David Benjamin Landes
Assistant Professor of the Practice of Thompson Writing Program

David Landes is Assistant Professor of the Practice in Duke’s Thompson Writing Program. His multidisciplinary scholarship in communication draws upon the fields of rhetoric, media, cultural studies, performance studies, and musicology.  

As many fields have turned to “attention” as a useful methodological term for studying indeterminate phenomena, Landes’ research builds ways of tracking ongoing changes in “attention” itself—its constituting conditions, its infinite types, its situational dynamics, its strategic remakings—in order to service a changing world that outpaces our attentional practices. 

His scholarship brings together scientific and humanistic traditions to develop attentional capacities for communication, liberal arts training, and social issues widely lamented to be in breakdown.  His book project titled Attention Literacy: a Rhetorical Approach (or perhaps more audaciously How to Pay Attention in the 21st Century: A Rhetorical Approach) conceives attention rhetorically (as an adaptive capacity malleable to situations, goals, and strategies) to provide practical heuristics and hermeneutics for communication at pace with changing environments.  The book synthesizes a general framework based upon Landes’ articles of attention case studies of mental modalities created by public phenomena (e.g. culture, technology) mingling with private agencies (e.g. volition, hermeneutics).  These include search engines, music commodities, cell phone use, and Arabic semantics.  Further articles explicate the operant implicit theories of attention in thinkers paradigmatic to subfields: Kenneth Burke, Marshall McLuhan, Aristotle, and Merleu-Ponty.  Together, Landes' scholarly work of contextualizing, historicizing, and re-theorizing attention aims to reveal principles into the rhetorical construction of attention, to enable the chronicling of contemporary attentional forms, and to seize possibilities as they develop.

This research is informed by Landes’ extensive background as a freelance musician trained in jazz improvisation, as well as his experiences in stage performance and IT jobs in Silicon Valley (including social media pioneer Friendster).  Additionally, he is an ongoing collaborator for multiple editions of the New York Times Bestseller Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion, a book on rhetoric and argument taught in over 3000 college courses and published in 15 languages. Landes also made several official Penguin Random House teacher's guides for classroom integration.

Landes is currently on leave from two posts in other countries, as Clinical Associate Professor at NYU Shanghai and as Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and Composition at the American University of Beirut where he directed the campus Communication Skills Program overseeing the university's required writing courses.  Previously, he was Assistant Professor at the American University in Dubai and the founding director of its campuswide Speaking Skills Center.

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