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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not authoritative
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...
Published on 11 July 2005 by Amazon Customer

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not as good as his other books but worth a quick read
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...
Published on 7 Nov 2006 by V. Pollard


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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 (San Francisco) - See all my reviews
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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. However, Johnson makes his point logically, and well, and I am inclined to agree with his line of reasoning; it is also a good thing for mass media that finally a well-supported argument can stand up to the old-wives' myths levelled at it by its detractors, and the general folk belief that "TV is bad for you" which, I realise, I have never seen actually argued out anywhere.
Overall, this is an interesting and fairly challenging book but a little too America-centric; I feel it wouldn't have been terribly difficult to look outside the USA for examples! If one can look past that, however, it's definitely worth at least one read, though it might not stand up to repeated reading, since my reaction on finishing the book was to want to talk to the author to challenge some of his points -- something the old-fashioned one-way un-interactive medium of books doesn't allow
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars not as good as his other books but worth a quick read, 7 Nov 2006
This review is from: Everything Bad is Good for You: How Popular Culture is Making Us Smarter (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
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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
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This review is from: Everything Bad is Good for You: How Popular Culture is Making Us Smarter (Paperback)
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
By 
Antsoton (Southampton, UK) - See all my reviews
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 (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Elitism Rules! OK?, 15 Jun 2008
By 
Junglies (Morrisville, NC United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Everything Bad is Good for You: How Popular Culture is Making Us Smarter (Paperback)
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 pervade popular culture are not dumbing down America, but rather leading to development of a broader range of skills than credited by academic experts.

He sets out his view in sections devoted to video games, film, and very briefly, the internet, and explores the differing skills which are exercised during their consumption.

As someone who has exhibited a preference for aspects of popular culture as opposed to high culture for most of my life, the argument is very attractive at the outset. As one delves deeper into the subject serious questions arise as to whether there is a general case to answer.

Consider video games, where our author testifies to the skills required to play some of the more complex games such as Grand Theft Auto. There is a strong case to be made here but the issue is rather deflated when one considers that the vast majority of game players consume sports and other games which are considerably less complex and demanding.

Film also has a substantial longevity in the popular pantheon of leisure activities. It manages to portray a story and certain sophisticated complexities but still lacks by far the great leap forward that one achieves through reading a novel.

I would reject a notion that the use of the internet provides much of an intellectual challenge, given the degree to which internet consumers access porn sites and where much of the content is clearly aimed at the lower end of the spectrum

Having said all of this, I believe that there is something in the authors argument, but in a more narrow sense. For myself I consider that there are a minority of people within our society who exhibit skill and knowledge improvements as a result of immersion in the complexities and sophistications of certain games, or movies or whatever. The question of whether they are smarter is debatable. I would suggest that the elite to whom I refer demonstrate aptitudes of learning from external stimuli whichare far greater that those of the general populace. This tends to suggest to me however, that those aptitudes are inherited and/or learnt from an environment and upbringing where parents encourage skills of learning and exploring, encouragement and direction etc.

All in all, a worthwhile book subject to some of the caveats which I have alluded to above.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything Bad is Good for You is Good for You, 17 Jun 2008
This review is from: Everything Bad is Good for You: How Popular Culture is Making Us Smarter (Paperback)
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 spinning out of his mouth, and out of control, so fast even he can't get a grip on them. It's not a terribly rigorous book, and I don't care, it asks so many good questions, and made me step back for a moment to reflect. And I went out and bought Sim City for my son, and we're having a blast.
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is so good. And it's good for you., 28 Dec 2009
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This review is from: Everything Bad is Good for You: How Popular Culture is Making Us Smarter (Paperback)
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 at least 100 years old? Do you feel disturbed by snotty snobs disparaging as "mass culture" things that you enjoy, and telling you to listen to and read something "serious" instead?

I most certainly do and I just refuse to give in to the symphomaniacs. I am not afraid to tell them that the boring squeaking they like to listen to, or the elaborate blabber they like to read, is in no way better than the stuff which 95 percent of the population enjoys. I remember how I asked a woman what kind of books she liked, and she lowered her eyes and said she liked detective novels, as if admitting to have peed in her pants when she was a child. She went on to explain how she knew that she ought to be reading more of the "serious" literature, but... And I tried to explain to her that there was absolutely nothing wrong with her reading what she enjoys.

It was unfortunate that, even though I felt that the shame racketeers were wrong, I was still struggling to find logical arguments against their mental venom. Sure enough, I knew that most of the classical music made me depressed and most of the old books seemed like a bunch of nonsense. Neither could I understand why reading text printed on paper was considered a noble and educating acivity, and reading stuff from a computer screen was supposed to be pointless waste of time. But of course those were just my subjective impressions, and maybe those classic freaks were right in suggesting that most the population are just wasting their lives away, intoxicated with easy-to-digest entertainment that is numbing and dumbing us.

This book supplies those missing arguments. Mr. Johnson takes on the task of refuting the myth that the popular culture of today is less mentally challenging than the "high culture" of 50 or 500 years ago. He proves that the claim frequently made by old-minded people, that modern TV entertainment and computer games are primitive, is totally wrong.
Among other things, Mr. Johnson shows how some modern computer games require amazingly complex decision-making, far exceeding that involved in any board games he played when he was a kid. But an especially eye-opening part of the book is where Mr. Johnson demonstrates how TV series have gotten incredibly complicated, compared to 30 years ago. "Hill Street Blues", created in early 80's, introduced a new idea - several plot lines running parallelly, and continuing from episode to episode. The authors were warned against doing that - it was supposed to be too complicated to follow; people couldn't be bothered to watch a series that required so much remembering. Contrary to their fears, HSB became a landslide success. Since then, TV series have become increasingly more complex, of which you can get an idea by looking at the chart on p 70, or comparing the diagrams on p 110 and p 112.

"Everything Bad Is Good for You" demonstrates with striking convincingness that the children and teenagers of today are capable of following (and indeed do routinely follow) entertainment which is so complex that it's likely to overwhelm the brains of their parents. The idea that our culture is in the decline is in clear contradiction to the facts, if only you bother to take a little time to look at them. "Dumbing down" is a myth of embittered dinosaur-spirits who are frustrated to see life passing them by, and ten-year-olds doing things they have no hope of ever learning. As I've always said: the so-called popular culture IS the real culture of today. It offers so much variety that different kind of people can find something that makes them feel good.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grand Moff Tarkin...why grand Moff Tarkin??, 25 May 2007
This review is from: Everything Bad is Good for You: How Popular Culture is Making Us Smarter (Paperback)
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 more computer games. I am obviously neglecting my personal development.

Johnson arguement is clear, modern culture is improving our cognative functioning, and on this score he is highly convincing in his well structured and presented argument. What I did feel was lacking was any discussion of the ramifications of his conclusions, after all do we know if increased cognitive functioning is good for us? I understand that this is not really the remit of the book, Johnson is addressing (and very successfully too) the idea that media is dumbing down, but I was left with a thirst for more debate along these lines. Does the increase in cognative processing lead to increased levels of boredom (depression is on the rise) or ADHD?? I don't know and don't want to say, but I think there is a further arguement here and I think Johnson could do have done it more justice in the book.

oh yes and how does Grand Moff Tarkin make it into a list of the nine most important characters in Star wars? (p126)
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