The parable of Pi by Dan Cohen

I want to tell you a story about a forgotten realm of education and knowledge. It is a cautionary tale, a parable of what happens when the world changes, when tradition is challenged.

So begins the transcript of Dan Cohen’s TEDxNYED talk, delivered on March 6, 2010, in New York City at the Collegiate School.

Cohen promises to post the video at his Digital Humanities Blog as soon as it is available. I plan on watching his full talk, and so should you.

In his talk, Cohen notes that “the story of pi is the story, and the psychology, of what happens when the complex and new tries to overtake the simple and traditional.” In establishing the story of Pi as a parable for the digital age, Cohen cites a couple of clear examples, and concludes with:

Math didn’t end with the end of the old pi—it just moved in new, more interesting directions.
But to get to that point, mathematicians had to show in a comprehensible way how the new pi created a new order.

Likewise, the digital age doesn’t signal the end of scholarship, but it does allow scholarship to move in new, more interesting directions. Libraries and librarians have an important role to play in creating, explaining and facilitating the new order.

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