Pop Culture Actually Makes You Smarter

I recently read a review in Time Magazine about a book that sounds very interesting. It is called In Everything Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter and was written by Stephen Johnson.

Here is some food for thought from the review:

“First, we should clarify what Johnson means by “good.” Unlike many critics of media–especially media aimed at kids–Johnson is not using the term in its moral or social sense. He’s not arguing whether reality TV humiliates people, video games promote violence or movies glorify sex. Instead he wants to know whether it gives the brain a good “cognitive workout.” For Johnson, pop culture is like algebra class. Whether you remember the quadratic equation as an adult is less important than whether you learned the analytic thought processes that solving equations teaches. Likewise, for Johnson, what matters about pop culture is not its message but whether it forces you to engage in complex thought, analysis and reasoning.

His conclusion: it does, and shockingly well, an impression that struck him one rainy day when he taught his nephew, 7, the video game SimCity and soon found the kid making suggestions about industrial tax rates. Video games, Johnson notes, impel us to learn because playing them means not just following rules but also discovering what the rules are. And these rules can be staggeringly complicated. Johnson unpacks the nested objectives of just one segment of a Zelda video game with enough detail to bury the canard that it is “passive” entertainment.”

It is an interesting thought to consider and something that I wouldn’t dismiss out of hand. I am probably going to buy the book and see for myself what it says.

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