Of Personal and Shared Knowledge

One of the central distinctions about the nature of Knowledge in TOK is that between Personal and Shared Knowledge. Personal Knowledge is meant to refer to knowledge which has been acquired by the individual based on their own experiences, efforts and conclusions. Shared Knowledge is knowledge which is held communally, by groups which will vary in size depending on the type of knowledge being explored. For a start, I am not at all convinced that it is genuinely possible to ...

Two german films, different histories

Last week I attended a film presentation at the London Reviews of Books bookshop by the novelist Ali Smith (her novel ‘How to be both’ is extraordinary, try to read this). The film was Mädchen in uniform (Germany 1931 dir: Leontine Sagan). I mention this as the film was an interesting descendant of the expressionist film making from the previous decade, in many of the same ways that ‘M’ (Germany 1931 dir: Fritz Lang) was. Both films were popular in their ...

What’s the Story?

Human beings see the world in stories. Whatever we put our minds to is naturally furnished with a narrative which gives our thinking a context - it seems to be built into our DNA. Whilst we are all familiar with some of the ancient stories our ancestors created to make sense of their world, we sometimes forget that all of us continue to create and be shaped by stories. To understand this is the first step to grasping the significant ...

Exercise exploring film making techniques – Shot selections

The following is one in a series of simple exercises to encourage film students thinking about the mechanics of film making, and reflecting on creative choices made by film makers as conscious and intentional. My intention is that these exercises slot into the first semester of IB Film. Hopefully they will be a useful resource towards discussions leading to production portfolios, oral presentation and introducing the basic idea of supporting analytical ideas with actual examples of film language, the lingua franca ...

The Shroud of Turin: perspectives, faith, and evidence

  Intense emotions and extensive discussion have swirled around the 4-metre-long cloth known as the Shroud of Turin. Is it really the burial cloth that was wound around the body of Jesus Christ after his crucifixion (as many Christians believe), miraculously preserving His image? Or is it a hoax? Earlier this month (Oct 9-12), a conference in St. Louis, Missouri  brought together international presenters and participants on the topic “Shroud of Turin: The Controversial Intersection of Faith and Science”. However, it is ...

Django Unchained, representations and ‘positioning the audience’

The following is an exchange between one of my students and I, broadly made on the topic of psychoanalytical approaches to film analysis. Her contribution attempts to describe and explore the nature of representations in Django unchained (Tarantino US 2012), which my response attempts to take these ideas in to the realm of how audiences engage with these representation and what I believe to be the true intended meanings of the film makers, based on the experience of their oeuvre. Quentin ...

Shared knowledge: 2 stories of significance

Behind the stark issue of climate change -- like the other challenges of our times -- looms a concept essential to explore in Theory of Knowledge: shared knowledge. How does knowledge reach people? Through what process of sharing does the public gain knowledge that will affect their lives?  Two recent news reports highlight contrasting processes by which knowledge claims on climate change reach the public -- with profoundly different implications for action. The two reports I pick out are from science ...

TOK and The User’s Guide to Economics

Interviewed in the TOK Course Companion, economist Susan McDade (working with the United Nations) comments that "most economic theories" used in the West are based on "assumptions can be pointed out to be weak or not always true” and argues for a complex series of values that are typically ignored by economists. Economics, as we recognize in TOK, is very much a human science – inescapably human in its study and interpretation of aspects of human behaviour. In this ...

TOK and the “real world”: How do we engage most appropriately when knowledge claims have been politicized?

  As a TOK teacher, do you feel you can be “political” in the classroom?   I’d love to have your thoughts on this topic. (Please use that “comment” feature!) I’d love to know how others walk the line between being relevant to the world – and hence engaged in its issues – and being neutral in order not be accused of being an ideologue, inappropriately, in the classroom. Would you, for instance, give the following article to your students, and if ...

An interesting topic for discussion or research

Recently my group have been exploring the relationship between documentary and propaganda films. One of our key points of reference has been Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the will 1934. And our discussions has raised the problematic of the amorality of formalism as a means for constructing or reading movies. It seemed to me that the main evidence against formalism is the distortion of apparent narrative economy and elegance by racist and morally bankrupt ideological perspectives. The films which spring most readily to ...