Our Brains Online: Cathy Davidson Opens Chancellor's Series

Cathy Davidson, the Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English and John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University, will open the 2011-2012 Chancellor’s Colloquium Distinguished Speakers Series at 4 p.m. on October 25 in the ARC Ballroom with her talk, “Now You See it: Attention and the Future of Learning.”

Drawing on the research from her latest book, Davidson is expected to challenge the academic community to adapt its work and learning environments to better suit the digital age. In that study, which relies heavily on new research on the brain and learning, Davidson 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.

Today’s scholars can change that, Davidson argues. Fifteen years into industrial-era management, the medieval university began its metamorphosis into the modern twentieth-century research university. Fifteen years after the commercialization of the Internet and the World Wide Web, today’s universities, according to Davidson, are right on time to begin that process of transformation. Davidson hopes to compel the academic establishment 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.

Nominated by President Obama to the National Council on the Humanities in December 2010, Davidson is co-founder of HASTAC (The Humanities, Arts, Sciences and Technology Advanced Collaboratory), a network of educators dedicated to new modes of learning for the digital age.

Now in its third year, the UC Davis Chancellor’s Colloquium Distinguished Speakers Series is intended to spark engaging conversations with our academic community and the broader public about some of the most pressing issues of our time. Administered with the assistance of the Humanities Institute, the series provides opportunities for robust discussions around topics involving food and agriculture, biochemistry, medicine, and humanities and scientific research.

Free and open to the public, the 2011-12 series includes four speakers in addition to Davidson:

Wednesday, Nov. 30 — Charles Vest, president emeritus and professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As president of MIT, Vest was active in science, technology and innovation policy; building partnerships among academia, government and industry; and championing the importance of open, global scientific communication, travel, and sharing of intellectual resources. 4 p.m., Vanderhoef Studio Theatre.

Tuesday, Jan. 10 — Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences and chair of the National Research Council. Cicerone engages in research in atmospheric chemistry and climate change that has involved shaping science and environmental policy at the highest levels nationally and internationally. 4 p.m., Vanderhoef Studio Theatre.

Monday, Feb. 27 — Michael Dukakis, former governor of Massachusetts and the 1988 Democratic nominee for president. Since leaving office, he has served as a visiting professor at many colleges and universities, including Harvard, Hawaii, Northeastern and UCLA. 4 p.m., Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts.

Wednesday, April 25 — Subra Suresh, distinguished engineer and professor Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF). Suresh leads the only federal agency charged with advancing all fields of fundamental science and engineering research and education. He oversees the NSF’s $7-billion budget, directing programs and initiatives that keep the United States at the forefront of science and engineering. Vanderhoef Studio Theatre.

Thursday, May 21  — Chuck Young, chancellor emeritus of UCLA, and a public policy professor in the UCLA School of Public Affairs. An internationally recognized leader in higher education, Young has been recognized for his commitment to public service as well as his efforts to improve elementary and secondary education. 4 p.m., Vanderhoef Studio Theatre.

Please note that dates are subject to change. For the latest information, please visit the Chancellor’s Colloquium page.