Posted 09 May 2005 - 12:43 PM
I'm hearing a lot of "yeah, right," but I'm not hearing substantive arguments against several of his theses, at least as Gladwell describes them:
1, That there are two types of learning, and there are ways in which popular culture strengthens one type of learning in particular ways. He does not argue that one is superior to the other, just that each is inferior in some aspects that the other is superior.
1. That new, complex video games encourage complex problem-solving skills, including determining what the multi-layered rules are based upon through experience and observation. (He doesn't mention that many of the video games as well as board games we played as children are available online, to be played with other people from all around the world, on demand.)
3. That engagement stimulates part of the way that non-engagement doesn't. That one either has a scientific basis, or it doesn't.
In a multi-cultural world that is linked in ways through communications, economics, and artistic endeavors to an extent that was inconceivable even a generation ago, I have no doubt that understanding a quickly changing environment is a critical skill. And in the current world economy, where employment in the US, Canada, and Europe is increasingly skewed toward services and information, lack of this skill is an economic disadvantage.
Gladwell has delved into many areas where he and the authors he reviews have challenged widely held assumptions to see if they stand up to scrutiny. I don't think this is as a degredation of the The New Yorker's purpose at all.
One thing that I appreciate about both Alex Ross and Malcolm Gladwell is that while they both hold high standards, they don't believe that goodness and greatness is limited. They see abundance of both.