One of the world’s most sublime musicians performs classical masterpieces upon his $3.5 million violin at a subway station exit in Washington D.C. He collects practically no attention and $32.17 in morning rush hour tips on this day. On evenings just before and after this event, Joshua Bell’s virtuosity sells out concert halls in Massachusetts and Maryland at $100 per seat, grossing some $200,000.
The difference, as Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten concluded when conducting this observational experiment back in 2007, was one of “art without a frame.” The subsequent Pulitzer Prize-winning article is worth the complete read, but the bottom line is that the vast majority of people scurried past Bell’s performance because no one told them beforehand how amazing and beautiful it was. The frame instead was that of an itinerant musician busking to make enough to live.
Framing matters. Framing influences perception, and perception has a great deal to do with value. Frames create meaning. Given the current political climate of the U.S. and Arizona as well as the upcoming election season, we will do well to consider how frames are being used on us, as well as how we might employ frames ourselves. The difference in effectiveness can be quite profound.