norayoung.ca | At the Corner of Technology and Culture

More Candy Please

Just reviewed Steven Johnson’s excellent new book Everything Bad is Good for You (Riverhead) for The Toronto Star (www.thestar.com) He makes a provocative case for the way technology is changing the nature of pop culture, and more than that, changing the way we think. For example, today’s DVD culture of repetitive viewing creates an appetite for movies and TV shows with multiple narrative threads, and missed information that the viewer needs to fill in. Video gaming creates worlds that the gamer must explore and solve problems in, in multiple layers of complexity. There’s much to debate in the book, which of course is a good thing. It’s about time we had a more lively discussion about media than, as Johnson points out, the usual banalities about the dumbing down of the culture.

What I found most interesting as a media person is that if we take this idea of gaming and problem-solving seriously, it ought to affect the whole way we create programming and print pieces, even in linear more media such as books, television, or radio. We don’t create interactivity and gaming through woman-on-the-street interviews (which are interactive for the person being interviewed, but entirely passive for every other listener), we create an environment that needs to be explored, that creates mysterious puzzles, that doesn’t offer immediate solutions. Beyond the way we delight in conspiracy theories, isn’t that really why people like The Da Vinci Code so much? If you ask me, its characters are wooden, its dialogue artificial, but it succeeds in unfolding like a puzzle, right down to the cliffhanger at the end of every chapter.

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