Essay 1
In Steven Johnson?s ?Watching TV Makes You Smarter?, Johnson argues against the belief that television viewing has mostly negative effects. Johnson comes up with this idea of the Sleeper Curve, stating that the TV today causes the viewers to have to pay attention more, make inferences and track social relationships. Our cognitive skills are enhancing not diminishing. Over the past couple decade?s programs have increased the demands it places on attention, patience, retention, and the parsing of narrative threads. Johnson says that this growing complexity involves three elements: multithreading, flashing arrows and social networks. Multithreading is many different plot lines involving a whole variety of characters. Programs decades ago had one or two characters and a single plot, but as time has gone on there has been a noticeable increase in narrative complexity. There isn?t a distinction in major and minor plots; each story line holds some value to each episode. Viewers have to follow more and pay attention to every single detail, or thread, or else they will miss something. With these shows becoming more complex nowadays, television has never been harder to keep up with. Since the narrative threads have grown dramatically, flashing arrows have gone away. Without the handholding the audience tends to feel they have missed something. They sit in confusion, but they are supposed to be confused. It causes the audience to think more at what is happening right now not what is going to happen in the end. The lack of hand holding in modern shows can be seen at the micro level of dialog as well. Popular entertainment tends to cause the audience to be immersed in information that most viewers won?t understand. Yes, they may not understand what is being said, but it causes them to think about the dialog and use the little things to understand the plot. But does this apply to everything on TV? Skeptics will argue though that Johnson has only has to prove that this cognitive complexity applies to reality TV. Johnson believes that reality TV is the ultimate test to his Sleeper Curve theory. Reality TV is like a video game; a series of tests growing harder over time for the rules aren?t fully established on the onset. The audience becomes intrigued when they see the characters have to adapt to new situations and use their own intuition to bend rules. From that viewers get an understanding of participant?s personalities and soon develop emotional connections to them. Viewers start to pick up on participations social skills and start strategizing themselves. In the end, to really get the greatest appreciation out of the Sleeper Curve cognition training is to look where TV was and where it is now. TV plots have become more complex and because of that viewers work parts of their brains that map social networks that connect mutithreads. The Sleeper Curve tells us something about our minds. The human mind likes a challenge, audiences like to solve problems. Johnson reminds us that he argues that he doesn?t believe TV is all that bad. He only wishes we change what is the criteria that determines what is bad and what is good.
Works Cited
Johnson, Steven. ?Watching TV Makes You Smarter.? They Say, I Say with readings. Ed. Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst. New York: Norton, 2012. 277-294. Print