NOW YOU SEE IT: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn

Cathy Davidson, Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English and John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies, Duke University and co-founder of HASTAC

Tuesday, September 20, 6:00 pm
Austin East Classroom, Austin Hall, Harvard Law School

When Duke University gave free iPods to the freshman class in 2003, critics called it a waste of money. Yet when students found academic uses for the brand new music devices in virtually every discipline, the iPod experiment proved to be a classic example of the power of disruption – a way of refocusing attention to illuminate unseen possibilities. Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at the time of the iPod experiment, Cathy N. Davidson sees this kind of innovation as the heart of a new way of collaborative, interactive learning ideal for students facing a changing, global future. Using cutting-edge research on the brain and learning, she shows how the phenomenon of “attention blindness” shapes our lives, and how it has led to one of the greatest problems of our historical moment: Although we email, blog, tweet, and text as if by instinct, too many of us toil in schools and workplaces designed for the last century, not the one in which we live.

We can change that.  Approximately fifteen years into industrial-era management science, the medieval university began its rapid metamorphosis into the modern twentieth-century research university.  Now, fifteen years after the commercialization of the Internet and the World Wide Web, we are at an optimal moment for reconsidering these fundamental institutions for our own era.  Davidson is neither optimistic nor pessimistic about the role of technology in our lives but, rather, asks how we can use technology as an engine of transformation. This talk helps us to think in historical, theoretical, and practical ways about how, as individuals and institutions, we can learn new ways to thrive in the interactive, digital, global world we already inhabit.

About Cathy

Cathy N. Davidson served as Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University from 1998 until 2006, where she helped create the Program in Information Science + Information Studies, the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute, and many other programs.  In 2002, she co-founded HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory, or "haystack"), a virtual network of innovators with over 6500 members that directs the annual $2 million HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions. She is the Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English and the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University and has published more than twenty books, including Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America; Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory (with photographer Bill Bamberger); and The Future of Thinking (with HASTAC co-founder David Theo Goldberg).  In 2010, President Obama nominated her to a six-year term on the National Council on the Humanities, a position confirmed by the Senate in July 2011.  She is currently on a thirty-site author tour for her latest book, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (Viking Press), which Publishers Weekly has named "one of the top ten science books" of the Fall 2011 season.


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Last updated September 21, 2011

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