Summary of “Watching TV Makes You Smarter”
Author Steven Johnson, of the article “Watching TV Makes You Smarter,” argues the evolution of modern television programming has intellectually challenged audiences, rather than stifling complex thoughts—and more, that audiences are craving a more cognitively demanding, complex plot line. Johnson uses multiple examples of drama type shows and even draws positive conclusions from many of the reality shows that are so popular now. He focuses in on a few key factors to take into account when considering the complexity and value of television—the “Sleeper Curve”, televised intelligence, and intentional viewer confusion.
Johnson describes the “Sleeper Curve” as, “the most debased forms of mass diversion—video games and violent television dramas and juvenile sitcoms –turn out to be nutritional after all.” He encourages his audience to look past the surface content of the show, to the deeper meanings of the story, to gain an understanding of a realistic account of the world around us. Not simple life lessons, but rather gaining cultural experiences through the characters.
Next, Johnson discusses the importance and evolution of televised intelligence. He basically describes this intelligence as the audiences’ ability to understand and follow complex relationships that happen on screen. Specifically, there are three components to this televised intelligence: “…multiple threading, flashing arrows, and social networks.” (Johnson). He goes on to show the progression of drama television shows from the early 80’s to today, by referencing graphs illustrating the number of individual threads (or stories) that are in various shows, increasing the number of threads with quality of shows.
Johnson then discusses the importance of viewer confusion, and the role it plays in the overall scheme of making quality television. He uses examples of older shows that merely pointed out to the audience what they were supposed to...
Cited: Johnson, Steven. “Watching TV Makes You Smarter.” The New York Times. Digital, 24 April 2005. Web. 1 Sept. 2013.
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