Cathy Davidson

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Cathy Davidson
Cathy Davidson.jpg
Cathy Davidson in 2015
Born 1949 (age 68–69)
Occupation Professor, writer
Title Founding Director of the Futures Initiative
Awards Educator of the Year (2012)
Ernest L. Boyer Award (2016)
Academic work
Discipline English
Institutions City University of New York
Duke University
Notable works Now You See It

Cathy N. Davidson (born 1949) is an American scholar and university professor. Beginning July 1, 2014, she is a professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

She was a professor of English at Duke University in 2006. She has authored or edited 18 books. Her work focuses on technology, collaboration, cognition, learning, and the digital age.

Early life and education[edit]

Davidson was born in Chicago, received a B.A. from Elmhurst College, an M.A. and Ph.D. from the Binghamton University, and did postdoctoral studies at the University of Chicago. She has received honorary doctorates from Elmhurst College and Northwestern University.[1] Prior to joining the faculty of Duke, Davidson was a professor of English at Michigan State University.


Davidson served as vice provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke University from 1998 to 2006, with administrative responsibility for over 60 research programs in Duke's nine academic and professional schools.[citation needed] She was responsible for designing technologies for research, teaching, and learning, and in 1999 helped create ISIS, the program in Information Science + Information Studies at Duke.[2]

In 2002, Davidson co-founded with David Theo Goldberg the virtual organization Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory HASTAC, an international organization dedicated to rethinking the future of learning for the information age.[3]

In 2003, Davidson initiated a program at Duke, in conjunction with Apple Computer, to give free iPods to each member of the incoming class with no other requirements. This sparked harsh criticism and ridicule from the academic community and news media.[4] The program was viewed as a success by Duke since it led to new applications for the iPod in an educational environment and inspired a new initiative among Duke students to innovate and collaborate.[5][6]

During the 2006 Duke University lacrosse case, Davidson and 87 other Duke faculty members, sometimes referred to as the "Group of 88", published an open letter viewed as prejudicial to the three defendants. The letter gained additional prominence when the defense attorney for the lacrosse players requested a change of venue while citing the advertisement as evidence of Duke faculty bias against the players.[7] In response to criticism of the ad, Davidson published a piece in the Raleigh News & Observer in January 2007. She stated that the ad was a response "to the anguish of students who felt demeaned by racist and sexist remarks swirling around in the media and on the campus quad in the aftermath of what happened on March 13 in the lacrosse house."[8]

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.[9] She serves on the Board of Advisors to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation "Digital Media and Learning" book series. A former president of the American Studies Association, she is also a former editor of the journal American Literature.[10]

In 2012, Davidson and Goldberg received Educators of the Year awards from the World Technology Network in recognition of "doing the innovative work of 'the greatest likely long-term significance' in their field" of education through their work as co-founders of HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competition.[11][12] She was named the first educator on the six-person Board of Directors of Mozilla.[when?][13]

In 2016, the New American Colleges and Universities (NAC&U) awarded Davidson the Ernest L. Boyer Award for significant contributions to American higher education.[14]


Davidson is the author or editor of 18 books.[15] Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory (a collaboration with documentary photographer Bill Bamberger) was a recipient of the Mayflower Cup Award for Non-Fiction. The photographs from Closing traveled to museums around the U.S. for four years, including the Smithsonian Museum of American History.[16][17][18]

She served as General Editor of the Oxford University Press Early American Women Writers Series[19][20][21] and, with Ada Norris, edited American Indian Stories, Legends and Other Writings by Zitkala-Sa, the first Penguin Classic devoted to a Native American author.[22][23]

Her book, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn was named by Publishers Weekly "one of the top ten science books" of the Fall 2011 season".[24] One reviewer from The Washington Independent Review of Books opined that Davidson "makes the case, through numerous examples and lucid argument, that we can do much better in aligning our schools, our workplaces and our lives, and that this will make us not only more successful as a society but more fulfilled as individuals."[25]


  • The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux (2017)[26]
  • Field Notes for 21st Century Literacies: A Guide to New Theories, Methods, and Practices for Open Peer Teaching and Learning (2013)
  • Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (2011)[27]
  • "The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age" with David Theo Goldberg (2010)[28]
  • Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory, with Bill Bamberger (1998)[29]
  • The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States with Linda Wagner-Martin (1995)[30]
  • The Oxford Book of Women's Writing in the United States, with Linda Wagner-Martin (1995)[31]
  • Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji: On Finding Myself in Japan (1993; expanded edition, 2004)[32]
  • The Book of Love: Writers and Their Love Letters (1992)
  • Reading in America: Literature and Social History (1989)
  • Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America (1986; expanded edition 2004)
  • The Experimental Fictions of Ambrose Bierce: Structuring the Ineffable (1984)
  • Critical Essays on Ambrose Bierce (1982)


  1. ^ Cathy N. Davidson (faculty profile),; accessed September 10, 2017.
  2. ^ Pessin, Greg (April 20, 1999). "University moves forward on broad humanities initiative". Duke University, The Chronicle. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  3. ^ "History". Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  4. ^ Derek Colanduno (August 30, 2011). "Can YOU see the Gorilla?" (Podcast). Skeptic. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
  5. ^ Duke University iPod First Year Experience Final Evaluations Report, PDF,, June 2005; accessed July 2013.
  6. ^ "Collaborative Learning for the Digital Age". The Chronicle of Higher Education. August 26, 2011. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  7. ^ "Duke Professors Reject Calls to Apologize to Lacrosse Players",; retrieved May 15, 2014.
  8. ^ Cathy Davidson, "In the Aftermath of a Social Disaster", Raleigh News & Observer, Jan 5, 2007, p. A18.
    Quoted in the book Institutional Failures.
  9. ^ "Cathy Davidson Confirmed for the National Council on the Humanities". Duke Today. June 2, 2011. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  10. ^ "Cathy N. Davidson, Emeriti". Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  11. ^ "The World Technology Network". Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  12. ^ "The World Technology Summit and Awards 2012". Retrieved March 23, 2017.
  13. ^ "Board/CathyDavidson". Retrieved 2016-03-19.
  14. ^ "NAC&U to Honor Cathy Davidson with Ernest L. Boyer Award". Retrieved 2016-03-19.
  15. ^ "Books by Cathy N. Davidson (Author of Now You See It)". Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory: Photographs by Bill Bamberger". Smithsonian. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  17. ^ "Past Exhibitions". North Carolina Museum of Art. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  18. ^ "Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory". Yale University Art Gallery. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  19. ^ "Early American Women Writers". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  20. ^ "Early American Women Writers Series". Oxford University Press. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  21. ^ "Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States". Oxford Reference. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  22. ^ Ruark, Jennifer (February 7, 2003). "Penguin to Spotlight American Indian Writer's Works as Part of Revamped Classics Series". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  23. ^ "Penguin Classics American Indian Stories". Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  24. ^ Gold, Sarah (June 27, 2011). "Fall 2011 Announcements: Science: From Big Questions to the Brain". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved May 29, 2013.
  25. ^ Trapani, Josh. "Now You See It review". Book review. The Washington Independent Review of Books. Retrieved August 22, 2011.
  26. ^ Calhoun, Craig (August 23, 2017). "An Educator Makes the Case That Higher Learning Needs to Grow Up". Review of Davidson, The New Education. New York Times. Retrieved September 10, 2017. Print version, The New York Times Book Review, August 27, 2017, p. 22,
    under title "Campus Choices: Can Colleges Do More to Adjust to Social and Economic Realities?"
  27. ^ "Now You See It by Cathy N. Davidson". Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  28. ^ "The Future of Thinking". MIT Press. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  29. ^ [1][dead link]
  30. ^ "Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States". doi:10.1093/acref/9780195066081.001.0001/acref-9780195066081. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  31. ^ "The Oxford Book of Women's Writing in the United States". Oxford University Press. 7 October 1999. Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  32. ^ [2][dead link]