27 May 2008

Books aren’t going to be enough

“But most cultural practices stop at the scale of human collectives: cities, economies, networks. You need to understand how communities now share information online in order to understand the complexity of today’s video games.”

– Steven Johnson in his book Everything Bad Is Good For You

The fact that books aren’t going to be enough to keep today’s youngsters occupied, excited and honed on their skills is an argument Steven Johnson has been proposing for a while. In his 2005 book (with a bright pink cover - paperback issue), Everything Bad Is Good For You, Johnson questions the popular notion that video games, TV and the Internet are responsible for dumbing down our intelligence.

On the contrary, he proposes that popular culture – with video games, TV and the Internet in its forefront – has actually helped increase the IQ levels of Americans in recent years. Johnson’s contention is that today’s video games, TV serials, films and the Internet are so complex that they actually engage our problem-solving faculties. He says that the complexity of these media force us to apply our minds and develop critical thinking skills, which a book never does.

No, Johnson doesn’t throw books by the wayside (in fact, he has written several), but argues that though books have – and add – value, video games force players to make choices, solve problems, keep track of complex situations and, in some cases, cooperate with other players to achieve a personal win. To an extent, suggests Johnson, even TV and films encourage our participation and use of intelligence. But the leader, by far, in the category is the Internet as it also encourages social interaction.

I’m not sure if I can agree with Steven Johnson when he proposes that video games, TV, films and the Internet actually help increase IQ levels. As far as I know, there is no such supporting data available in India. But I do agree with him on the point that non-literary media like video games, TV, films and, definitely, the Internet are important in our lives today. Today’s youngsters, and on occasions we too, thrive on such media and are likely to build their/our futures on them, rather than on books.

[Citation: Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter by Steven Johnson.]

No comments: