Reponse To Argue Question – Essay Example

Essay Argument In Steven Johnson’s ‘Watching TV Makes You Smarter’ the argument is advanced that recent technological developments, specifically within visual media such as television and film, have functioned to increase the cognitive capacity of the human race. While Johnson makes a convincing argument when considering the increasing complexity of visual culture, the extent to which this can be understood to be truly an element of increased intelligence, in whatever context, is highly contentious. It is no surprise then that in the ‘Dumbing of America’ Susan Jacoby levels a direct criticism and contradictory perspective on the subject. Both writers’ arguments are rooted in the nature of the medium. While Johnson notes the technological complexity of television and film has greatly increased, Jacoby notes that this evolution has come at the price of shortened attention spans and anti-intellectual fervor.
While both writers make convincing points about the nature of their selected mediums, the extent that reading a book can be directly equated to increased concentration/intellectual efficiency is far from certain. Instead, it seems that the advances in technology have brought with them a number of new possibilities for future intellectual development. Television makes it much easier for an individual to access astute political commentary that can be compared to converse opinions makes the digital age one of great intellectual progress. In this sense Johnson is correct in arguing that the cognitive evolution that has occurred has many positive qualities. While Jacoby argues that mainstream culture is in a sense devolving towards the lowest common denominator, she doesn’t acknowledge the intellectual possibilities that have been opened by the nascent internet and film and television technology. Furthermore, it seems that in her understanding of culture as constantly devolving towards the lowest denominator, and in her perceived anti-intellectual fervor, there is a sort of elitism that romanticizes the past as replete with intellect and culture when it was anything but as such. In any instance, she is correct in indicating the death of the written word, as newspapers, and books, are marginalized as humanity’s cognitive functioning is given over to television and the internet.
Ultimately, it seems that rather than decry the future and romanticize the past, one must acknowledge that these technological developments are not going away. While the decline of the written word is the loss of an important aspect of thought, the new mediums open new avenues for investigation. In these regards, it’s necessary for individuals such as Jacoby to not mourn the loss of intellectualism but determine ways that the new mediums can be harnessed to pave the way for an enlightened future.
Jacoby, Susan. (2008) ‘Dumbing of America’ Washington Post.
Johnson, Steven (2005) ‘Watching TV Makes You Smarter’ New York Times.