(by Eileen Dombrowski from OUP blog) Shock waves in the human sciences! Six more of Brian Wansink’s published papers are being retracted, Cornell University announced September 20, bringing the total to 13, and the professor has resigned in disgrace. It is not just scientific peers who are affected as Brian Wansink’s flawed methodology is exposed and his papers are withdrawn from journals. Millions of ordinary people have also been influenced by his research on “mindless eating.” Nutritionists and marketers alike have also based decisions on his findings. But – what do these retractions mean for the methodology of the sciences? And – why should we seize on this example in Theory of Knowledge?
Technology just got even more amazing, and our everyday critical thinking just got even more challenging. “Deepfakes” are not merely a mini-advance in digital adjustment of images and videos. Instead, they are developments in machine learning, as artificial intelligence learns and applies the algorithms to enable users to replace elements of a video with other ones not part of the original. It is now possible for users to swap one person’s face with another’s, such as (in its early applications) replacing a porn performer’s face with a celebrity’s. It is now possible to create convincing videos of world leaders firmly saying things they did not say – in fact. In fact. Continue reading →
(Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Create a 5-minute buzz in TOK class over sense perception. Which version of the words do your students hear? It seems that groups of people are truly split over how they interpret the sound file! The first video here (from The Guardian) simply gives the options – as you’ll want just to get your class going – while the second (from CNN) gives some variations and a bit of explanation. Continue reading →
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) May in the northern hemisphere. The return of long daylight. But also IB exams. Tired students. Tired teachers. Time to take a class into the calm and beauty of pattern, with gentle TOK reflection on the deep intersections of mathematics, nature, art and technology. This year, my favourite vehicle is the animated sculpture of John Edmark, especially with the video “Creating the Never-Ending Bloom” in which the designer is commenting on his work. Continue reading →
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) I learned something important from my friend Lynx – something important for how I think about TOK and knowledge. It was almost seven years ago. I was interviewing her, as an experienced New Zealand Sign Language interpreter, on how signed languages worked and what they tell us about the nature of language. I was keenly interested in the ideas – and on using my laptop to make a video for the very first time. Then, when I had finally edited the interview, I passed it to Lynx for her response. It was immediate. “Can we add closed captions?” she asked. I was mystified. Why would we do that? “I wouldn’t like to talk about the Deaf community and their knowledge,” she explained, “without their having access to what I’m saying.” In an abrupt shift of perspective, I suddenly thought about the function of the closed captions I had always ignored – and realized that she was right. I had anchored my thinking entirely in my own TOK community and relationships of ideas. As an interpreter between hearing and Deaf groups, Lynx was much more fully attuned to the people. She was talking about inclusion and respect. Continue reading →
(Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) With a laugh, I pass on to you today a couple more cognitive biases, ones that students are likely to enjoy. We could, of course, despair over how deep our biases seem to go and what a challenge it is to achieve an open mind, but I find it curiously entertaining to learn about the quirky biases of our human minds. Maybe it even creates some patience with other people – those others who are so stubbornly wrong! – if we recognize that we are also naively wrong ourselves.
When considering reason as a way of knowing, we Theory of Knowledge teachers have long treated fallacies that derail clear thinking. When considering intuition as a way of knowing, we have a wealth of material in all the biases that kick in before we’re even consciously thinking. At moments, I’ve idly wondered whether we could teach the entire TOK course centred on confirmation bias, our tendency to notice and accept only information that reinforces what we believe already. Continue reading →
(by Eileen Dombrowski) “Our brains are conditioned to embrace the lies,” Tasos Franzolas declares of the sound engineering in films. This TED video (16:33 minutes) is a winner for any TOK treatment of sense perception and interpretation, and of the fusion of technology and creativity in the arts. Continue reading →
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Is the study of mathematics really a gateway toward empathy? I’m not fully convinced by the argument presented by mathematician Roger Antonsen, but I like him for making it. We need all the empathy we can get in our world. Certainly, his mathematical visualizations do demonstrate the importance of mental flexibility and imagination in mathematics, and do stand metaphorically for being able to see from different points of view. And his argument leads to some interesting knowledge questions about perspectives and empathy. Continue reading →
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Cute, isn’t he? May I introduce to you the Beach Beast, and a playful class example for sense perception and intuition as ways of knowing? Oh yes, we TOK teachers all have our collections of optical illusions and suggestive images to create a gestalt moment. (Aha!) We might even use the word “pareidolia” in class for the brain’s inclination to find pattern in random sense perceptions – with human faces, for example, startlingly apparent on the surface of the moon or the melted cheese sandwich on our plate. But, really, I think you’d have to go far to find an example with the appeal of my local Beach Beast!
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) On this fine day in May, most Theory of Knowledge students in the northern hemisphere are surely preoccupied with only a certain aspect of knowledge: how well they have demonstrated it, in relevant forms, on examinations. So today let me suggest that tired students deserve to be invited away from exam stress through their senses and imaginations, and through a gentle form of TOK reflection.