Saturday, May 13, 2006

Everything Bad Is Good For You

I found this book at work yesterday, and it looked intriguing (many thanks to the person who left it laying on the staff room couch). Johnson writes the counterargument to the common claim that pop culture is dumbing down American society. Not so, Johnson says! He argues that the complex threads of modern TV shows and video games are actually making people smarter. Take Dragnet, for example. A typical Dragnet episode from years ago consisted of only one story arc. Then look at Hill Street Blues - multiple story arcs, lasting into multiple episodes - a revolutionary idea at the time. But then look at The Sopranos, ER, The West Wing, or Lost. These shows have ten or twelve story lines going at the same time, perhaps without payout at the end of the episode. There's specific language that relates to the setting that the viewer may not understand (think POTUS or peder permadicis), but either learns just by watching the show or the show reveals the answer late in the episode. As for video games, they're controlled by the player, there might not be an obvious reward other than a new level, and there are numerous ways for a situation to play out. It's not the spoonfeeding of a book.
Johnson makes some really excellent claims, but the book is too wordy and scientific. I know it's not supposed to be a pop culture book, but rather a scientific view of pop culture, but I got very bogged down. I can't read it all. It's good to skim, and I think that some people will really, really like it, but it was too much for me. I could focus on the points he was making when he used pop culture examples, but not on the jargon of The Sleeper Curve, the Flynn Effect, and g ... which might relate to all the TV I watch.

Everything Bad Is Good For You - B


lisa said...

We're in Arkansas for the summer. That's all we know for now! :)

mama kay said...

Sounds interesting .. but a little too deep for me! I think I'll pass or have the husband read it, he loves stuff like that!

prunella jones said...

Glad to hear it. I love pop culture!