Our minds on media.

Musings on the effects of media on cognition.

TV is Good For You!

Sorry for the made-you-look title… but made you look! At any rate, I can’t believe that Steven Johnson’s latest release happens to be just what I was discussing on Sunday with my girlfriend’s family. Julie (the significant other) made a remark meant to parody the overly-explanatory language of CSI and CSI-ripoff shows. She was reminding her Mom of the mind-numbing language and in trying to explain her remark threw Law & Order in with CSI. Of course, in good conscience, I couldn’t let that comparison slide and chimed in to say that one of the critical differences that I have always noticed in the writing of CSI-like fair and Law & Order is that the professionals in Law & Order talk to each other like professionals; whereas in CSI-like shows, the professionals tend to talk to each other like college freshman explaining their homework to one another — patiently and ponderously.

I genuinely believe that the producers of CSI come from the camp of creatives that believe everyone is dumber than they are. As though only they had the capacity to investigate a profession and understand it in all its intricacies (this depsite the fact that CSI frequently gets its science wrong). Law & Order has so far mostly refused to be condescending to its audience and in that vein pulls its audience up to a level of intricacy of knowledge that ten years after it started people still find intriguing.

This is precisely where Johnon is going with his latest work. He takes a few ideas like “confusion” and multiple-threads and traces their development through television’s history, finding along the way that television has evolved new complex fictional structures and isn’t necessarily getting “dumber”. So far so good. Hopefully if “Everything Bad is Good For You” is as good as his past investigations, this should be a great read.

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