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Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter (2005)

de Steven Johnson

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1,954458,510 (3.59)32
The $10 billion video gaming industry is now the second-largest segment of the entertainment industry in the United States, outstripping film and far surpassing books. Reality television shows featuring silicone-stuffed CEO wannabes and bug-eating adrenaline junkies dominate the ratings. But prominent social and cultural critic Steven Johnson argues that our popular culture has never been smarter. Drawing from fields as diverse as neuroscience, economics, and literary theory, the author argues that the junk culture we're so eager to dismiss is in fact making us more intelligent. A video game will never be a book nor should it aspire to be-and, in fact, video games, from Tetris to the Sims to Grand Theft Auto, have been shown to raise IQ scores and develop cognitive abilities that can't be learned from books. Likewise, successful television, when examined closely and taken seriously, reveals surprising narrative sophistication and intellectual demands. This book is a hopeful and spirited account of contemporary culture. The author demonstrates that our culture is not declining but changing-in exciting and stimulating ways we'd do well to understand. The glow of the video game or television screen will never be regarded the same way again.… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 45 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
This is assigned as a text for a class this term. Not great prose but an interesting concept. ( )
  rebwaring | Aug 14, 2023 |
This book is effective for easing the parental guilt I feel when I allow my children to play video games or watch TV so that I can have some peace and quiet. The author argues convincingly that popular culture is neither vacuous nor harmful, and it's a comforting counterpoint to the feeling that letting kids play these games or watch these shows is akin to feeding them poison that modern parental perfectionism has instilled in me.

That said, nothing he says is entirely unfamiliar to me. Maybe that's because I'm reading it so long after he published it and so his ideas have already percolated around a bit. The references to The Apprentice make me cringe with my knowledge of where that led, and I have a hard time forgiving him for using it as an example of good popular culture. In retrospect, that example just opens another front for arguing that popular culture is harmful, just not in the way he's responding to. The book was written too early to respond to more recent concerns about the effects of social media, so his examples of how social media allow people to interact and connect, like his references to The Apprentice, just lead to more objections to which he can't respond.

His argument doesn't actually convince me that popular culture is "making us smarter" as he claims, but only that it isn't making us dumb. I don't actually believe his claim that the increased complexity of popular culture is making anyone smarter. Life itself already has all these complexities of decision making, persistence, planning, delayed gratification, and personal interactions, and popular culture doesn't offer them where they were lacking. It just fills time. However, while he fails to convince me that it makes people smarter, he does at least convince me that it's not so harmful that I should feel guilty when I let my kids partake in it so that I can read a good book. ( )
  z-bunch | Jun 12, 2022 |
I picked this book for some contrast to Affluenza. Steven writes how television, computer games, and the Internet have improved human intelligence and are a greater benefit than cost.

Sometimes, it’s helpful to read something differing viewpoints. Stephen makes an intelligent argument that Everything Bad is Good for You.

For instance, television has grown so much more complex than the decades before. He chooses anecdotes from the Simpsons, Seinfield, the Sopranos, and West Wing to show how story arcs are longer and more complex. These shows are peppered with references to earlier shows and other cultural phenomenon giving television much richer in content. He even states that the dregs of television, reality TV, improve our minds by analyzing the characters and imagining our own actions in the situations. Analyzing and imagining are not actions of just zoning out in front of the television.

Computer games allow us to learn new worlds. With MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing games) such as Everquest and now World of Warcraft it gives a rich social network that we can not create in real life. These sorts of games create complex cooperation and competition networks where people spend real money to purchase that new-fangled virtual sword and really put forth a tremendous mental effort to their characters.

In some ways, computer games have an advantage over books – the traditional evidence of intelligence. Computer games allow a person to join an interactive world while a book (except for a choose your own adventure book) allows a reader to only walk one path to one conclusion. Games can be social while most book reading is done in solitude.

In the end, I think one can do anything zombie-like or mindfully. There are books widely considered trash while there are computer games and television shows that people will gladly allow their children to play or watch to increase their intelligence. It’s not what you do that makes you smart or who you are, it’s how you do it and what you take from it.

Very easy read that I finished in one evening. ( )
  wellington299 | Feb 19, 2022 |
How today's popular culture is actually making us smarter
  jhawn | Jul 31, 2017 |
I think I'm moderately convinced of the premise, but I think it could have been more thoroughly developed. An argument based primarily on examples (because of a dearth of holistic studies) benefits from as many and as varied examples as possible; this felt more like a conveniently selected few.
Also, probably like any pop culture monograph published in 2005, this feels pretty dated. ( )
  BraveNewBks | Mar 10, 2016 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 45 (seguinte | mostrar todas)
Johnson, a cross-disciplinary thinker who has written about neuroscience, media studies and computer technology, wants to convince us that pop culture is not the intellectual tranquilizer that its sound-alike critics have made it out to be but a potent promoter of cerebral fitness.
adicionado por mikeg2 | editarNew York Times, Walter Kirn (May 22, 2005)
 
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Ours is an age besotted with graphic entertainments. And in an increasingly infantilized society, whose moral philosophy is reducible to a celebration of "choice," adults are decreasingly distinguishable from children in their absorption in entertainments and the kinds of entertainments they are absorbed in---video games, computer games, hand-held games, movies on their computers and so on. This is progress: more sophisticated delivery of stupidity.
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It's the story of how systems analysis, probability theory, pattern recognition, and—amazingly enough—old-fashioned patience became indispensable tools for anyone trying to make sense of modern pop culture.
To summarize, the cognitive benefits of reading involve these faculties: effort, concentration, attention, the ability to make sense of words, to follow narrative threads, to sculpt imagined worlds out of mere sentences on the page. Those benefits are themselves amplified by the fact that society places a substantial emphasis on precisely this set of skills.
The first and last thing that should be said about the experience of playing today's video games, the thing you almost never hear in the mainstream coverage, is that games are fiendishly, sometimes maddeningly, hard.
THE DIRTY little secret of gaming is how much time you spend not having fun.
It's not what you're thinking about when you're playing a game, it's the way you're thinking that matters.
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The $10 billion video gaming industry is now the second-largest segment of the entertainment industry in the United States, outstripping film and far surpassing books. Reality television shows featuring silicone-stuffed CEO wannabes and bug-eating adrenaline junkies dominate the ratings. But prominent social and cultural critic Steven Johnson argues that our popular culture has never been smarter. Drawing from fields as diverse as neuroscience, economics, and literary theory, the author argues that the junk culture we're so eager to dismiss is in fact making us more intelligent. A video game will never be a book nor should it aspire to be-and, in fact, video games, from Tetris to the Sims to Grand Theft Auto, have been shown to raise IQ scores and develop cognitive abilities that can't be learned from books. Likewise, successful television, when examined closely and taken seriously, reveals surprising narrative sophistication and intellectual demands. This book is a hopeful and spirited account of contemporary culture. The author demonstrates that our culture is not declining but changing-in exciting and stimulating ways we'd do well to understand. The glow of the video game or television screen will never be regarded the same way again.

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