Everything Bad is Good for You : How Popular Culture is Making Us Smarter, Paperback

Everything Bad is Good for You : How Popular Culture is Making Us Smarter Paperback

3.5 out of 5 (2 ratings)


We're constantly being told that popular culture is just mindless entertainment - but, as Steven Johnson shows in "Everything Bad is Good for You", it's actually making us more intelligent.

Steven Johnson puts forward a radical alternative to the endless complaints about reality TV, throwaway movies and violent video games.

He shows that mass culture - "The Simpsons", "Desperate Housewives", "The Apprentice", "The Sopranos", "Grand Theft Auto" - is actually more sophisticated and challenging than ever before.

When we focus on what our minds have to do to process its complex, multilayered messages, it becomes clear that it's not dumbing us down - but smartening us up. "As witty as "Seinfeld" and as wise as "ER"". ("New Statesman"). "Wonderfully entertaining". (Malcolm Gladwell). "A vital, lucid exploration of the contemporary mediascape". ("Time Out"). "A guru for Generation Xbox". ("Financial Times"). "A must-read". (Mark Thompson, former Director-General of the BBC). Steven Johnson is the bestselling author of "Mind Wide Open", "Where Good Ideas Come From", and "Emergence: The Connected Lives Of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software", named as one of the best books of 2001 by "Esquire", "The Village Voice", Amazon.com, and "Discover Magazine", and a finalist for the Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 256 pages, Illustrations
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Popular culture
  • ISBN: 9780141018683



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Showing 1 - 2 of 2 reviews.

Review by

Interesting thought piece suggesting that video games, TV and other frequently demonized “junk media” is actually more beneficial than you might think. For example, video games force you to learn rules as you go (compared to, say, chess where you know all the rules in advance), while TV shows today are far more complicated than 30 years ago because they force you to follow multiple threads, a dozen characters and an ongoing story arc. Good ammo for the next time yr local politician goes on a censorship kick to “save the children”.

Review by

"Everything bad is good for you" - by Steven JohnsonInteresting book - it argues that, far from dumbing us down collectively, popular culture (games, TV drama, even reality TV) has become more complex, more challenging, and is probably responsible for what he calls the "Flynn" effect, that is the raising of the average in IQ across all demographics.It really deserves to be read - the graphic illustration of the increasing complexity from Dragnet to Starsky&Hutch to Hill Street Blues to The Sopranos is worth the price of the book alone. Hey, anybody who goes on for so long about HSB and how revolutionary it is deserved to sell books.Some of its arguments are - yes, playing online games is not like reading books, but this means that they two activities cannot really be compared: the cognitive stimulation of computer games is not in the plot or in the characterisation but in how it forces the player to be inventive in probing the game structure, and exercise and build up their problem-solving skills.Fruition of popular content has gone from "lowest common denominator" being the winning selling strategy (ie when tv series were aired at one fixed slot and there were no repeats, on demands on vcr) to "depths of layers and addicted albeit smaller audiences" being the winning profit-making model - because content is repeatable, and you sell DVDs that people are induced to buy if the series withstands repeated viewings.All very interesting and I highly reccomend it, with only two minor whines:a. It's a slim book, and there is a lot of repetition. One thing probably has to do with the other. Especially at the beginning (before I started giving myself permission to skip) I found myself muttering, yes, yes, this is the THIRD TIME you're telling me this, what do you think I am, stupid? On the up side, it's a really easy and engaging read.b. The thought kept going through my head: ok, if Americans are all getting collectively so much smarter, how come they keep voting for what is, to the eyes of any person with an ounce of brainpower, a brain-damaged control-freak incompetent?I think the review on Pandagon of this book points out that there is very little discussion of how this raising of the IQ plays across class divisions; that might be a factor (not many X-box and cable subscriptions in the sticks, I suppose). Another might be that highly conservative demographics are not much in the markets either for World of Warcraft of the Sopranos, and indeed part of the homeschooling movement is aimed a preventing the "corrupting" influence of popular culture to reach the blessed minds of the little innocent dumb fucks.Or maybe it's just a very fascinating theory that happens to be wrong.

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