Wonderland: Steven Johnson on How Play Shaped the Modern World

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What you are reading now is made possible by either a computer or mobile device that connects to WiFi or a hotspot. With little thought, you may check your text messages, email and social media for updates.  None of this was possible 25 years ago as these things did not exist or were in their infancy and only afforded to the super-rich. Still, we are so dependent on these modern marvels that to be away from them, even for just a moment, is difficult.

We all take the world around us— the advances and accomplishments— for granted some of the time. Of course Google is a thing, everyone knows what Google is (honestly, it’s just almost all the information in the world at our fingertips); and email or texts? Yes, we can definitely send messages instantly around the world in five seconds or less – why wouldn’t we be able to.

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But do we ever wonder how we got here? What led to the world we’re in now, with the social trends, the age of media and technology that we’re living in? If you haven’t, start; and if you have, but haven’t found the answer, Steve Johnson has it for you.

Wonderland: How the Play Made the Modern World is his newest book, looking at how plays, public spaces, fashion, music, games, and more, got us to where we are now as a society. Johnson looks at how the luxuries and amusements of the past impacted us socially, and changed our history. The luxury of taste, for example, had a fundamental impact on the spice trade, and forever changed world history; people gathering together for a pint in a pub led to what we now know as democratic revolutions.

Looking at history like this, seeing how one aspect of human behavior has impacted and effected us on a global scale, is something Steven Johnson has down to an art. Previously, he’s published books of a similar niche, like How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern Worldand Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation. What makes Wonderland so interesting though, is that it looks at how play impacted us so forcefully. Innovation and industry were created to move us forward; play, that is, amusements and entertainment, were not created with the exact same purpose in mind, though no one can deny the impact they’ve had.

Johnson’s new book is something of a wonder. Beautifully written, and covering a variety of different aspects; each section brings new revelations to how we look at the world. For those interested, Johnson also has a mini PBS series from 2014 called How We Got to Now.

Wonderland: How the Play Made the Modern World is now available for purchase. 

For more information on the author, please visit his website at stevenberlinjohnson.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Steven Johnson is the bestselling author of ten books, including How We Got to Now, Where Good Ideas Come From, The Invention of Air, The Ghost Mapand Everything Bad Is Good for You. The founder of a variety of influential websites, he is the host and co-creator of the PBS and BBC series How We Got to Now. Johnson lives in Marin County, California, and Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and three sons.

 

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