Everything Bad is Good for You

This is the title of the boook I am reading right now. It must have been a big hit when it came out in 2005, but I only just found out about it when I went to the library the other day. Yes, that’s right. Mrs V does go to the library. And if I can do it, so can you!

Steven Johnson, the author of this book, writes in response to the widely held notion that TV and computer games are making us dumber. The commonly held idea is that playing a computer game does not challenge the mind as much as reading a book does. Johnson counters that if you keep the criteria for evaluation constant, then certainly reading a book does engage the mind much more than computer games, because youhave to use your imagination and you are exposed to lots of new ideas and content, as well as new vocabulary and ways of framing ideas. But computer gaming, he says, involves just as much learning- it is just that it is a different type of learning. Computer games are not about the content, which can be infantile at best. They teach you a new way of thinking that books cannot.

In fact, says Johnson, computer games and TV programmes have become increasingly more complex, and this is in response to people’s demand for increasing complexity. The reason people demand it is because they are getting smarter, not dumber, from all the complexity around them. And so the cycle continues, spiralling upward to create successive generations of increasingly smarter problem-solvers.

I am not sure I agree entirely with Johnson, because while there is some truth in his complexity theory, we have lost something in our ability to flesh out the world around us. Life is about more than just solving problems, and we have to keep aiming for higher levels of thought. This means that complexity is not everything. Depth is also vital.

Why not read the book for yourself and see how you feel about the issue? Here are the details:

Steven Johnson (2005) Everything Bad is Good for You. Great Britain. Allen Lane (ISBN 0-713-99802-4)

In the library in West Mall, you will find it in the non-fiction section under Sociology, and the code on the spine is 306.0973 JOH

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2 thoughts on “Everything Bad is Good for You

  1. I feel that computer games does help… but how it helps will depend on its type.

    For example, a strategy game can help you improve your foresight while if you were to play a puzzle game, it will help you to think deeper into a topic. Maybe games with good graphics help us to visualise images with greater detail.

  2. Ah! Spoken with an authenticity that is backed up by significant gaming experience! I think you have made some good points. Just yesterday I was telling one class that today’s young people have learned a lot from the media they come into contact with. The result is that you guys can imagine and conceive of so many things that I couldn’t at your age.

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