“there’s money to be made by making culture smarter” …

is a quote from Steven Johnson’s NYT article Magazine > Watching TV Makes You Smarter. Years ago I read a short blurb in a paper about a new study done by the military that showed IQ’s were rising. This was attributed to video games and the workout they give cognition. I filed that away, and now that meme has broken out into full-blown idea. Like it, or hate it — believe it, or think it’s bullshit — anyway I find it fascinating. The  NYTimes  article  (and another in the May  WIRED –"Dome Improvement" pg 100 — not online yet)  are adapted from  from this book which will be available next month now.(Order: Everything Bad is Good for You) The Times article has some good simple graphs the contrast the lack of complexity in an episode of "Starskey & Hutch" vs. "The Sopranos."
There is also an illuminating discussion of how much confusion a contemporary story-audience will tolerate — how much exposition do you really need. The television drama model would indicate that
it is very very much less than is often thought — but try to convince some sf editors of that. 
The message here for storytellers is (and that’s my main interest in the subject) trust the story, trust the audience, and complicate, complicate, complicate.

UPDATE 4:45pm See also Boing Boing


2 thoughts on ““there’s money to be made by making culture smarter” …

  1. I like this idea because it explodes the hierarchy of differing styles of media which is good. It’s funny because though I do feel somehow that reading is better than watching a movie, most of my friends feel the opposite. Since many of them know me as the only reader, there’s no point in reading because its a waste of time in that it doesn’t give you anything that people can relate to.

    I was talking to a very smart person about the Tennis Court Oath, and she had no idea what I was talking about. In modern culture there is no canon anymore and there are so many books available that one can’t possibly be versed in them all. Even a well read person only knows a subset of all the types of books there are. The broader one learns the more shallow one’s learning is.

    Movies and tv are a sort of a canon. Even though I don’t own a tv, I have been very successful in using tv metaphors and talking to people about tv shows where I only watched five minutes on a bar tv. With books its hit and miss. And relating to others is paramount if one is interested in gaining a greater social position because if you can’t socialize then how are you going to get on the inside track with regards to job and investment opportunties?

    Then there’s that older is better idea.

    At any rate, at the beginning of this, I said that I “felt” that books were better, but I’m not interested in arguing that. I don’t know why I feel that way probably because that’s what I’ve been told to think a long time ago. I don’t know. Perhaps because they are not so addictive? You could prove a point that wasted time is wasted time. I don’t know.

    I do know that my friend who is really into video games to the point of making daily appointments to meet others online to coordinated virtual troop movements is very happy. Many of my friends who want to write books are not some of them are. The more important they think their writing is, the less happy they are.

  2. Weekend

    I had been planning on going up to Penguicon, but the person I was hoping to drive up with had life intervene, and I’m thankful I chose not to drive up myself because life intervened over the weekend shortly after,…

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