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Methods and Tools – A Summary

Word Count: 298

Several different methods of gathering and constructing knowledge, from the fields of mathematics, natural sciences, human sciences, history, and art were presented and evaluated. In summary, knowledge constructed in the domain of mathematics and natural sciences seem to be more reliable than knowledge constructed in the human sciences and arts.

In mathematics, knowledge is constructed via proof, combining logic and calculation which is indisputably true regardless of emotional interpretation. Similarly, in the natural sciences, knowledge is constructed through the scientific method: experimentation and data collection under extremely controlled conditions, concluding with an interpretation of the data which can be refuted or supported directly by objective observation. In these two fields, there is usually a very clear line on what can be right and what can be wrong.

In the human sciences, on the other hand, constructed knowledge is subject to great change, given the difficult-to-control nature of the objects of study. Theories which apply can be refuted as society changes or as new data is collected: Keynes’ economic theory is such an example. In particular, some experiments cannot be reproduced as subjects and environments change, so their validity and applicability becomes questionable.

Historical accounts may also be biased; “history is written by the victor,” as they say. Furthermore, different interpretations of historical evidence are to a degree, causing them to vary from person to person. Similarly, interpretations and emotional responses to different pieces of art will vary depending on one’s background, economic status, gender, and so forth; thus, our knowledge of these fields is unreliable, as it is changing constantly.

The nature of some fields of study makes it harder to construct reliable knowledge than others. However, all of these subjects are indisputably important to humanity’s self-understanding, providing us with new lens from which to see the world.

A Doll’s House – Pre-reading Task

Henrik Ibsen

Link to image
Henrik Ibsen was a Norwegian playwright, born on March 20, 1828, to a wealthy family in Norway. His works can be categorized into three phases: the first ending in 1877 with The Pillars of Society; the second covering the years in which he wrote most of the dramas of protest against social conditions, such as Ghosts; and the third marked by the symbolic plays, The Master Builder and When We Dead Awaken. He is considered the pioneer of modern drama due to his combining of the three key innovations of “colloquial dialogue, objectivity, and tightness of plot.” His creation of setting, plot, and characters relatable to the audience was a breakthrough in drama, categorized as “Realism.” Some literary elements which Ibsen excelled in were symbolism and dramatic irony, and a common theme of most of his plays was Man vs. Society.

Norway

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Norway’s climate on the seacoasts is mild, whereas the interior, while colder, is also a lot milder than areas elsewhere with similar northern latitudes. Norway maintains the Nordic welfare model, with universal health care and values rooted in egalitarian ideals. Traditional folklore is also a huge influencer of Norse literature.

Gender Roles and Social Classes in the Victorian Era
The Victorian Era lasted from 1837 to 1901, and women’s rights during the Victorian era were severely limited, with less financial and political rights. The “ideal woman” in Victorian society was extremely and tirelessly sympathetic and sacrificing. Furthermore, Victorian society was highly divided by class; upper-middle class citizens were typically landowners, while working-class citizens worked in abhorring conditions. Modern feminism is also very different from nineteenth-century feminism; women’s rights activists in the early twentieth century were known as suffragettes and fought primarily for voting rights for women.

Marriage in the Victorian Era
Marriage in the Victorian Era was partly an economic institution, as marriage represented a “bond” between two families. On the other hand, the responsibilities of men and women in the family were completely different: women were held to the standards of “pure” femininity, as well as completely tend to the property and children, while men were expected to impress with their ambition and masculinity. Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management is an example of the expectations on women during this time. Furthermore, household responsibilities were harder on the working class, as homes were typically less well-kept and labor conditions were significantly harsher.

Realism
Theatrical realism describes a movement in theatre that began in the late nineteenth century, which aimed to bring greater faithfulness to real life to theatre. One of the influences which led to the development of theatrical realism may have been Charles Darwin, which must have questioned the traditional moral values of society. Some of the theatrical elements used in theatrical realism are diegetic sound and music, realistic characters and dialogue, realistic setting (no supernatural elements). Some realist works include Maxim Gorky’s The Lower Depths, and Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull.

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henrik_Ibsen
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norway
https://sites.google.com/site/henrikibsenlc1/two-literary-elements-he-is-known-to-excel-in-and-the-major-theme-of-most-of-his-plays
https://www.writerstheatre.org/blog/father-modern-drama/
https://www.theatredatabase.com/19th_century/henrik_ibsen_001…
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_era#Literature
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Realism_(theatre)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mrs_Beeton%27s_Book_of_Household_Management
https://www.mckendree.edu/academics/scholars/issue18/appell.htm..
https://sites.udel.edu/britlitwiki/social-life-in-victorian-england/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suffragette

“Little Richard” from “A Harlem Family” – Gordon Parks Analysis

Amidst the socio-political chaos of the United States during the mid-20th century, Gordon Parks’ photography stands out as a collection of stories displaying the bleak lives of individuals under the oppression of racial injustice. In particular, the above photograph is part of a collection titled “A Harlem Family,” taken in 1967, which documents the life of a black family and the hardships they endured in extreme poverty. In this photograph of the family’s youngest son, Richard, Parks uses techniques such as appeals to pathos, lighting, and composition to highlight the struggles of the Fontenelle family, ultimately drawing attention to racial injustice in the United States as a whole.

A key technique that Parks uses in the photograph is appeal to pathos. The subject of the photo, Richard, stares directly into the camera with little expression and an empty, dismal stare, in direct contrast to the typical portrayal of an innocent, carefree child. Moreover, his lips are swollen and cracked, the result of eating plaster for a lifetime against the gnawing hunger all children in the Fontenelle family experience. This portrayal of little Richard is jarring, a harrowing portrayal of poverty and the struggles of the disadvantaged during society at that time. Parks pulls directly at his audience’s heartstrings, and is extremely effective.

Another technique Parks employs is lighting. The entire photograph is in black and white, a typical characteristic of Parks’ photograph collections, but importantly, the subject’s face is shrouded in darkness; only half his face is illuminated, the only source of light being an artificial glare from the side. Perhaps this is symbolic of a lack of hope, as his eyes reflect dully through the darkness of the shot, only illuminated by a faint glow which the subject seems too dejected to pursue. Moreover, the lighting of the shot sets the mood of the entire photograph as gloomy and sorrowful, contributing to the serious tone and overall emotional response elicited from the viewer.

Finally, the composition of the photograph also lends to its impact. In particular, the photo is shot at a direct angle, with an extreme close-up on Richard’s face. This forces the subject of the photograph directly in front of the viewer, and enhances the viewer’s perception of the subject’s emotion. By doing this, Parks is almost deliberately forcing his audience to face the horrors of racial injustice, by forcing them to confront the horrible sadness and suffering a young child has to endure under a broken system. This greatly increases the emotional impact of the photo, literally and figuratively closing the distance between the audience and the subject at hand.

In conclusion, Gordon Parks uses techniques such as appeal to pathos, lighting, and composition to reveal the struggles of the Fortenelle family under a system of racial injustice and oppression. By giving a face to the victims of racism and projecting the struggles of a people onto the suffering of a young boy, Gordon Parks effectively criticizes and raises awareness for the struggles of these people.

Political Bias – Reflection

Recently, as part of an activity in our Theory of Knowledge class, I took three tests judging my political standpoints and my political bias. My results were not surprising, though they were likely skewed heavily due to me choosing “strongly agree” for any question that I leaned towards agreeing (because I wanted to maximize the results to make a clear comparison in political perspective). For the two political standpoint tests, my economic standpoints ended up being different, likely due to the fact that I didn’t have much of an opinion on economic issues. I don’t know enough about that area to make a good judgement. On the other hand, my stance on social issues leaned towards “libertarian,” which I wasn’t surprised by.

For the political bias test, I scored lower bias score than the average, which I assume means I’m less politically biased than the average person. On the other hand, the test made me realize that there were a lot more political issues outside the purely social sphere that are of great importance, and that it might be beneficial for me to understand them.

I’ve never really considered myself to be a particularly “political person,” which I consider as someone who actively seeks information regarding the current political state of the world and discusses it with others. Much of the information on current events I receive passively, by listening to family members’ discussions at the dinner table and conversations among friends. Much of the time I spend is devoted towards subjects that aren’t necessarily political by nature, like math or music. Despite this, I do think it’s important to be at least a little aware of what happens in politics, especially in countries where the voice of the individual is extremely strong. But I can totally understand the mentality of “I’m not going to be able to influence/change this, so why would I bother?” I don’t believe all efforts towards social change or justified, or even timely.

That being said, I do think that one of the big issues that plagues us nowadays, especially in the United States, is political division; bipartisan values seem to encourage a “follow-the-leader” mentality that is absolutely anathema to rational discourse, which I find extremely disturbing.

TOK – Semester 1 Reflection

During the first semester, we considered knowledge questions related to “Knowledge and the Knower” and “Knowledge and Technology.” Looking back, what learning engagements stand out to you the most and why?

One of the activities that definitely stood out to me was the documentary we watched on social networks. I’ve elaborated more on the next question, but in summary, it really broadened my perspective on the social issue as a whole. The audio-visual illusions that we saw at the beginning of the unit were really interesting as well.

In what ways, if any, has your perspective shifted as a result of your participation in this course so far?

Though I can’t say my perspective has changed dramatically, watching the documentary on social media networks really opened my eyes to other perspectives on the issue. I’ve always had a surface-level understanding of the technology that governs our lives, but I’ve never seriously considered its social implications, or even elevated the possible impacts of social network technology as detrimental to society.

Looking ahead to the exhibition requirement, what do you want to keep in mind?

Make sure that everything written in justification of the object is concise and directly related to the knowledge question at hand.

Thinking back on the writing you have done so far in the course, what can you do to continue to hone your skills?

Make sure all the writing is directly related to the topic and considers multiple viewpoints in its evaluation (similar to what I mentioned above).

“Window Shopping” by Gordon Parks – Visual Annotation

English – Semester Reflection 2020

Looking back, what texts have made the biggest impact on you? Why do you think that is?

Of all the texts we studied this semester, I’d say that American Born Chinese was one I enjoyed, since it was a text type that I’ve never really seriously looked at or analyzed before. Malcolm X’s speeches were also very interesting, because they shed light on racial discrimination in the USA during the Civil Rights Movement.

How have your abilities to read, analyze, write, and speak developed so far?

I feel that my ability to analyze texts is improving, especially with non-literary texts. Things like diction, tone, and structure are becoming a little bit easier to identify, though I still have difficulties organizing my ideas to make a coherent paper.

I feel like my writing and speaking skills have remained mostly static, however. I have difficulties speaking under pressure, and I don’t feel like I’m quick enough to think of intelligent responses under time constraints, so that’s definitely something I need to improve.

Of the five Approaches to Learning, which do you think that you have demonstrated the most growth in so far in this course?

So far, I think my “thinking skills” have improved the most. As mentioned before, I feel a notable improvement in my ability to read and analyze texts, which falls under this category.

Of the IB Learner Profile attributes, which do you think that you have demonstrated the most growth in so far in this course?

I think I’ve demonstrated the most growth in the “open-minded” strand. The texts we have studied so far in this course have given me a better appreciation of the cultural and historical contexts which prompt people to act in certain ways.

Looking ahead, what goals would you like to set for yourself in the course moving forward?

I definitely need to work on my speaking skills, as well as my ability to organize a paper 1.

Reflection – Practice IO

What global issue did you focus on?

The issue of cultural discrimination and ignorance.

What extract did you choose?

I chose the extract in American Born Chinese where Jin is being introduced to the class by the teacher, pages 30–31.

What authorial choices did you focus on, both in the extract and in the work as a whole?

I focused on the use of characterization, dialogue, and repetition (the repetition of the structure of the extract) in both the extract and in the work as a whole.

What do you think went well in terms of your oral?

In general, it felt like a train-wreck. However, I feel like I managed to communicate a good majority of the points I wanted to talk about in the “main body” of my IO.

What do you still need to improve on?

I definitely need to be better prepared for the questioning next time. I’m not the kind of person who’s really good at coming up with well-communicated answers on the spot, so I need buffer-time to think; during the actual oral, I got some questions I wasn’t expecting, and I just rushed to come up with an answer, which I felt didn’t make sense at all, but I had to go with it in the end.

What will you do differently as you prepare next time

I definitely need to focus more on the extract in relation to the work as a whole, but not from a technical perspective. Rather, I need to view the extract a little more abstractly.

DAMN. First Impressions

What do these songs seem to be about?

It’s not immediately clear that this album has a central theme, but Lamar seems to discuss many of his experiences and many aspects of his childhood in some of these songs, such as DNA. Some of these songs also seem to be inherently political, such as “Feel”, although I can’t pinpoint exact verses that gave me a really strong impression of this (since I haven’t looked into the lyrics too carefully).

What makes these songs unique?

I can’t say much about the musical side of things, since all non-rhythmic elements seem pretty simplistic in that regard, but the lyrics are certainly extremely nuanced and complex, which I feel is rarely seen in a lot of the popular music we see today.

What are some techniques that you notice recurring in the music?

Again, I can’t say much about the musical side of things, for the same reasons outlined above, but I noticed that many of the songs in the album are actually closer in style to lo-fi hiphop.

Which song do you like the best, and why?

I like DNA, Feel, PRIDE, and LOVE. DNA because it’s incredibly energetic and rhythmically interesting, Feel because it seems to incorporate a style almost similar to spoken-word poetry, PRIDE because it has one of the more succinct melodic ideas while still retaining the grit of hip-hop, and LOVE because it’s the most melodic of all the songs.

Cartooning – Music and Me

This is the cartooning project that our class made after our study of the graphic novel, American Born Chinese. I hand-drew it and scanned it; the PDF is available below:

cartooning-project

Rationale: (285 words)

The purpose of my cartoon was to convey my affinity for music and what it means to me. The cartoon is organized in an ABA format, starting in the “real” world, with me playing at my piano, traveling to the “imaginary” world, a series of images depicting the imagery that I see when playing a selection of piano pieces. The cartoon then ends back in the “real” world. My intention for the ABA structure was to emulate a simplified version of the hero’s journey, heavily dramatizing the moment in the cartoon: starting at home, a call to adventure, a journey through the “otherworld,” and then a return back home. Moreover, I made deliberate choices in art style. For anything in the “imaginary” world and the opening image of the piano, I used large panels, and included many details, whereas the other pages have four, smaller panels, with very little detail. This choice was made to contrast the “real” and “imaginary” worlds, causing the music-filled scenes to appear much more vivid and the other panels to appear much duller. This is a reflection of my personal belief that music can capture and enrich experiences to a degree that is unattainable without music. The lack of text is also a deliberate choice and is fitting for such a personal cartoon, with much of the focus on the interplay between the imagery and the music drawn. In particular, it underscores the intimacy of the moment and is also a subtle allusion to the famous phrases “let the music speak for itself” and “a picture is worth a thousand words.” In summary, the different techniques used come together to reflect my love for music and its relationship with me.

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