Thursday, August 11, 2005
everything bad is good for you
i finished steven johnson's everything bad is good for you, a nicely argued book that claims "we"--the not so smart, middle-to-lower-segment of the population--are getting smarter because pop culture is getting more complex and demanding. he makes very interesting arguments about the complexity of reality tv coming from its game like elements and coolness--intense viewer involvement (a theory I have shared with many via a mcluhanesque lense--which johnson also uses). he compares shows like the very simple starskey and hutch to the more complex hill street blues to the very complex sopranos: certainly a good formalist analysis of the shows, if lacking viewer data. he makes good arguments that kids immersed in IM, video games, computers, cell phones are not smarter because of the activities they do on those games, but because they are developing the ability and confidence to solve problems and handle a lot of information. I noticed just the other day that when I was asked how to do something on a computer, I had no idea, but I simply started thinking through the likely answers, navigated my way around, and stumbled on the thing we wanted to do. I have noticed that I have, indeed, really developed those skills in the past 10 years. When I first started using computers, I had to call in a technician the first time I ran into a big snag. Now people call me in, and I have no real training with computers. he makes nice qualifications to his arguments, pointing out that he does not think tomb raider will have the cultural staying power of shakespeare, and that the smarter are not getting smarter. he doesn't worry much about the loss of print-based skills, and advocates balanced use of all media.