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Book Review: History as written by a "SimCity" freak by Scott Rosenberg - Salon

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applegrove Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 02:16 PM
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Book Review: History as written by a "SimCity" freak by Scott Rosenberg - Salon
History as written by a "SimCity" freak

Gifted amateurs defeated London's cholera epidemic in the 1850s, says culture/tech visionary Steven Johnson, and today a similar bottom-up approach to knowledge can improve neighborhoods, reform cities, even thwart terror.

By Scott Rosenberg at Salon

Steven Johnson

Oct. 30, 2006 |
"Steven Johnson has a knack for staying ahead of multiple curves at once. His books have been delighting literate technologists and geeky humanities majors ever since his 1997 "Interface Culture" -- one of the first and still best accounts of the cultural content of software design.

Last year, his provocative "Everything Bad Is Good for You" maintained that video games and cable-TV serials, far from rotting our brains, actually train us in useful complexity-mastering techniques. Since Johnson's previous book, "Mind Wide Open," had offered a dazzling tour of contemporary neuroscience, the "Everything Bad" argument was harder for outraged pundits to dismiss than the usual culture-wars broadside.

Johnson's latest book, "The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic -- and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World," follows a doctor and a clergyman who teamed up in 1854 to figure out why cholera had ravaged their neighborhood. It rolls together a scientific exploration and a cultural exegesis, and, like Johnson's second book, "Emergence," it examines the city as organism. But unlike all his previous volumes, it's set in the past -- and it tells a story.

"I was three chapters in," Johnson says, "and the story was really an engine, propelling me along in writing it. And I had this embarrassing moment where I realized, you know what? I think people really like books with stories! I felt like, as a writer, I had this huge weapon at my disposal for the first time. I've written five books. I can't believe I've been doing it without this!"

.............SNIP" /
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applegrove Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Oct-30-06 02:18 PM
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1. "Everything Bad Is Good for You" was a good book. Particularly
Edited on Mon Oct-30-06 02:24 PM by applegrove
the part about internet forums and the "connectors" (people like Skinner or H2O Man).
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