony in the fact the the Rolling Stones clearly haven’t retired in the spirit of Mark Twain’s statement that reports of his death was greatly exaggerated.

Since Twain arranged his estate so that his autobiography wouldn’t be released until 100 years after his death and other papers until 400 years after his death, I wouldn’t have put it past him to disseminate news of his death as a publicity stunt similar to how the Rolling Stones have announced their retirement from touring at least a couple times now. It turns out though that Twain had a cousin in London who was seriously ill with whom the author had been confused.

Covid Restrictions May Have Resulted In Increased Social Inertia

I recently saw a link on a CityLab story noting that since the end of Covid restrictions, people appear to be less willing to venture outside of familiar neighborhoods and locales.

As of late 2021, people remained less likely to engage in social exploration, which the study authors define as the likelihood of visiting a new place where they earn significantly more or less than than the general population. Instead, they just returned to familiar destinations.

[…]

Fewer people are visiting attractions like museums, restaurants or parks that are outside their immediate mobility radius, and they’re spending less time among residents at different socioeconomic levels.

Outside of the concerns operators of arts organizations, restaurants, parks and other attractions may have about a drop in attendance and purchases, this has implications for the overall social cohesion in the US. While most cities studied experienced this drop of mobility, places that had fewer restrictions on public assembly and in-person office work saw a smaller decrease in relation to how much people were willing to circulate to unfamiliar locations.

If the narrowed social mobility habits of residents endure, policymakers will have to contend with an extended loss in income-diverse encounters — a trend likely to further exacerbate political polarization and diminish social capital.

Yabe said the research could help decision-makers get a better sense of the trade-offs as they try to strike a balance between safety and social cohesion.

It should be noted that while this report came out in 2023, it appears the most recent data was from the end of 2021 when people were still a little wary about moving around. While this situation may not exist to the same extent as late 2021, the implications still bear attention.