Reading Response 1 – Steven Johnson’s Everything Bad Is Good For You

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Hi everyone, making our first blog posts of the semester is pretty exciting stuff isn’t it? For this post I’m just going to summarize some of the thoughts I had from the reading. I went along with the book, and whenever something interesting came to mind as a result of the text, I wrote it down. Not sure if this will be a practical choice for all blog posts but I think it really helped me isolate, in this reading, what caught my attention the most. I will say that overall these first 25 pages were the kind of introduction to the book I expected with a lot of agreeable points and arguments though again none of it was very surprising given the content of the book and there was not a whole lot of opportunity for us to argue against it as Johnson made very logical arguments.

The first thing that stuck out to me was when he was explaining the complexities of the baseball simulation and Dungeons and Dragons. Now, I have never played a game of APBA or D&D, but I found that the of the two processes described, the D&D character creation made the most sense to me and was much easier for me to understand than the baseball simulation which I still am hopelessly confused about. I found myself wondering if this preference is based solely in the fact that I am more familiar with role playing games than sports or if it has something to do with the interface of grids and charts versus dice and manuals. Questions arose in my mind over whether or not someone more familiar with baseball will understand that process better or if there are more RPG-oriented people that thought the baseball simulation was just the most simple thing ever. Does the level of understanding have to do with more beyond just the content? I would argue that very much the answer is yes. We all have certain areas of strengths and weaknesses that contribute to our understanding of a certain games’ intricacies.

The second thing that stuck out was Johnson’s main claim that pop culture is actually making us smarter and is getting more complex over time, and while I do not doubt the truth of this statement, I do have issues over the generalizations he is making. Pop culture has a broad spectrum of topics and differing levels of intelligence, which is something that was alluded to in the text. If this is to be considered true then, it would be possible for people to only be exposed to certain areas of pop culture that do nothing beneficial for the mind. It only works to better us, if we get exposed to a good enough range of different types and outlets of pop culture that at times challenge our way of thinking. I have fears, however wrongly placed they might be, that a fairly decent amount of people are only exposed to the lower levels of pop culture. This too could be an illusion, however, as I am sure we all engage in more forms of this pop culture than we even realize so it is possible to then to be perfectly exposed in all the right ways without even realizing it.

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