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

Steven Johnson
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
Price: 11.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

6 April 2006

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.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (6 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141018682
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141018683
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 190,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Review

'We need never feel guilty about that 96-hour Grand Theft Auto session again’ -- Arena

'Wonderfully entertaining’ -- Malcolm Gladwell

Essential and rather brilliant. -- New Statesman

The championing of popular culture is most welcome ... a vital, lucid exploration of the contemporary mediascape. -- Time Out Book of the Week

This book is a satisfying experience. -- New Statesman

‘A guru for Generation Xbox’ -- Financial Times

‘A must-read’ -- Mark Thompson, head of the BBC

‘Thought-provoking … very persuasive’ -- Sunday Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Steven Johnson is the author of the US bestseller Mind Wide Open. His previous book, Emergence: The Connected Lives Of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, was named as one of the best books of 2001 by Esquire, The Village Voice, Amazon.com, and Discover Magazine. It was named as a finalist for the Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism. He is also the author of the 1997 book, Interface Culture.

Johnson's writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, Harper's, and the Guardian, as well as on the op-ed pages of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He writes the monthly 'Emerging Technology' column for Discover magazine, and is a Contributing Editor to Wired. The co-founder of the award-winning web sites FEED and Plastic.com, Johnson teaches at New York University's Interactive Telecommunications Program, and has degrees in Semiotics and English Literature from Brown and Columbia Universities.

Steven Johnson also hosts a web log at www.stevenberlinjohnson.com.


Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
EVERY CHILDHOOD HAS its talismans, the sacred objects that look innocuous enough to the outside world, but that trigger an onslaught of vivid memories when the grown child confronts them. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not authoritative 11 July 2005
By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
As a keen gamer, I plan to show this book to everyone who tells me I'm wasting time! The book explores a premise called the Sleeper Curve, a term invented by Johnson and used liberally throughout the book, explaining that those forms of mass culture that are most slated for being mindless and simplistic are in fact challenging our brains in ever newer and more complex ways. By examining the changes in television, film and games over the last few decades, and citing results of IQ studies and other publications, Johnson certainly makes a persuasive argument for the complexification of American culture.
However, a major flaw with this book as far as I see it is its concentration on America and American media. Whether older British television is indeed as simple compared to today's shows as Johnson claims American TV is, I cannot say; however, I suspect that at least some of our older television still challenges today's audiences. Equally, results of spurious IQ studies (with Johnson himself mentioning that IQ is not necessarily a good measure of intelligence) are entirely divorced from our culture. Having lived in America, I did understand most of the references to television shows, but there were still some which passed me by, unfortunately.
In terms of style the book is fairly heavy-going (at least initially) since it takes a more academic than casual tone. Certainly the term 'Sleeper Curve' is accurate as I fell asleep reading it a few times, and I felt more like I was ploughing through reams of justification than following a series of eloquent arguments.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
i'm a big fan of Stephen Johnson's writing. Interface Culture should be on every digital media-related course's reading list and blew my mind at the time. I also think Emergence is a great book, which expands into more scientific areas. that said, i found this book slightly disappointing. it is well written and interesting in parts but there's nothing especially surprising or thought-provoking in it (especially if you've read his other books) and i left feeling it would've been better as a magazine or newspaper article rather than something you have to pay 8 for. ironically (given the commentary on fit for purpose media). there was a fair bit of repetition (at one point i was thinking "if he mentions how gaming improves your cognitive skills one more time i'm gonna scream") and the referencing of Nietszche e.g. just struck me as gratuitous. if you're a fast reader or haven't read his other books then you may enjoy it but is less challenging and less interesting than his other writing. it's less academic and therefore more accessible than his other stuff so would probably buy this for someone that needed persuading, which perhaps is the audience he's aiming for with this one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read 7 July 2014
By LeeM
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
For my first non-fiction have enjoyed this much more then I thought, have given it five stars as I went into it thinking I might bore of it fast but it's fresh view has certainly held my attention. First heard of this from a youtube video by "Vsauce" and am very glad I got the ebook, well done Steve Johnson I will be paying more attention to your work from now on
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3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting spin 3 Mar 2013
By giraffe
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Great idea of a book to look at new media from a different perspective, although I found it quite repetitive.
Could have been much more concise, I found myself scanning and skipping.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Incomplete 19 Nov 2010
Format:Kindle Edition
Several paragraphs of the preview chapter alone introduce a picture, diagram or other image which is simply absent, apparently not included in the electronic version. Hard to recommend any ebook which is clearly so incomplete as to be unfit for sale.
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8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My best non-fiction read in 2005! 14 Jan 2006
By Siriam TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I read this book at the end of 2005 and found it one of the best eye openers in challenging a lot of my simple misconceptions regarding computer games, TV and the benefits of the internet (as an education/social interaction tool as opposed to a tool I use at work every day).
I no longer look at my children's fascination with playing computer games with such concern; it has not increased my viewing of TV (a medium I actually think too many people view with rose tinted historic spectacles given it formed such a key part of their early lives) but it has helped me appreciate the wider benefits of how TV series now operate and are structured versus the versions I saw as a child; plus the internet and its wider social impact is put into context with the end coverage that IQs are given these changes getting higher in the middle and lower zones of society if not so clearly helping the top intellectual end are well made even if you do not wholly agree everything.
The book is US centric but given the author's life, location and background that seems inevitable and indeed the beauty of the arguments presented for consideration is that you find yourself applying them to local UK TV programmes given the main messages are universal.
While the style is too academic at the start, once the writer warms to his subjects he does present well and in a very creative structure that interlocks across the book. Finally, the end section on summarising areas for further reading on the different topics is one of the best I have seen in such a small book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
simply one of the best books i've ever read. it finally gave me valid arguments for things i knew to be true...
Published on 5 July 2010 by ppferraz
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is so good. And it's good for you.
Are you annoyed with classical music and classical literature fans who believe that they are somehow better, nobler, finer than the rest of us, just because everything they like is... Read more
Published on 28 Dec 2009 by Printul Noptilor
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything Bad is Good for You - Steven Johnson
Very interesting and really sums up the current media debate! going to be really useful when starting by media uni course in september!
Published on 26 April 2009 by Ms. Eilidh White
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything Bad is Good for You is Good for You
Johnson is one of my favourite writers; this might not be his best book, ('Emergence' is) but this is like spending a weekend with a fascinating eccentric, one whose arguments are... Read more
Published on 17 Jun 2008 by A. Stark
2.0 out of 5 stars Elitism Rules! OK?
This is a provocative book which warrants serious consideration. The author postulates that through the device of the sleeper curve, the various technological developments which... Read more
Published on 15 Jun 2008 by Junglies
4.0 out of 5 stars Grand Moff Tarkin...why grand Moff Tarkin??
First let me say that this is a truelly inspiring book, after reading it I not only feel entirely justified in my TV and DVD viewing but a little ashamed of myself for not playing... Read more
Published on 25 May 2007 by Pacman
4.0 out of 5 stars This Book Was Good For Me
I value this book immensely because it highlighted that my generation had not wasted away on computer games, formulaic film and TV content. Read more
Published on 17 Jan 2007 by Simon Drake
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