Monday, March 26, 2007

Everything Bad is Good for You

If you want to justify your couch potato existence, then look no further than Steven Johnson's book. Johnson argues that, contrary to popular belief, watching television and playing video games all day actually makes you smarter. While I don't completely buy his entire argument, he does make a good case that popular culture has advanced and has become increasingly complex, at least if you're looking at the upper end of the scale. Shows like The Sopranos and The Wire and Lost all require the viewer to keep track of multiple characters and plot lines over the course of an episode, season, and series. The phenomenon of TV shows on DVD has also helped this, as shows are often seen less as stand-alone hours of entertainment and more of a multi-hour arc. Video games change the way we make decisions--more quickly and through more trial and error. They also help with spatial intelligence, coordination, and layered thinking. Both mediums also often lead to more reading and writing--on the Internet--through message boards, cheat guides, and blogs. In short, they are both more interactive than passive. Whether you agree with him or not, there are definitely some thought-provoking issues raised.

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