TOK exhibition Sample 2

Alexey PopovAssessment, TOK Exhibition

We have prepared several TOK exhibition samples. Each one includes a fully written commentary plus a video explaining the creation process. We show the full journey as well as the destination.

This is our SECOND TOK exhibition sample: the written commentary itself as well as a video that gives a step-by-step explanation of the full creation process.

TOK exhibition Sample 2 uses the bottom-up approach:

  • Find the first object (possible linked to a theme)
  • Find a suitable prompt
  • Find the second object to add something new to the idea of the exhibition
  • Find the third object to add something new to the first two

The IA prompt that was selected is “In what ways do values affect the production of knowledge”. The three objects are:

  • Image from Emma Read’s patent of a portable baby cage (1923)
  • Atlatl – the earliest spear-throwing device
  • Rorschach’s ink blot test, Card 4

Why we are doing this

ThemEd’s TOK textbook for the new syllabus

We at Themantic Education think that the best way to support students in making their TOK exhibition is to demonstrate some specific examples – not only the final product, but the full thinking process that went into it. This way students will understand not only where they need to go, but also how to get there.

For this reason we have created several sample TOK exhibitions each using a slightly different approach to selecting the objects.

Each of our sample exhibitions includes the fully written TOK exhibition commentary and a YouTube video that gives a step-by-step explanation of how the exhibition was created. Together they will help your students understand the process thoroughly.

Don’t forget to check out our other TOK exhibition samples! See Thematic Education’s IB TOK playlist on YouTube

(And buy our textbook, it’s awesome and different from all other textbooks)

The process of creation

In what ways do values affect the production of knowledge?

In this exhibition I will interpret the term “values” broadly as anything we humans attach subjective importance to. The term “production of knowledge” is also used in a broad sense, encompassing both our collective body knowledge as a society and our individual knowledge that we acquire in our everyday lives.

Object 1. Image from Emma Read’s patent of a portable baby cage (1923)
Source: US Patent US1448235A:

In 1923 Emma Read patented a baby cage. My first object is an image from that patent. A baby cage (or a “window crib”) is a crib designed to be suspended outside the window of a city apartment. They became popular at the start of the 20th century after Dr. Luther Holt popularized the idea that exposing babies to fresh air is beneficial for their health. Reportedly, Eleanor Roosevelt used a baby cage for her child Anna. Her neighbors threatened to call the authorities on her. Baby cages were suggested as a way to keep babies healthy in small city apartments by “airing” them periodically, but they were quickly discontinued because the public was not comfortable with the idea of suspending their infants outside the window (Keyser, 2015; Szalinski, 2019). 

This object links to the prompt because it is a case of production of knowledge that was stopped because it interfered with some of our values. The only way to test Dr. Holt’s theory is to try it in practice and to see if babies that are being “aired” regularly are, generally speaking, healthier than their “non-aired” counterparts. But before this theory could be tested, the use of baby cages was discontinued. This is because people felt bad about suspending babies outside. 

This object has been included in the exhibition because it shows that values sometimes create an obstacle to obtaining knowledge that is potentially useful. In this example our values (such as “we must protect children and keep them safe by all means”) interfere with activities that can actually produce knowledge that will benefit many future generations of children. Short-term discomfort outweighs long-term benefits. Note that baby cages were actually designed with the intent of keeping children healthy. So, our values of keeping children safe and healthy prevent us from getting to know how we can do a better job keeping them safe and healthy.

Object 2. Atlatl. Exhibit in the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Houston, Texas, USA
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

My second object is an atlatl. Atlatl is a spear-throwing device. The oldest one discovered was made in France around 17,500 years ago. The atlatl creates extra leverage, so you can attack dangerous game animals (like mammoths) from a long distance without becoming prey to these animals yourself. According to sources such as (Hirst, 2019), this device has played a fundamental role in the survival of early humans. What makes the atlatl interesting is that this piece of technology is far more sophisticated that any other technology that primitive humans had. Apparently, our best innovations come from the desire to be better than others at killing and dominating. 

This object links to the prompt because it shows how values (in this case the core value of survival) can drive the production of knowledge (in this case technological search and innovation). Survival was the main value of primitive people, so it drove their “research”, and the most innovative tools were the ones designed to kill. This suggests that values can have a positive influence on the production of knowledge by motivating human attempts at exploration and innovation. Values may determine what knowledge we choose to seek. 

I argued earlier (with the baby cage) that values can be an obstacle in the production of knowledge. But the atlatl clearly demonstrates that values can also be a major driving force. When it comes to the core values such as our own survival, we are willing to invest an incredible amount of effort into looking for knowledge that can potentially have useful practical applications (such as killing an enemy!). It is for this reason that the object was included in the exhibition.

Object 3. Rorschach’s ink blot test, Card 4
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

My third object is Card # 4 from Rorschach’s ink blot test. The idea is that you look at the card and tell the psychologist what you see, and the psychologist makes judgments about your personality based on your responses. This particular card is “often perceived as being associated with a male figure, which is why the card is often called ‘The Father Card’” ( There is statistical evidence that responses on Card 4 may be indicative of homosexuality. Male homosexuals more frequently than others see in this card a “contorted, threatening human or animal”, for example, “a horrid beast” or “a giant with shrunken arms” (Chapman and Chapman, 1969). 

This object links to the prompt because it shows how our values (in this case represented by deeply rooted psychological intentions) affect our interpretation of perceptual stimuli (which is a form of personal knowledge). Quite simply, the object exemplifies the idea that when two people have different sets of values, they are likely to see different things even when they are exposed to the same data. This shows how deeply rooted values may affect the production of knowledge even on the level of the simplest acts of perception.  

While we have already seen that values may be both an obstacle and a driving force in the production of knowledge, this third object shows that values can be a filter through which knowledge is perceived. The same “facts” may be seen differently if values are different. Even when data is already available, values may decide what we make of it, how we interpret it. Therefore the object demonstrates that values are not only an “obstacle” or a “driving force” in the production of knowledge, they are an indispensable part of this process – without values we can have data, but we cannot really have knowledge. 

Word count: 947 words