Thursday, January 17, 2013

Everything bad is good for you 360

The title alone made me want to read this book. The full title is Everything bad is good for you: How today's popular culture is actually making us smarter. Steven Johnson is a well known social commentator with other books like The Ghost Map about the cholera epidemic in London and his latest Future Perfect about how people were using decentralized peer networks to solve problems. 

In Everything bad is good for you Steven Johnson is looking at popular culture like computer and video games and television. His findings are fascinating. As time has gone on all of these popular media have become more sophisticated, demanding greater levels of intellectual involvement from their consumers and audiences. So what has been popularly described as creating a dumber society is in fact - and Johnson provides compelling evidence to prove his case, doing the opposite.

I really liked his references to the importance of reading as part of popular culture. "We should all encourage our kids to read more, to develop a comfort with and an appetite for reading. What are the rewards of reading, exactly? Broadly speaking they fall into two categories: the information conveyed by the book, and the mental work you have to do to process and store that information. When we encourage kids to read for pleasure, we're generally doing so because of the mental exercise involved." (pg 21-22)

He also acknowledges the negative influences of gaming and television watching but on the whole his message is very positive and optimistic. We are all getting smarter not dumber from enjoying these forms of media.