12 June 2005

How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter

Posted by Jameson Penn

Everything Bad is Good For You
Steven Johnson

FOR DECADES, we’ve worked under the [false] assumption that mass culture follows a steadily declining path toward lowest-common-denominator standards…THE DIRTY little secret of gaming is how much time you spend not having fun. When you put the game down and move back into the real world, you may find yourself mentally working through the problem you’ve been wrestling with…If this is MINDLESS ESCAPISM, it’s a strangely masochistic.


Because I enjoyed this book, I’ll start with the negatives: The idea behind this book could have been condensed into a book either half its size or at least an abstract fit for an Atlantic Monthly; and very strong observations and cultural inferences made but driven into the reader’s head through repetition.

Now the positives: I found the author’s ideas to be insightful and a refreshing offering to the debate. This book supported many prior thoughts and conversations that I have had with my wife and coworkers over cultural trends. The visual depiction of the Sleeper Curve was great reinforcement for the idea. Before VCRs, television shows were designed to serve an instantaneous purpose. If you missed a show or want to see it again, reruns didn’t happen for six months and syndication wasn’t for another five years.

With the dawn of cheaper DVDs and growing in-demand consumer electronics, the opportunity was ripe for shows to change focus from one hour story arch to one capable of stretching across many seasons and intertwine with other subplots.


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