Understanding the Notion of Value in the Service Economy

March 14-15 2016, Trento, Via S. Croce 77

(Co-located with VMBO 2016)

Presentation and program

The service economy is undoubtedly posing new challenges to our understanding of the basics of social interaction, including the very notion of economic value. Indeed, despite the notion of value has always raised the interest of economists, and many definitions have been proposed, it has always remained rather elusive and difficult to capture. This picture has been complicated by the rise of service economy, which has shifted the focus from the company’s perspective to the customer’s perspective, where value is co-created in the interaction between the provider and the customer. Value co-creation is also at the core of the sharing economy, which poses further challenges to the theory of economic exchange.

But what does it mean to create – or co-create – value? How, when, where is value created? And what is economic value, after all? What are the mechanisms of value ascription? Are there differences between ascribing value to a good or to a service? What about the value of ownership in the sharing economy? And in general, what does it mean to ascribe value an object, an action, a commitment, a relationship? How does value ascription depend on contextual aspects, such as possession or scarcity of resources? How may multiple value ascriptions related to different contexts interact, originating a notion of cumulative value?

These appear to be genuine ontological questions, centered around the nature of economic value. Addressing these questions is important not only from the theoretical point of view, but also to build better computer-based models of complex socio-technical systems, where value modeling plays a crucial role. Only understanding value mechanisms we can aim at integrating in a transparent way the business perspective with the organizational perspective and the process perspective, with the ultimate goal of enabling a better governance of our society.

So this workshop is primarily addressed to those who are interested in the ontology of social reality for modeling purposes, but more in general to anybody who is interested in the foundations of economic value. The workshop will consist of invited presentations given by worldwide experts from very different disciplines, including philosophy, economics, accounting, business management, and information systems. Participation is open to anybody, but registration is required.

Accommodation: A limited stock of rooms has been pre-booked at Hotel Accademia, at the price of Euro 72 per single room. If you like to book a room there please mention the VMBO conference to be entitled to the special price.


Monday, March 14th

8:30-8:45  Get together and registration

8:45-9:00 Greetings and introduction
Nicola Guarino, ISTC Laboratory for Applied Ontology, Trento

9:00-10:15 On the ontology of value – full paper
Kevin Mulligan, Philosophy Dept, University of Geneva

10:15-10:45 Break

10:45-12:00 Value, Obligation, Accountability and Social Positioning
Stephen Pratten, School of Management and Business, King’s College, London

Abstract. Certain results from the field of social ontology are reviewed. One particular ontological conception that views processes of social positioning as central to the constitution of all social reality is outlined. The paper explores how such processes of positioning bear upon the nature of value and considers the contribution this ontological framework can make to current debates on value and related categories. 

12:00-13:15 The metaphysics of exchanges
Olivier Massin, Philosophy Dept, University of Geneva

Abstract. What are economic exchanges? The received theory has it that exchanges are mutual transfers of goods motivated by inverse valuations thereof. Relatedly, the standard theory treats exchanges of services as sub-species of exchanges of goods. We raise two objections against the standard theory. First, it is incomplete, failing to account, notably, for the buying/selling asymmetry. Second, because it is too objectual, it in fact fails to generalize to exchanges of services, of which neither inverse preferences, nor mutual transfers holds true. We propose an alternative theory of exchanges, which considers instead exchanges of goods are a special case of exchanges of services. According to this theory (i) the valuations motivating exchanges exchanges are propositional and convergent rather than objectual and opposite; (ii) all exchanges of goods involve exchanges of action, but not the reverse; (iii) offers (i.e. conditional promises) and acceptances, together with the obligations and claims they bring about, lie at the heart of even the simplest cases of exchange.

13:15-14:30 Lunch

14:30-15:45 Exchanges vs. Conversions – full paper
William E. McCarthy, Dept. of Accounting and Information Systems, Michigan State University

15:45-16:15 Break

16:15-17:45 Service and value co-creation – full paper

Paul Maglio, University of California at Merced and IBM Research Center, Almaden

Abstract. Value represents enhanced capabilities that result from interactions among multiple actors. The traditional economic view of exchange-value refers to utilities embedded in goods and services during production and which is measured by exchange (price) in a market. By contrast, use-value refers to the benefits gained through interactions of multiple stakeholders during the creation and use of goods and services, including those in the supply chain, providers, customers and others. Exchange-value focuses attention on products and transactions, whereas use-value focuses attention on processes, relationships, and mutual benefit.

17:45-18:30 Discussion

20:00 Dinner

Tuesday, March 15th

9:00-10:30  Understanding Value through Ontological Analysis and Conceptual Modeling

Paul Johannesson, Dept of Computer and System Sciences, Stockholm
Nicola Guarino, ISTC-CNR Laboratory for Applied Ontology, Trento

Abstract. The purpose of this presentation is to elucidate the notion of value used in economic exchanges, focusing on the mechanism of value ascription. The presentation draws on results from the area of value theory as well as value proposition design, thereby combining theoretical as well as practical approaches to value. It is shown how ontology and conceptual modelling can help to represent and clarify key features of value. In particular, we shall report on the lessons learned while trying to model value ascription, represented as a reified relationship.

10:30-10:50 Break

10:50-12:00 Value Networks

Hans Weigand, Tilburg School of Economics and Management

Abstract. Exchanges and activities that create value do not exist on their own, but as part of networks. Important principles of these value networks, as they are called, are the reciprocity principle and the sustainability principle. In my talk, I want to discuss the e3value ontology and its variants and how it defines value. In addition, I want to introduce a faceted perspective that does justice to the multidimensionality of the value concept.

12:00-13:15 Service value or service values?

Carlo Batini, Dept of Informatics, Systems and Communication (DISCo), University of Milano Bicocca

Abstract. Several service value types are currently investigated in the era of service economy. When the co-creation of value in the B2C customers to providers relationship is emphasized, service value can be expressed through the value-in-use, value-in-exchange concepts. Anyhow, several models can be adopted for their expression and measurement, and for the relationship with the related concepts of quality and utility. Furthermore, in the Public Administration to citizens G2C relationship, other types of values are significant, such as public and social value. We highlight origins and motivations for such rich set of types of values, and focus on some of them to show possible applications in the areas of portfolio management and public services.

13:15-14:30 Lunch

14:30-15:45 Value Creation in the Health Care Industry

Gloria Zuñiga y Postigo, Philosophy Dept, Ashford University, USA

Abstract. At the end of last century, the United States was mostly a manufacturing economy, with a large retail sector. By 2013, it had become a service economy predominantly dedicated to the health care industry. As a 2.9 trillion dollar industry by 2015, some say that the sheer success of this sector of services is evidence of the value creation in this industry. We have to ask, then: what is ontologically necessary in value creation? If we draw from economics, we could say simply that value is created by making a choice among alternatives. Accordingly, value creation requires an agent, an act of choosing, and the object chosen. However, health care services are complex objects not only in terms of the wide variety of its instances—physicians and other providers of care, health care facilities, insurance coverage, and so on—but also in terms of the private or public nature of such instances, and their competing incentives. We shall examine the ontology of the American health care domain with the aim to lay the framework for its value creation mechanism.

15:45-16:15 Break

16:15-17:00 Final discussion

Organization: ISTC-CNR Laboratory for Applied Ontology. Info: nicola.guarino@cnr.it

Workshop kindly sponsored by the Depts of Economics of University of Trento and University of Salento, IBM Research and the International Association for Ontology and its Applications (IAOA).

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