Deborah Eicher-Catt, Ph.D.

Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences

Dr. Deborah Eicher-Catt: Professor of
Communication Arts and Sciences

B.A., Social Psychology, California State University, Chico, 1987
M.A., Human Communication, California State University, Chico, 1991
Ph.D., Philosophy of Communication, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, 1996

Past President, Semiotic Society of America

Pennsylvania State University Teaching Fellow

Fellow, International Communicology Institute

Principal areas of study/research: Philosophy & Theory of Communication (Communicology), Interpersonal, Family, and Organizational Communication. Topics of interest: civility, enchantment as communicative experience, feminine agency and efficacy, motherhood, selfhood, and life writing.

About me: I am a philosopher and theorist of human communication. What that means is that I am interested in the ways we think about rhetoric and communication, how they function to produce/reproduce cultural values and norms, and why they shape our personal and professional experiences in complex and subtle ways. I pursue this philosophical agenda through the human science theory and methodology known as Communicology. Communicology, an emergent field of inquiry around the globe, is a critical study of the expressive body as mediated by cultural signs and codes of discourse and practice. Semiotics (the study of cultural signs and sign systems) and phenomenology (our experiences of those signs) are thus integral aspects of the research that I conduct and the philosophers whose work I interrogate. Some of the philosophers who greatly influence my thinking are: Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Michel Foucault, Martin Heidegger, Luce Irigaray, Richard L. Lanigan, Edward Sapir, Charles Sanders Peirce, Roman Jakobson, Ernst Cassirer, Jurgen Ruesch, Gregory Bateson, Judith Butler, and Jane Bennett. My co-edited book, Communicology: The New Science of Embodied Discourse (shown below) is an example of these research interests.

(Book) Recovering the Voice in Our Techno-Social World: On the Phone, 2020

Using a communicological perspective, Recovering the Voice in our Techno-Social World: On the Phone identifies voice (phone in Greek) as the essential medium for a re-enchantment of human communication in our highly impersonal techno-social environment. This book is a response to the growing concern by social critics that we are becoming a de-voiced society because of our preferences for hyper-textual, image-based forms of electronic connectivity. Ironically, while we are increasingly “on the phone,” we are sacrificing our vocality within immediate ear-to-ear relations. Framed by the trope of enchantment, Deborah Eicher-Catt argues that the immediacy of the sounding voice calls us and enchants us to make possible productive moments of resonance in which we might cultivate an interpersonal resilience in today’s fast-paced, media-saturated environment. Scholars of media studies, communication, and sociology will find this book particularly useful.

More information

Deborah Eicher-Catt profoundly transforms the discourse of human communication, meaning, and technology in her book about voice and human experience. Her writing throughout is at once inviting and incandescent. What is more, this study could not be more timely or more original. As we take note of the fragility of intimate relationships in this era, the discussion of communication technology has tended to be hasty and careless. Eicher-Catt’s book is the first of its kind to systematically address the embodied presence of self and other—it is brilliant and absolutely vital. —Frank J. Macke, Mercer University
In this book overflowing with deep learning, profound understanding, and brilliant insights, Deborah Eicher-Catt provides a philosophical study and critique of one of the most troubling aspects of contemporary life in our electronic media environment: the loss of voice and the proliferation of noise and visual distractions that are a consequence of our unhealthy infatuation with our digital devices and mobile technologies. —Lance Strate, Fordham University
While appreciating the convenience and functionality of advanced technologies, Eicher-Catt brings our attention back to the immediacy of the actual speaking voice—an originary source of human discourse. It is this source from which we truly experience the sublime, true beauty, passion, music, love—everything that makes us human. A vocal advocate for the crucial role of vocality in our life, Eicher-Catt’s book is original and powerful, her style persuasive and lucid. This book will resonate with all students and scholars of communication, leaving them transformed—re-enchanted. —Igor Klyukanov, Eastern Washington University

Learn more about Communicology at the International Communicology Institute website.

Recent Academic/Professional Commitments/Recognitions:

  • Past President, Semiotic Society of America
  • University College Promotion and Tenure Review Committee
  • Pennsylvania State University’s College Promotion and Tenure Review Committee
  • Finalist, University College Service Award, Penn State, 2018
  • Recipient, Teaching Fellow Award: Alumni Association and Student Award Recognizing Teaching Excellence, Pennsylvania State University, April 2016
  • Recipient, James H. Burness Award for Excellence in Teaching, Pennsylvania State University, York, April 2015.
  • Recipient, Donald H. Ecroyd Research and Scholarship Award, Pennsylvania Communication Association, 2012
  • Editorial Board Member, The Atlantic Journal of Communication, the Pennsylvania Communication Annual, Qualitative Research Reports in Communication
  • Recipient, Top Article Award, "Recovering the Voice of Embodied Dialogue: Edward Sapir's Contribution to Communicology," The International Journal of Communication, Philosophy of Communication Division, National Communication Association, 2011

Photo of Dr. Deborah Eicher-Catt

Office: Room 223, Grumbacher Information Sciences and Technology Center
E-mail Address:
Phone: 717-771-4158     Fax Number: 717-771-4062


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