Everything Bad is Good for You

( 17 )


Forget everything you’ve ever read about the age of dumbed-down, instant-gratification culture. In this provocative, unfailingly intelligent, thoroughly researched, and surprisingly convincing big idea book, Steven Johnson draws from fields as diverse as neuroscience, economics, and media theory to argue that the pop culture we soak in every day—from Lord of the Rings to Grand Theft Auto to The Simpsons—has been growing more sophisticated with each passing year, and, far from rotting our brains, is actually ...

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Forget everything you’ve ever read about the age of dumbed-down, instant-gratification culture. In this provocative, unfailingly intelligent, thoroughly researched, and surprisingly convincing big idea book, Steven Johnson draws from fields as diverse as neuroscience, economics, and media theory to argue that the pop culture we soak in every day—from Lord of the Rings to Grand Theft Auto to The Simpsons—has been growing more sophisticated with each passing year, and, far from rotting our brains, is actually posing new cognitive challenges that are actually making our minds measurably sharper. After reading Everything Bad is Good for You, you will never regard the glow of the video game or television screen the same way again.

With a new afterword by the author.

Steven Johnson's newest book, Future Perfect, is now available from Riverhead Books.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Revelatory...Daring...Finally, an intellectual who doesn’t think we’re headed down the toilet!" –Washington Post Book World

"Persuasive...The old dogs won’t be able to rest as easily once they’ve read Everything Bad is Good for You, Steven Johnson’s elegant polemic.... It’s almost impossible not to agree with him."—Walter Kirn, The New York Times Book Review

"A thought-provoking argument that today's allegedly vacuous media are, well, thought provoking...A brisk, witty read, well versed in the history of literature and bolstered with research...Johnson, it turns out, still knows the value of reading a book. And this one is indispensable." —Time

"There is a pleasing eclecticism to [Johnson’s] thinking. He is as happy analyzing Finding Nemo as he is dissecting the intricacies of a piece of software ... Johnson wants to understand popular culture…in the very practical sense of wondering what watching something like The Dukes of Hazzard does to the way our minds work." —Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

"The author Newsweek called one of the most influential people in cyberspace...is back. The beauty of Johnson’s latest work — beyond its engaging, accessible prose — is that anyone with even a glancing familiarity with pop culture will come to the book ready to challenge his premise. Everything Bad Is Good for You anticipates and refutes nearly every likely claim, building a convincing case that media have become more complex and thus make our minds work harder." —Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Through a string of airtight, academic and very entertaining essays, Johnson maintains that prime-time TV is more intellectually engaging than ever." —Time Out New York

"Sophisticated...nimble...strangely satisfying." —Newsday

"Johnson’s challenge to the oft-repeated lament that mass culture is dumbing down is as enlightening as it is necessary." –BookForum

"Johnson may be the first mainstream writer to bring neuroscientific inquiry to 'The Apprentice'...It’s scientific and literary rigor, couch-potato style." –Chicago Tribune

"Johnson paints a convincing and literate portrait, and he shows himself to be a master of many disciplines, which deepens the well of his credibility." –San Francisco Chronicle

"Engaging...Intriguing...Breezy and funny... Johnson is a forceful writer, and he makes a good case; his book is an elegant work of argumentation." —Salon.com

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781594481949
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/2/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 185,615
  • Product dimensions: 8.02 (w) x 10.88 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Johnson

Steven Johnson is the author of seven bestsellers, including Where Good Ideas Come From, The Invention of Air, The Ghost Map, and Everything Bad Is Good for You, and is the editor of the anthology The Innovator’s Cookbook. He is the founder of a variety of influential websites—most recently, outside.in—and writes for Time, Wired, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. He lives in Marin County, California, with his wife and three sons.

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Read an Excerpt

It is a truth nearly universally acknowledged that pop culture caters to our base instincts; mass society dumbs down and simplifies; it races to the bottom. The rare flowerings of "quality programming" only serve to remind us of the overall downward slide. But no mater how many times this refrain is belted out, it doesn't get any more accurate. As we've seen, precisely the opposite seems to be happening: the secular trend is toward greater cognitive demands, more depth, more participation. If you accept that premise, you're forced then to answer the question: Why?

For decades, the race to the bottom served as kind of a Third Law of Thermodynamics for mass society: all other things being equal, pop culture will decline into simpler forms. But if entropy turns out not to govern the world of mass society - if our entertainment is getting smarter after all - we need a new model to explain the trend. That model is a complex, layered one. The forces driving the Sleeper Curve straddle three different realms of experience: the economic, the technological, and the neurological. Part of the Sleeper Curve reflects changes in the market forces that shape popular entertainment; part emanates from long-term technological trends; and part stems from deep-seated appetites in the human brain.

The Sleeper Curve is partly powered by the force of repetition. Over the past 20 years, a fundamental shift has transformed the economics of popular entertainment: original runs are now less lucrative than repeats. In the old days of television and Hollywood, the payday came from your initial airing on network or your first run at the box office. The aftermarkets for content were marginal at best. But the mass adoption of the VCR, and cable television's hunger for syndicated programming, has turned that equation on its head. In 2003, for the first time, Hollywood made more money from DVD sales that it did from box-office receipts. Television shows repurposed as DVDs generated more than a billion dollars in sales during the same period. And the financial rewards of syndication are astronomical: shows like The Simpsons and The West Wing did well for their creators in their initial airings on network television, but the real bonanza came from their afterlife as reruns.

How do the economics of repetition connect to the Sleeper Curve? The virtue of syndication or DVD sales doesn't lie in the financial reward itself, but in the selection criteria that the reward creates in the larger entertainment ecosystem. If the ultimate goal stops being about capturing an audience's attention once, and becomes more about keeping their attention through repeat viewings, that shift is bound to have an effect on the content. Television syndication means pretty much one thing: the average fan might easily see a given episode five or 10 times, instead of the one or two viewings that you would have expected in the Big Three era. Shows that prosper in syndication do so because they can sustain five viewings without becoming tedious. And sustaining five viewings means adding complexity, not subtracting it. Reruns are generally associated with the dumbing down of popular culture, when, in fact, they're responsible for making the culture smarter.

To appreciate the magnitude of the shift, you need only rewind the tape to the late seventies and contemplate the governing principle that reigned over prime-time programming in the dark ages of Joanie Loves Chachi — a philosophy dubbed the theory of "Least Objectionable Programming" by NBC executive Paul Klein. LOP is a pure-breed race-to-the-bottom model: you create shows designed on the scale of minutes and seconds, with the fear that the slightest challenge — "thought," say, or "education" — will send the audience scurrying to the other networks.

Contrast LOP with the model followed by The Sopranos —é what you might call the Most Repeatable Programming model. MRP shows are designed on the scale of years, not seconds. The most successful programs in the MRP model are the ones you still want to watch three years after they originally aired, even though you've already seen them three times. The MRP model cultivates nuance and depth; it welcomes "tricks" like backward episodes and dense allusions to Hollywood movies.

The transformation of video games — from arcade titles designed for a burst of action in a clamorous environment, to contemplative products that reward patience and intense study — provides the most dramatic case study in the power of repetition. The titles that lie at the top of the all-time game bestseller lists are almost exclusively games that can literally be played forever without growing stale: games like Age of Empires, The Sims, or Grand Theft Auto that have no fixed narrative path, and thus reward repeat play with an ever-changing complexity; sports simulations that allow you to replay entire seasons with new team rosters, or create imaginary leagues from different eras. Titles with definitive endings have less value in the gaming economy; the more open-ended and repeatable, the more likely it is the game that will be a breakout hit.

Technological innovation, of course, has contributed mightily to the Sleeper Curve. To begin with, most of the media technologies introduced over the past 30 years have been, in effect, repetition engines: tools designed to let you rewind, replay, repeat. It seems amazing to think of it now, but just 30 years ago, television viewers tuning in for All in the Family or M*A*S*H had almost no recourse available to them if they wanted to watch a scene again, or catch a bit of dialogue they missed. If you wanted to watch the "Chuckles the Clown" episode of Mary Tyler Moore again, you had to wait six months, until CBS reran it during the summer doldrums — and then five years before it started cycling in syndication.

Since those days, the options for slowing down or reversing time have proliferated: first the VCR; then the explosion of cable channels, running dozens of shows in syndication at any given moment; then DVDs 15 years later; then TiVo; and now "on demand" cable channels that allow viewers to select programs directly from a menu of options — as well as pause and rewind them. Viewers now curate their own private collections of classic shows, their DVD cases lining living-room shelves like so many triple-decker novels. The supplementary information often packaged with these DVDs adds to their repetition potential.

These proliferating new recording technologies are often described as technologies of convenience, but the technology has another laudable side effect: it facilitates close readings. As technologies of repetition allowed new levels of complexity to flourish, the rise of the Internet gave that complexity a new venue where it can be dissected, critiqued, rehashed, and explained. Even a modestly popular show — like HBO's critically acclaimed drama Six Feet Under — has spawned hundreds of fan sites and discussion forums, where each episode is scrutinized and annotated with an intensity usually reserved for Talmudic scholars. The fan sites create a public display of passion for the show, which nervous Hollywood execs sometimes use to justify renewing a show that might otherwise be cancelled due to mediocre ratings. Shows like Arrested Development and Alias survive for multiple seasons thanks in part to the enthusiasm of their smaller audiences — not to mention the fans' willingness to buy DVD versions en masse when they're eventually released.

The new possibilities for meta-commentary are best displayed in game walk-throughs: those fantastically detailed descriptions that "walk" the reader "through" the environment of a video game, usually outlining the most effective strategies for completing the game's primary objectives. Hundreds of these documents exist online, almost all of them created by ordinary players, assembling tips and techniques from friends and game discussion boards. If you have your doubts about the spatio-logical complexity of today's video games and don't have the time to sit down and play one yourself, I recommend downloading one of these walk-throughs from the Web and scrolling through it just to gauge the scale and intricacy of these gameworlds.

Pop culture's race to the top over the past decades forces us to rethink our assumptions about the base tendencies of mass society. Almost every Chicken Little story about the declining standards of pop culture contains a buried blame-the-victim message: Junk culture thrives because people are naturally drawn to simple, childish pleasures. Children zone out in front of their TV shows or their video games because the mind seeks out mindlessness. This is the Slacker theory of brain function: the human brain desires above all else that the external world refrain from making it do too much work. Given their druthers, our brains would prefer to luxuriate among idle fantasies and mild amusements. And so, never being one to refuse a base appetite, the culture industry obliges. The result is a society where maturity, in Andrew Solomon's words, is a "process of mental atrophy."

Think about it this way: if our brain really desired to atrophy in front of mindless entertainment, then the story of the last 30 years of video games — from Pong to The Sims — would be the story of games that grew increasingly simple over time. You'd never need a guidebook or a walk-through; you'd just fly through the world, a demigod untroubled by challenge and complexity. Game designers would furiously compete to come out with the simplest titles; every virtual space would usher you to the path of least resistance. Of course, exactly the opposite has occurred. The games have gotten more challenging at an astonishing rate: from PacMan's single page of patterns to Grand Theft Auto III's 53,000-word walk-through in a mere two decades. The games are growing more challenging because there's an economic incentive to make them more challenging — and that economic incentive exists because our brains like to be challenged.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 10, 2012

    Compelling and Informative.

    Steven Johnson does a pretty good job of bringing another side to the table on the issue’s pertaining to the use of popular culture. Johnson’s main argument relates to the functions using video games and other forms of media, and how despite their inabilities to match the nurturing of the brain that reading books does, they provide brain food in other ways. His first example was his baseball-dice-card game, where he had to build a successful baseball team with raw statistics and a few dice rolls. Johnson also makes mention on the potential positive effects of video games, inferring that their allowance for exploration and creation of one’s own imagination bring things that reading someone else’s written path does not provide. Johnson also has a penchant, though, for emphatically repeating the same hypothesis, in that our brains must have gotten smarter if the technology and television we take in is on a different level that that of previous generations. His main point is that it must be doing something positive, besides the obvious hand-eye coordination improvements. Overall, a compelling read, even if it is a stretch.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 8, 2012

    great read

    The book “Everything Bad Is Good for You” by Steven Johnson was a great read. Johnson’s introduction showed how children unknowingly learn new things from games and television. It was surprising to hear that baseball card games, and Dungeons and Dragons gave him certain intellect that he wouldn’t have known without them. The fact that Johnson says reading doesn’t use nearly enough of the brain astounded me. I was sort of happy when he said playing video games increases parts of the brain that reading just won’t help. I definitely agree that having a visual puzzle in certain games definitely makes one think a lot more than just reading words off of a page. This is simply because you see what is happening, and hear the music letting you know the tone, and you hear the words which let you know what is going on. Playing video games definitely uses more brain power than reading does. Television, Johnson states, requires thinking and brain power to watch. Certain types of television, such as reality t.v. and action and drama, require different amounts of brain power. Action shows (Johnson brings up 24 – a great show by the way) make people think about plots, mysteries, and even characters and their relations. These different webs of information do in fact make one think which uses a good amount of the brain. Although I agree with what Johnson says about television and games, there are certain flaws I find in Johnson’s reasoning. For one, certain games have levels that just require playing through and don’t require much thought. These games do not give much evidence of supporting Johnson’s reasoning. Some television shows also are just dumb and pointless to watch. Johnson’s thinking is correct; it just depends on the games and television you choose to interact with. But overall, loved the book and highly recommend it to anyone – especially someone who thinks video games and television rot the brain.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2014

    What is an example of a counter claim for the book,

    What is an example of a counter claim for the book,

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  • Posted January 8, 2012


    In his book "Everything Bad is Good for You" Stephan Johnson essentially explains that to be able to keep up with modern society people must become more intelligent. Being a child living in the era that he is describing I can safely say I am sold that things such as video games, media, the internet, and television have beneficial intellectual affects on an individual who exposes themselves to such stimuli after reading his book. Johnson's strongest argument is the development of television. It is rather obvious that television has developed to cater to the intellect of the viewers after reading his book. Many television programs now have complex humor and contain multiple dynamic plots such as the show 24 which is a huge step up from early shows such as Starsky and Hutch which had a very linear plot which presented the conflict at the beginning of the show while ensuring the reader that the conflict will be resolved by the end of the show making it a very simple show. Shows similar to 24 (Scrubs and The Sopranos) engage the viewer and put a large amount of strain on them by requiring the viewer to follow the development of many characters at once and monitor their role within the plot. Johnson also explains how video games condition people to think objectively and complete extremely intricate processes. Johnson references video games such as SimCity and Ultima as an example of people being conditioned to function on minimal instruction while also reinforcing their problem solving skills. As Johnson shows the reader players of video games are slowly being weened from conventional instruction and are being forced to learn through a trail and error system. Johnson succeeded in defending his claim about pop culture advancing the population in intellect by supporting all of his claims with solid and researched evidence. Johnson makes his argument nearly indisputable and after reading this book I am almost positive you will agree.

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  • Posted January 8, 2012

    I'm glad I read it.

    First off, I would like to say that Johnson has convinced me that video games, television, and the internet have become more complex. There are those who believe that this generation has become “dumbed down” by these electronic forms of media. Others do not, believing more enhanced skills are developed through these devices. I did not, and still do not, hold a bias towards either side of the argument. Throughout my life I have heard both sides of the debate and I have kept an open mind to all of Johnson’s opinions while reading his book. Johnson produces a diverse amount of information to support his claims. One point he proved was video games have become more complex as they have been developed. The comparison that Johnson made between older video games, like Pong, and more recent games, like Zelda, shows that, without a doubt, video games have evolved. Video games have progressed from a one-goal game to more difficult multi-goal games. Johnson makes it clear that games like Zelda require a deeper focus and a more advanced way to solve problems because of the missions, puzzles, and dilemmas. To prove his point, Johnson describes probing as one way to solve a problem presented in a game. To Johnson, probing into why something works makes it clear that probing is a useful tool used by many players. Another way Johnson shows that gaming has developed from simplistic to complex is by describing telescoping. Telescoping is a way to explain how a game’s mission cannot be completed before a problem previously presented is solved. Another point that he makes is that television sitcoms have become more complex with each passing year. For example, Johnson breaks down television shows such as Hill Street Blues, Starsky and Hutch, and the Sopranos to support this claim. He describes television shows from the 70’s, such as Hill Street Blues, as simplistic. Like Hill Street Blues, the drama, Starsky and Hutch, had their conflict made clear at the beginning of the episode, then had the conflict resolved by the end. These shows would then repeat the beginning, middle, and clear ending process in the following episodes. Unlike the 70’s shows, a 90’s program, such as the Sopranos, was an on-going drama. While each episode had some resolution, many of the characters’ conflicts continued into the next episodes. I think like Johnson lacked one aspect that greatly affects people currently. This aspect is music. I believe that Johnson could have persuaded me on this aspect as well. Other than that, I greatly enjoyed Johnson’s book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2010

    Dangerous Quackery

    Germany 1930. People distracted by cheap entertainment. Nazi Party fanatics take to the streets. "New media" of radio key in its growth.

    America 2010. People distracted by cheap entertainment. Tea Party fanatics take to the streets. "New media" of internet key in it's growth.


    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2010

    Everything Bad Is Good For You

    Steven Johnson's Everything Bad Is Good For You is a fantastic and thought provoking piece of literature. Johnson takes the idea that all pop culture is bad for everyone and turns the idea a complete 180 degrees. Johnson provides the reader with the thought that pop culture is actually making people smarter. He takes some forms of modern day entertainment that are often looked upon as effortless, mindless, predictable and formulaic and proves that they are just the opposite. With the right evidence, Johnson makes the reader believe that video games like SimCity and Zelda actually encourage people to think in ways that a book cannot. He shows that modern television shows like The Sopranos and Lost force people to follow numerous plots and characters all at the same time and that this actually is exercising peoples brains in ways that most people would never think possible. Johnson provides evidence that shows how reality shows like The Apprentice allows people to see and understand emotions that they would not normally realize in everyday life. Johnson proves that the big blockbuster movies like The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy and the Star Wars trilogy are more challenging than most movies to follow and that this increase of difficulty in understanding the plot makes peoples' minds think with more complexity, much like the television shows like Lost and The Sopranos. Johnson even supports the internet by saying that it is a more creative way to share ideas and thoughts with other people. Johnson uses strong and clear evidence to support all of his ideas. He even provides a reaction for each of his ideas in case someone was to counterattack his beliefs. Overall, Steven Johnson has proven to be a very witty and knowledgeable writer and is very successful in making his readers believe in what he is bringing to the table.

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  • Posted January 10, 2010

    An Eloquent Piece of Argument

    Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson is a book that goes beyond making coach potatoes feel less guilty for their common obsession with popular culture. In this best-selling book, Johnson argues that although popular culture is not morally or intellectually superior to other art forms, it is indeed gaining beneficial qualities as time goes on. Johnson does not suggest that everyone should lock themselves in a dark room and never read a book again, but an occasional episode of 24 is sure to sharpen a person's mind. The theory that pop culture is actually making us smarter is what Johnson refers to as the Sleeper Curve. Johnson makes a good case for this otherwise unheard of theory. Using various tests, hypotheses, and a sprinkling of scientific evidence, Johnson gradually begins to create an indisputable argument. He addresses every aspect of pop culture, including video games, television, Internet, and film. He includes large amounts of examples to strengthen his argument and relate to his reader. His arguments are skillfully researched and well thought out. His strength lies in his ability to anticipate the reader's challenge to any of his ideas and then quickly bring the said reader to his side once again. Not only does he dispute the arguments of his readers, he also successfully debates the opinions of prevalent critics that believe pop culture only rots our brains. Everything Bad is Good for You even manages to captivate and entertain the reader through Johnson's witty diction. On a different note, Johnson's writing is often repetitive and he seems to forget to mention parts of pop culture such as Rock of Love. On a whole, this thought provoking book stands up for those game players and TV watchers who have known all along that popular culture is one of the things that has kept their minds sharp over the years.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2010

    Everything Bad Is Good For You

    The book Everything Bad Is Good for You written by Steven Johnson proves itself as an interesting read for all ages and audiences. Johnson constructs his argument that pop culture today in fact improves critical thinking and analysis skills. Johnson utilizes each output of pop culture and illustrates the complex thought process occurring in the human brain. The basis of Johnson's line of reasoning centers on what he calls "the sleeper curve." This process silently takes place while someone engages themselves in a pop culture outlet for example video games. The general belief says that video games make people dumber: while in fact video games force people to think. Johnson mentions an experience of this during a vacation when he witnessed his eight year old nephew learn that taxes cripple industry in the game Sims 2000.
    Johnson compares television programming of the past to present day. Considering the show Starsky and Hutch, the program could be easily followed by a new viewer. The show's writers constructed each episode in a fashion that did not require outside information. The show had "blinking arrows" that would clear up any if all confusion. Today a show like 24 or Scrubs puts more pressure on the viewer. A person has to think to understand the plotline or the jokes. The Simpsons and Family Guy make hundreds of references to pop culture almost in one show. A person has to deep into their minds and figure out how something makes sense or how it could be funny in the first place.
    Despite incorporating technical language and an advanced vocabulary, the reader grasps the point Johnson attempts to make. Examples range numerous decades, so most people could relate in one way or another. If the reader pays attention to the graphs and statistics, no argument could stand against Johnson. After reading this book, no one could feel stupid for watching television.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2010

    Everything Bad Is Good For You

    Everything Bad Is Good For You by Steven Johnson was a very interesting yet educational piece of literature. Johnson's reasonings for how everyday entertainment from television to video games can be very helpful and not "lazy". The use of these privileges in our society can have good effects on our brains, for example. Johnson deepens his thought as he describes television shows like "24" and "CSI". These shows are not only very entertaining, but are written with such a great way that you have to have the intelligence to follow the shows. These shows are thought-provoking and help society to become smarter. Video games are discussed and compared to reading novels. How video games have the ability to increase the use in smaller parts of the human brain. Johnson's books can be a little confusing at times, but yet understandable to his audience. Certain subjects that are discussed in his novel can be non-comprehendible to some of his elderly readers because they may not understand the video game systems, or watch certain shows on the television. Same with younger readers, because any older shows that are discussed can be considered foreign to them. Johnson then attempts to help his readers by breaking up every little piece of information to describe how the "corruption" that is believed to be caused in our society is actually not corrupt at all. Johnson also uses statistics throughout his novel to demonstrate the accurate points that are being discussed. Modern shows are also talked about, talking about characters and story lines, has the viewers thinking about what is being presented to them and what is going on throughout every episode.

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  • Posted December 7, 2008

    Everything Bad is Good for You, Reviewed by a college student

    The book Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson, is a critical and detailed analysis of society and how it, he argues, is positively effected by popular culture. The overall objective of the book is to prove that despite the fact that many believe that our nations obsession with media and popular culture is a means of corruption and ¿dumbing down¿ in our society, due to the complex and constantly evolving nature of current media outlets, America¿s pop culture is actually forcing us to become sharper. This book, while very complex and fact based throughout its entirety, is vastly interesting and an easy read for the general audience. Since Johnson references many genres of television shows, videogames, and movies from a number of decades, the book is good for many ages and types of people. However, without a relative knowledge of said media outlets, some of the key concepts and ideas in the book may be hard to comprehend.<BR/><BR/>Johnson¿s main argument throughout the book is that even if our media is brainwashing us, it is a ¿positive brainwashing¿, and should be viewed as what he likes to call a ¿Sleeper Curve¿, meaning that America¿s media throughout time has been consistently, though we may not be aware of it, becoming much more complex and thought-provoking. Because of the intellectual demand that media is putting on us, we are in turn becoming smarter.<BR/><BR/>Johnson argues that in regards to one of nations biggest industries, video-gaming, ¿it¿s not what you¿re thinking about when you¿re playing a game, it¿s the way you¿re thinking that matters¿. He then continues to argue that one of the biggest attributes of games is that when playing, one is forced to make decisions, as well as work through difficult ideas and objectives. In respect to television, one of the more passive media outlets, Johnson argues that popular television shows such as Lost, 24, and The West Wing are by and far more intelligent than television shows of the past such as Three¿s Company and Starsky and Hutch. He even implies that these shows would be somewhat insulting to our intelligence would they be aired as new television today. These modern shows, in the way that plots, characters, and references string together, leaves viewers thinking and questioning exactly what is going on throughout the entirety of nearly every episode. He also tackles what many people claim to be the downfall of society, reality television. Johnson claims that reality television forces the viewer to ¿adapt to an ever changing rule book¿. Johnson argues that many of these same principles of media development can be applied to movies and internet as well.<BR/><BR/>Through statistics, charts, graphs and numerous specific examples, Johnson validly argues his points. Since Johnson does use statistical evidence and graphs, he is able to convince his readers that his book is not just a matter of opinion. Johnson even goes out of his way to note what some people will disagree with him on, and prove their arguments false on a number of topics. Furthermore, Johnson includes a very detailed and extensive ¿Notes¿ section describing the statistics and ideas he references in further and clearer detail at the end of the book. <BR/><BR/>While I must say that I have never been one to think of American popular culture as something that makes us dumber, this book definitely reaffirms my thoughts. I do think that someone who had a negative vi

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2008

    A must read for psychologists, teachers, and parents

    Steven Johnson¿s national bestseller Everything Bad Is Good For You: How Today¿s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter provides an excellent contrasting view to the pessimistic views of today¿s popular culture. Mainstream opinion believes that the technology we have today is ¿dumbing down¿ our society and making it available to individuals to think less and become mentally withdrawn. Johnson cites four distinct areas within media that recently have become ever more complex and provide evidence to Johnson¿s ¿sleeper curve,¿ these areas include games, television, Internet, and film. I found this book to be an easily understandable, well-argued text that anyone, from a parent concerned about his child to a researching psychologist could find fun but informative. The first half of Johnson¿s book is a comparison of the media of yesterday and the media today. It explains on a simple level the intelligence and thoughtfulness that can go into viewing most modern popular culture. In contrast, the second part explains in greater detail the psychological findings and research that help to both prove and disprove his findings. He creates a conversation between research to help prove his ¿sleeper curve¿ and generates a very convincing argument that can make anyone a believer. Johnson begins with video games, as it is probably one of the most criticized aspects of culture today. Many argue that games are too violent and mind numbing for children to play. However, Johnson disagrees on this issue he states that the most popular games are those with very few violent scenes. Indeed, the ones that are most popular teach children whilst simultaneously keeping them interested. An example of this would be SimCity, which he contends allowed his eight-year-old nephew to learn industrial taxes within an hour. This calls to mind the question, could an eight year old possibly learn this any other way? I believe not and Johnson agrees. This made a true believer out of me that games are one of the more intellectual parts of our society today that aid in our developing, understanding, and dealing with everyday life. Not only are children learning how to problem solve as quickly as possible by probing into situations and finding solutions, they are also learning how to make decisions which will impact them in the future. Games force an individual to make split-second decisions about what needs to be done in order to win, not only having an immediate impact, but also coming into play later on in the game. The child must probe into the ideas at hand and make quick decisions and become more aware of the rules as he plays. In addition, games have helped children build their ¿attention, memory, following threads, and so on¿¿ at a rate comparative to literature (pg. 35). A gamer must also remember all the steps to accomplish a certain task which Johnson outlines and explains could be a very long list of complicated tasks just for a few minutes of game time. Games today also follow an exceptional amount of threads compared to games of the past. Game makers are able to produce such massive situations for children because of the use of telescoping, which is making one situation going into another. Lastly, he cites a study that looked at white-collar professional hard-core gamers, occasional gamers, and non-gamers,¿ which helped provide evidence of Johnson¿s theories that gamers are still socially active, confident, and far better at solving problems than individuals who do not play games. Television, Johnson argues, is one of the most influential popular culture mediums used to strengthen our intelligence. Across all genre of television including primetime, soap operas, and even reality shows, Johnson argues that television has gotten much more complex over the years. Shows now incorporate more threads and harder to follow plotlines than ever before, making it harder for the viewer to keep up with the show. This begs of the view

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2008

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    Posted December 6, 2009

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    Posted June 3, 2010

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    Posted December 7, 2012

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    Posted March 20, 2010

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