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Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century Reprint Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0143121268
ISBN-10: 014312126X
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Editorial Reviews


"In her galvanic new book, Ms. Davidson, one of the nation’s great digital minds, has written an immensely enjoyable omni-manifesto. Rooted in . . . rigorous history, philosophy and science, this book . . . doubles as an optimistic, even thrilling, summer read.” — Virginia Hefferman, New York Times

"A remarkable new book Now You See It offers a fresh and reassuring perspective on how to manage anxieties about the bewildering pace of technological change. . . . Her work is the most powerful yet to insist that we can … manage the impact of these changes.” — Anya Kamenetz, Fast Company

"The author takes us on a journey through contemporary classrooms and offices to describe how they are changing—or, according to her, should change. . . .Now You See It is filled with instructive anecdotes and genuine insights." 
Mark Changizi, Wall Street Journal

"Her book 'Now You See It' celebrates the brain as a lean, mean, adaptive multitasking machine that — with proper care and feeding — can do much more than our hidebound institutions demand of it. . . Davidson is such a good storyteller, and her characters are well drawn."

Christopher Chabris, New York Times

 “Davidson has produced an exceptional and critically important book, one that is all-but-impossible to put down and likely to shape discussions for years to come.”   [Top 10 Science Book, Fall 2011]

Publishers Weekly

“Humorous, poignant, entertaining, endearing, touching and challenging. It is a book I would happily recommend to anyone engaged in teaching at any level … It is devised to convince readers that the human mind is ready for the next quantum advance into our collective future.”

Steve Wheeler, Book of the Week, Times Higher Education

 “Practice Collaboration by Difference: This idea is stolen directly from Cathy N. Davidson's marvelous book, Now You See It. . . .If innovation is our goal then we must pay careful attention to the diversity of the people around our project tables.” — Joshua Kim, Inside Higher Ed

 “A preview of the future from an educational innovator... it is becoming clear that our minds are capable of multitasking to a degree far beyond what the 20th-century assembly-line worker or middle manager was trained to do...[Davidson's] points are worth pondering.” — Kirkus

 “There is an emerging consensus that higher education has to change significantly, and Davidson makes a compelling case for the ways in which digital technology, allied with neuroscience, will play a leading role in that change.” — William Pannapacker, Chronicle of Higher Education

 “[Davidson] makes a provocative case for radical educational and business reforms. . . . Davidson's call to experiment with digital schemes that turn students and workers into motivated problem solvers rings as clear as a bell atop a little red schoolhouse." — Bruce Bower, Science News

 “The book's purpose and strength are in detailing the important lessons we can glean from the online world.  If Davidson is right, 21st-century society will move away from categorizing people based on standardized tests, which are crude measures of intelligence at best. Instead we will define new metrics, ones that are better aligned with the skills needed to succeed in the shifting global marketplace. And those who cannot embrace this multidisciplinary world will simply be left behind.”

Brian Mossop, Scientific American

“Davidson's claim that mono-tasking (the idea that a person can focus on one single task at hand) is an unrealistic model of how the brain works, seems strikingly persuasive. Davidson also calls for a reform in education . . . [that] helps kids become multitasking, problem-solving thinkers."
Sophie Duvernoy, LA Weekly

 “The technological changes around us are of unprecedented proportions... In this book Cathy Davidson integrates findings from psychology, attention, neuroscience, and learning theory to help us get a glimpse of the future and more importantly a better understanding of our own individual potential."

Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational

 “Now You See It is simply fantastic. Only Cathy Davidson could pull off such a sweeping book.  It is about so much more than just education or even learning.  It is about a way of being. Her book and stories are incredibly important for the true arc of life learning and for constantly becoming!" — John Seely Brown, author of A New Culture of Learning

 “Cathy Davidson has one of the most interesting and wide ranging minds in contemporary scholarship, a mind that ranges comfortably over literary arts, literacy, psychology, and brain science... Her ambitious and timely book is certain to attract a lot of attention and to catalyze many discussions.” — Howard Gardner, Harvard University

 "One cutting edge of educational practice is participatory learning…and one frontier of brain research is what is happening to our attention in the always-on era. Cathy Davidson is a natural to bring together these neuroscientific and educational themes."

Howard Rheingold, author of Smart Mobs and Net Smart

 “Now You See It starts where Malcolm Gladwell leaves off, showing how digital information will change our brains.  Think Alvin Toffler meets Ray Kurzweil on Francis Crick's front porch. We need this book.”

Daniel Levitin, author of This Is Your Brain on Music and The World in Six Songs

About the Author

Cathy N. Davidson codirects the annual HASTAC/MacArthur Digital Media and Learning competitions. She holds distinguished chairs in English and interdisciplinary studies at Duke University and has published more than a dozen books. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (July 31, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014312126X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143121268
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #203,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Cathy Davidson teaches at Duke and writes for the Washington Post, Harvard Business Review, Wall Street Journal, Inside Higher Ed, and has been featured in Fast Company, the New York Times, and on blogs and in tweets the world over! 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 over twenty books on technology, education, and the history of reading,writing, and printing. She is currently on a 50-stop international author tour for 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. With the team at a nonprofit she cofounded called HASTAC ("haystack"), she administers the annual $2 million MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions. You can find out more at www.cathydavidson.com.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Though well-intentioned and coherent, this is one of the lesser entries in the slew of recent "brain science" books.

I finished Torkel Klingberg's "The Overflowing Brain" just before this. It's a far better book, from a working scientist. I'd also recommend How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker or The Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar. Now You See It is a rambling rehash, and unless it's your first book about the recent insights into how the brain works, I take a pass on this one.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author believes that our schools and work places have not changed to take into account the changes brought about by computers and the internet. She thinks that we need to be more collaborative, problem solving oriented, creative, appreciative of learning differences, and relevant in our teaching, learning and work. She has certainly been in the middle of some of the changes which have recently taken place, such as the ipod initiative at Duke University and HASTAC. She has a lot of personal experience on which to base her observations. Other issues that she touches upon, along the way, are expansion of creative thinking, changes in testing and evaluation, benefits of game playing, unlearning old patterns and learning new ones, and crowdsourcing. A company that supports workers with ASD in software testing jobs, and Wikipedia are also covered.

There are many useful ideas in this book. It can give teachers and workers some great ideas that should help them to be more productive. The attention blindness comparison may have been used a bit often. Some of the issues explained by it may also be explained by glitches in other executive functions like monitoring, task initiation, and organization. Perceptual and emotional factors may also cause a person to miss important information in the environment, or interpret it in a manner which is not useful to him or her. I'm also not sure that I'm as confident as the author that our kids are "all right." In any event, I got a lot out of this book. I recommend that you read it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There's an old aphorism that "In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king." Cathy Davidson might well revamp that phrase to be "In the land of the attention blind, collaborators are king." And indeed, all of us ARE attention blind, as Davidson demonstrates in multiple ways throughout the book, since we pay attention to some things at the expense of others, often without even recognizing it. But while that insight itself isn't necessarily novel, Davidson's way of engaging with it often is. Rather than excoriate technology or youth culture or "reality TV" for compromising our attention, Davidson underscores the attention blindness is an inherent part of existence, positing it within a historic context stemming back to Socrates and positioning it as an opportunity to redefine the realities of our modern world, individually and collectively, to better reflect what we value and aspire to.

From infancy on, we are socialized about what matters, in ways that are often invisible to us, as Davidson incisively and accessibly depicts through a "case study" of infant Andy. Attention blindness can not be avoided--no one's cognitive capacity can encompass everything--but we can be more conscious about what we choose to attend to, and Davidson provides many helpful tips and tools for so doing. Davidson wants learning to be a verb when it is too often a noun. And she advocates for the importance of unlearning, which may in fact be harder than learning yet is necessary to prepare us for future possibilities.

While one of the frequent concerns about the digital world is that it isolates us behind screens-- scrolling through the Facebook postings of "friends" rather than spending face-to-face time with friends, and leading to increased isolation and egocentrism.
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Format: Hardcover
Davidson starts off by telling us that she is dyslexic and sees the world differently. She seems to, and gives numerous examples of others who are doing things differently and getting some results. Her adventures are interesting but short on concrete results that can be applied to different areas. There is a fair amount of cheerleading for people willing to try something new, and is appreciated. She argues that research results on the negative effects of multitasking may actually be positive, but did not convince me. Though I'm sure we will continue to try to do several things at the same time.

The book is worth a fast look just for the stories on the diverse ways people are trying to adjust to our new instant communications, and sharing of information. In particular her own experiences in experimenting in this wide area are interesting, but I don't see a wide application.
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Format: Hardcover
As an academic, it is important to bring edge ideas into the classroom to loosen the gears between the ears of students to get them to think critically and, perhaps, learn to color outside of the lines. For the lay community, often caught in intellectual boxes, books such as this can also stimulate ideas, raise issues and, perhaps affect change. As an academic exercise, skipping selectively across fields and ideas in class is permitted. But when that journey is turned into "lessons learned" and promoted outside the classroom, then we tread on dangerous grounds. Here there be dragons.

Many of us have been exposed to our intellectual and cultural myopia by having seen the video of two basketball teams passing balls between them, being asked to count them and then finding out our concentration on the action has us overlook the fact that during the video a person in a gorilla suit walks across the screen. It is a classic used by many in academia who then tailor the significance to the particular class, psychology, cultural anthropology, and courses in creativity, among others. The message of this volume is that there so much information passing past our senses that we need a new way of accessing and effectively using that richness which is the largess of our increasingly digital world, the world of Twitter, Facebook and Google. We need new ways of thinking, including accessing knowledge through the "Wisdom of the Crowds".

It is unfortunate that the publisher seems to have added the subtitle on "Brain Science" which can imply that somehow, our knowledge of this will help us bridge the gap into the wide world of social networking and multi-tasking.
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