Book Review: Everything Bad is Good For You ~ Steven Johnson
I am very appreciative of the fact that my kiddos keep me posted on interesting books and ideas that they discover. And this book was a gem and a great tool to assist my thinking and help me keep pace.
When folks entertain themselves these days, they just may be making their brains more effective tools. Even if they watch certain television shows, they may not be just “couch potatoes” passively absorbing, they may be improving their minds, increasing brain synapses, and IQs.
It takes about 40 hours to play most video games. The games have evolved from just joystick skills enhancement to having to solve a series of dilemmas, remember those processes and repeat them in order to complete the quest and finish the game.
Johnson states, “Where most commentators assume a race to the bottom and dumbing down, I see a progressive story; mass culture growing more sophisticated, demanding more cognitive engagement with each passing year. Think of it as a kind of positive brainwashing”
Several TV shows have really changed how we think for the better because these shows have graduated from straight story lines to intricate plots and subplots that one must follow and understand in order to comprehend. There are still shows that are straight story lines but think of the difference between CSI and 24 – the watcher must keep all the story lines straight and know what happened previously in the latter. The West Wing and the Sopranos are also examples of many track programming.
Video game probing is a powerful form of intellectual activity – your’re learning the rules of a complex system without a guide, after all.
The long –term trend in pop culture is toward increased complexity, is there any evidence that our brains are reflecting that change? If mass media is supplying an increasingly rigorous mental workout, is there any empirical data that shows our cognitive muscles growing in response? YES
Johnson does not say folks should engage in a 24/7 video game fest of life. That is not balance. Children need to be with others, go to school, play outdoors and learn to be part of a family by being part of a family. There is definitely balance.
Johnson also feels that although there is a measurable increase in problem-solving skills and IQ with games and complex entertainment there is a strong need for reading and including the classics. It is through reading, people understand other people; the novels and stories that we read are instructing us in the complexity and layering of a personality and culture, that one can not get from problem-solving challenges alone.
That some of the culture today does push at the boundaries of acceptable or healthy moral values shouldn’t surprise us, because it is in the nature of myth and storytelling to explore the edges of a society’s accepted beliefs and conventions. Popular stories rarely flourish in environments of perfect moral clarity; they tend to blossom at exactly the spaces where some established order is being questioned or tested.
This is the point where one needs to address issues within a conversation or dialogue, it is through many forms of communication that morals and values are translated and expressed. People need to talk about the entertainment they just explored. Blogs are a fine example of how media is changing the conversation that has increased communication skills and understanding. The vast majority of folks understand that the game characters are fictional and the story lines in TV are entertainment – not real life.
I don’t wish to be left behind, and although sometimes these more complex forms exploding into our society are too fast for me, I see how the Nintendo DS Brainage program is keeping my brain working and how writing a blog is keeping me in the conversation and in the game.
I highly recommend this book, it is KINDLE formatted and I very much enjoyed how Johnson added more information from the comments he has received on tour. The book is a fast, entertaining read and similar to a long blog post because of the stimulating comments from others.
So how do you keep your brain growing and developing more brain synapses?
What is your favorite form of social media and entertainment?
Check out the previous post for Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink
Steven Johnson hopes his children will engage with THE SIMS and CIVILIZATION IV
Do not forget the writing contests!