Popular Culture, Learning and Games



Today I spent most of the day reading through ‘Everything Bad is Good for You’ by Steve Johnson. It tries to answer what effect today’s media has on us, if it’s making us dumber as most reports presume, and comes up with some interesting theories. The main one being that the Internet, games and TV-series now days demand a much higher degree of interaction and sophisticated information analysis and deciphering, and that the demand continues to rise because the brain essentially seeks challenges. Even the Reality Shows on TV with their often dubious subject matters activates our brains more than previous generations of programs by containing more material to analyze and find social patterns in, demanding more activity of the viewer in different ways. It’s definitely an interesting read but the book has the problem of to little scientific proof according to academics and scientists, but the theories are well presented. These were the valuable thoughts and concepts the book reinforced in me:

We benefit strongly from exploring new media, technologies & linguistics instead of alienating ourselves and thinking we had all the answers when we grew up and media was better in our generation.

A diverse intake of books, games, internet, music, theater etc. is a good core for challenging our minds and keeping them open, strongly referring to the above point. All cultural expressions have their own strengths in what they can convey and how. So just as with food a balanced intake should logically be a good thing.

Interactivity is the future of learning, better not to be pushing ideas and concepts on to people but instead creating exploring environments with choices. As argued in the book and in other observations the scientific method is built into games naturally, when diversifying the subject matters this becomes a really powerful tool filled with entertaining value that keeps us alert. Give people questions to answer and boundaries to explore instead of premade opinions.

Create entertainment that can be experienced many times instead of conveying all information at one run trough; the concept is talked about especially within the frames of TV-series in the book. If that is done with good craftsmanship the value of the work is prolonged. Seinfeld, The Sopranos and The Simpsons are given as great examples of this “Most Repeatable Programming model” (MRP). I have now gotten an even better understanding of these TV-series and why they have been so successful. “MRP shows are designed on the scale of years, not seconds” referring to the content value, as viewers willingly return to old episodes because there’s new things and previously hidden layers to discover which have been thoughtfully crafted.

 Other than reading and taking notes on the book I’ve spent some time reading about how scientists are seen as a lobby groups not willing to communicate to any greater extent with the public. On that I found an interesting speech written and given by Michael Crichton (may know him as the writer of ‘Jurassic Park’ among other works) about how scientist are described in media, the most interesting part comes near the end where he critiques how scientists view appearing in public and that they should help common citizens instead of working in secluded domains.

Lastly a Ted Talk about how children adapt to learning without teachers. Begins a bit slow but the interesting observational parts start to appear after a while.

Oh, almost forgot to recommend a game, it’s a puzzle game about sustainability called City Rain. It’s highly addictive and calming at the same time.


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