Guide Everything Bad is Good for You: How Todays Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter

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For all the talk of pop culture dumbing down and growing increasingly debased, Johnson asserts, it's actually growing more complex in ways that make us sharper. To show how, Johnson guides tours through the thought processes commanded by fantasy games like Ultima Online and TV shows like The Sopranos and It's a good argument made in great detail, mapped out with lists and charts of decision-affecting contingencies and intricate narrative structures.

But how necessary it is remains debatable, especially once Everything Bad settles into simply restating its already convincing premise. Johnson touches on some interesting points, citing studies on the generational rise of IQ scores and the success of complex stories once thought to be poison among TV programmers and movie producers. The book lacks the theoretical and scientific gravitas Johnson offered in his probing studies Emergence and Mind Wide Open , though.

It's essentially a treatment of an argument that goes without saying, unless the reader is, say, Andy Rooney or George Will. The A. Andy Battaglia. Share This Story. Well, at least he can tell me the cheat codes for the coolest games. Re:Suprisingly, I thought kids are becoming dumber Score: 3 , Interesting. I think I'd have less faith in humanity if articulate, educated folks were filling out job applications for fast food chains.

Cheese and crackers golly, I never thought that could happen, boy gosh! Kids have been getting dumber for thousands of years, thats why there is never any progress. Rest assured your generation is the last generation of worthy human beings. Feel better? To actually respond to your points, I think more kids have the ability to communicate with more people.

When you were a kid did you talk to people at any given time of day? Did you talk to people from other states or even other countries multiple times a w. Re:Suprisingly, I thought kids are becoming dumber Score: 4 , Funny. There are definitely times when using proper language, to the point of being obsessive about it, are important. A post about proper language is one of these times. Oh well, good karma was fun while it lasted I forget where I read this, but one source of our knowledge about the evolution of the Romance languages is the writing of the Roman equivalent of John Simon and William Safire: "Dagnabit, it's equus , not caballus!

Perhaps they seem less like masters of the language, but at least today's kids are capable of reading and writing. Illiteracy was generally accepted years ago, and still somewhat common 50 years ago. Of course, I'm not trying to say we have squashed it completely, but the situation has improved. The linguistic "problem" you mention seems to extend further than grammar, logic, and even semantics. People with such language problems cannot organize their writing and speech because they cannot organize their thoughts, and they cannot organize their thoughts because their "mental map" does not correspond structurally or symbolically to the "actual terrain" of the world they occupy.

Put another way, creatures that assume "fact" will inevitably think in fallacious ways, and will inevitably view things. I take your point, but "articulate" is a very vague idea. Perhaps they are not "articulate" in the sense that they use styles of language or vocabulary to which some other group or generation is accustomed. However, there is a lot of complexity and fast evolution in "web speak". In many ways, prior generations are "inarticulate" to new generations, with outdated catch phrases and slogans.

For example, a young person may have to. Come back to complain when your netherlandish is good enough to get his point across. Yes, your obsoletely write! Spill chokers salve aviary thing! Comedy has certainly improved Score: 2 , Insightful. Let's face it. All of the latter require more sophistication from the watcher instead of pure Re:Comedy has certainly improved Score: 4 , Funny. I have to say the 's show Dukes of Hazard was the ultimate in sophistication.

It has been all downhill from there. Re:Comedy has certainly improved Score: 2. That is way too small of a sample to form a good case.

Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter

Seinfeld was OK for a while, but got annoying, and Family Guy is simply annoying. I thought Hillbillies did a good job of poking fun at both the common man and high society without being mean. One thing I can say about the past is Soaps without a script, and on prime time!


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How can that possibly be dumb!? Uh, no reality shows? How about, the news, game shows, sports, documenteries and so forth. Reality TV is a new term, not a new idea. Most of the "Reality TV" are simply multi episode game shows. Since no one has said this already, what about Monty Python? That's sophistication for ya? That was pretty good, but you forgot the reference to Jerry Lewis. That would have made it first rate, but how can you criticize a frenchman's sense of humor without mentioning Lewis? Please do try to remember that, for next time. Re:"Family Guy" and "sophistication" in the same..

Family Guy quote: Stewie to Jeremy, the babysitter's boyfriend : Ha! I got your hat! Take that, hatless! Now go back to the quad and resume your hackey sac tourney! I'm not gonna lay down for some frat boy bastard with his damn Teva sandals and his Skoal Bandits and his Abercrombie and Fitch long sleeved, open stitched, crew neck Henley smoking his sticky buds out of a soda can while watching his favorite downloaded Simpsons episodes every night!

Yes, we all love "Mr. Oh, you've got the song memorized. Let's be honest here Score: 2. Family Guy is low-brow humor and doesn't even pretend to be anything else but.

Pop Culture Is Good for Us

On the other hand, even "low-brow" has its flashes of brilliance. For example, I recall an episode of "King of the Hill" that gave a pretty intellegent treatment of sexual harassment. I even suggested it to our HR department. Score: 4 , Interesting. Johnson claims that the complexity of problem solving and exploration involved in current video games help players learn critical thinking skills. I call. Alternatively, look at the case of Master of Orion 3.

That game was awful as released, and even the patches didn't help. But the hackers at ataricommunity stepped up and turned it into a game that lived up to most of the promise of the marketing and has only crashed on me once in over 20 hours of play. Believe it or not, the game is actually a lot of fun if you install the InvaderMod and.

So don't totally write off games as inspiration. I'm not understanding your point here. A poorly-made video game doesn't have anything to do with video games as a whole being "good" or "bad. You take just about any product that you're not happy with and post your complaints to a forum dedicated to that product and you'll get some serious back talk.

You should ex. Are you sure that a population composed of people that paid money for a non-working game in the first place is really the right place to be looking for intelligence? Okay so suppose television and videogames raise the IQ of people of low or average intelligence. Without tv or videogames there is nothing to replace this kind of 'education', so these people would of gone without the benefit of this mental stimulation. You would be hard pressed to convince me that if a learned person replaced their intellectual persuits with television their IQ would go up.

If I'm not mistaken IQ isn't a measure of education, nor can "the average IQ go up" as the review states. It is my understanding that IQ is a represenitive comparison of your cognitive skills with the average. Strictly speeking cognitive ability is independent of education, but practically since we have to test for it you can learn how to answer the questions. On the other hand I belive the average IQ is defined as If the average person becomes smarter his IQ is still In Lake Woebegone, Minnesota, all the children are above average. This would suggest that a good portion of the adults are below average.

If that has been the case for a statistically significant period of time, we can conclude that the population is getting smarter. As children reach adulthood, the next generation of children comes along still smarter It doesn't have to be all one or the other. It could be that different learning tools all have diminishing returns, and mixing them is a good strategy.

Or that, say, spending some time going to plays, readin. In his defense There is something about people who say they never watch TV that makes me want to punch them.

Re:In his defense Why does one have to brag about not watching TV? I watch rented movie once a month maybe, other than that I avoid it like the plague. It's not that it's bragging, its that I fin that watching TV results in me learning less, and getting less done. It's too easy to zone out on the preview channel for hours, and I just end up tired. Instead, I find programming or interacting with my family in my spare time to be much more enjoyable and stimulating. I have serious doubts about the validity of this author's points. I think as previous posters have mentioned, it has far more to do with the idea that perhaps many people would not have this intellectual stimulation at all without TV, and therefore something is better than nothing.

People have hostile reactions when you say you don't watch TV because they assume that you're trying to prove something, or show how cool you are, or convince them of some political analysis. You watch it too much. I get the same thing when I say "Oh, the soup has bacon in it? No thanks, I don't eat meat. If you want to experiment with people's reactions, get more specific: "I don't watch commercials" may impress them with your technology.

I very rarely watch TV and I have to say that I agree. Every time the subject of television is broched and I mention that I don't watch TV people immediately seem to retaliate to a precieved attack on them for watching TV.

How Popular Culture is Making Us Smarter

Of course I certainly have no political or elitist reasons for not watching TV- it's simply a combination of there being few things on TV that I really enjoy, and the fact that when there is a show on that I wouldn't mind watching I usually end up missing it most of the time anyway. Heh, try living in Boston the last couple of years and not giving a rat's patootie about baseball. My question really is this.. Does the book hold water.

You speak of light reads, and I've read such books where if you don't want to think about it it makes sense. But as you apply the theory it falls apart. Is that what you are bringing up here, or are you saying more that the book doesn't go indepth enough but leaves the reader with a new perspective that is at least decently thought out to the point where if you bring it up, it can't be just torn down in a minute by a thinking person of course, a zealot will try to tear down even the most obvious truthes in the world?

It sounds like an interesting read, but I read enough fiction. Empty television Score: 2 , Insightful. That's funny, because there is something about people who talk incessantly about The Apprentice and Desperate Housewives that makes me want to punch them. Sorry, but not watching television is as valid a choice as spending your life watching fake people do fake things and getting lobotomized by car ads and "reality" programming. Re:Empty television Score: 2. While I certainly have no issue with people making a choice to not watch TV, the feeling I picked up from that statement was that it was the WAY many people tend to say it that's ann.

Saying that all television is no better than The Apprentice is like saying all literature is no better than Harlequin Romances. You're simply ignorant about the quality programming that can be found on TV. Re:Empty television Score: 3 , Interesting. Any suggestions on some good programs? My biggest problem with TV is that they don't generally set out to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end; rather, they have a strong beginning, then make the middle up as they go along, extending it for as long as it's making money, then they MAYBE tack on a craptastic ending when it's no longer profitable, often failing to wrap up the original issues from the beginning of the show.

I have found very few shows that do not follow this formula. It's historical fiction based on the history of Deadwood, South Dakota. The casting was especially good -- if you look at the historical photos of the characters, the actors even resemble them. Bad argument Score: 4 , Insightful. In the first place, I didn't know videogames tetris, pacman, Grand Tourismo , Television Junkyard wars, animal showdown, Wolf's Rain , and the Internet wikipedia were bad for us.

Oh no I can just see Jack Thompson seeing this book as vindication of what he is "fighting". Seriously, if one is to admit that Video Games can teach us Increased coordination and Social Interactions and influence society - as this book sugggests - then it is pretty easy to see how someone like him could come to the conclusion that violent video games and media can teach us those traits as well.

Influence society in a negative sense. Re:Oh no Given Jack Thompson's overall reasoning skills, the connection wouldn't be nearly so indirect. It would be more along the lines of, "See! If the gaming industry isn't stopped, soon we'll be beset on all sides by evil masterminds who are building their own nuclear warheads and holding New York City hostage because they were programmed to do so by these terrorism simulators!

I'm with Einstein Score: 5 , Insightful. And of course: "To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society. If it ever does change it will start at home with better parenting and at church yeah, yeah, don't even start. I'm with Leto II Score: 2. I've just finished reading 'God Emperor of Dune'. Leto makes an interesting point. Well heaps of them but one that stands out here. To paraphrase a little Technology increases the number of things that you can do without getting your conscience involved.

This is a bad thing. Ob Woody Allen Score: 3 , Interesting. Everything our parents say is good is bad for you. Red meat. Re:Ob Woody Allen Score: 2. To expound: Sun: causes skin cancer, may cause blindness if misused Milk: leads to buildup of phleghm Red meat: bad cholesterol, mad cow disease College: idealistic group-think can lead to ridiculous protests, fraternity hazing, alcohol abuse Wait a minute -- milk is bad for you?

Average IQ increase.

Ah yes, the fabled "increase in average IQ score" Apparently, we just cracked ! However, I predict that a plateau for the foreseeable future. Media or Technology Score: 3 , Informative. Its worth it to consider the concepts that Marshall MacLuhan developed concerning Media.

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His description of media being Hot or Cold is relevant. The television was hot and the print media was cold. Hot media has an inverse affect on our minds - it required less involvement and interraction. Whereas Cold media like a book required our mind to be active What does this character look like, sound like Hot media like tv is " Main evidence? More channels are better Score: 5 , Insightful. I grew up with 3 commercial broadcast channels and 1 public broadcast station. It sucked compared to what's available today on basic cable. Sure there's more junk on TV, including public TV and the old commercial stations.

TV has more hours of quality per day than it did in the past. An in-depth conversation on a single topic with newsmakers, thinkers and callers. And the end of the hour segment that allows for more personal reactions to news and important issues, including radio diaries, excerpts from speeches, or special series segments. Unfortunately the video game industry and the TV industry are hung up on focus groups.

The only thing to ever come out of a focus group is bland. All it takes one in-duh-vidiual who has negative responses and is outspoken about them and magically the marketing wonks tell the TV or game produces, "The focus group hated that. Only one person in the focus group with a forceful personality hated it. The real story is that the rest of the people in the focus group were either too polite or too non-confrontational to deal with the loudmouth. If you want a baloney sandwich, hire a focus group. If you want a gourmet meal, hire a chef with some flair and vision to create you a masterpiece.

Admitted the gourmet meal costs more, but it's also infinitely more satifying. The only thing these shows have in common is that they were produced by and air on cable TV channels. They are not beholden to the network executives and their thrice-dammned focus groups. For those that say that video games are not good entertainment, I would offer up a few of the rather inventive RPG's I've seen lately, "I of the Dragon" and "Fable".

The direction that some of the MMORG's are going in is becoming interesting because the players have the ability to revamp the world around them as well as interact with the other players, becoming sort of a group consentual hallucination. Given that some of the religious elements have been "forcing" conversions to their faith in on-line games by threatening lower level players with virtual violence, can you imagine what would happen if you got one of those yahoos in a focus group on say, "City of Villans" or GTA?

Intelligence Score: 2. This whole article assumes of course that it's even possible to define or benchmark 'intelligence'. I read this book about four months ago Score: 2.

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The book almost reads like a college project or thesis in that is rhetoric and logic is very formulaic and "textbook" in its execution. Set up a hypothesis, mention a negative aspect of idea x, mention several positive aspects of idea x, conclude idea x is overall positive, and move on to idea y. Overall though he does bring up some interesting points that would be fun to debate with friends over a d. Score: 3 , Informative. His main evidence is the increase in the number of characters to be found in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy compared to the original "Star Wars" trilogy Which actually proves nothing since LoTR was written well before Star Wars was even a concept.

Giving the benefit of the doubt Score: 3 , Insightful. I have a nearly 5 year old son that plays video games. One that he used to play until the wife got nervous about it was Rayman II. I could see that the games draw was the problem solving elements, it really captured his interest. Plus, the spoken text portions were motivating him to learn how to read - which was, in turn, motivating me to look for computer games that taught reading skills. So, OK, I can see how popular media can be used as a tool to stimulate intellectual development.

Also, I can recall a few years ago reading a study about how children that read a lot of comic books tended to have better reading skills than those that didn't. I believe that, comic books often don't "dumb down" the language. I recall learning a lot of complex words as a child by reading comics. On TV, shows like Mythbusters seen to have achieved some popularity. Shows like "The Simpson's" and especially "Futurama" sneak in some pretty sophisticated stuff from time to time as well.

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Sadly, TV by and large is still prone to the lowest common denominator. Things like news channels that cycle the same minutes worth of stories over and over throughout the day, or so-called "Reality TV" which is really just encouraging the worst in human behavior. In fairness, "Faking It" was cool because it allowed people to explore new experiences and "No Opportunity Wasted" was, in my opinion, the best of the lot, but it didn't make ratings apparently Reality TV has gotten so pervasive that there are parodies of it "Drawn Together", etc.

So, I guess like everything else, there is good and bad - even in so-called "Reality TV". All the same, the next time someone wants to do "He's a Lady", perhaps we can make it more about what it takes to successfully pull off the role as opposed to simply pandering to gender sterotypes? Enough pontificating Getting way ahead of his blockers Score: 2 , Interesting. I read this book while vacationing in the woods outside of Yosemite. Pretty fitting place to read it, actually.

I posted a review to my blog [blogspot. Gotta love the web. Anyway, I thought his point about gaming being brain candy, and the stimulating complexity of modern TV programming were well done -- and a welcome antidote to CW. But he gets way ahead of himself on a lot of points. This too easy Re:This too easy It always sounds easy to destroy an argument you don't understand.

It is irrelevant whether Lord of the Rings was was a book first. It is irrelevant whether that book was written yesterday or years ago. The thrust of the idea is that movie plots and characters are becoming more complex. Whether those plots and characters are entirely new or lifted wholecloth from another art form is moot. Did he ever mention that the shows of today which are more complex, were made by people who grew up with less "complex" shows in their time? Einstein Never Played "Halo" Score: 2. This reminds me of Woody Allen's movie "Sleeper", in which he plays a character who wakes up from a deep cryonics sleep and finds himself in a futuristic society in which "everything that used to be considered bad for health, such as smoking and eating red meat, is now considered good for you.

Before video games, people played chess for brain exercise; befo. Not really.