You HAVE to watch this video from Discovery Channel! Watch it, and then rotate your screen for the view at the end. First, just enjoy it. And then we can link it to TOK.   Mount Everest in 3D: Experience the Trek to the Summit.

For me, there are moments of wordless wonder – amazed at being given an echo of experiences so far beyond my own life, shared through stories or images. But, in a characteristic for which I have often been teased, I don’t stay wordless very long.

1. First, the “wow!” moment.

In TOK, we distinguish between personal knowledge and shared knowledge. In the Course Companion I call their interaction “the zone of exchange” and find this space dynamic. For those of us lucky enough to have access to education and technology, this young century is an exciting time in the Zone.

  • How has technology affected our access to knowledge in 2014, compared to that just 100 years ago?   How much more can be shared, and how?
  • For me, this video of the ascent route of Everest is amazing. I’m not a climber — I’m scared of heights and I’d simply hate all that gear and all that danger — so the fascination has nothing to do with wanting to get out there myself. If you’re also saying, “This is amazing”, why are you amazed?
  • Are there videos, films, stories, novels, scientific discoveries that give you this “wow!” moment? Can you pick out one example of a time when you’ve said something like, “That’s amazing! How did they figure that out? How did they do that? Isn’t it fantastic that they can show us this?”

2. And then the metaphor moment.

This video gives such an aerial view sweeping up icy passes and ridges, and such an overview in the screen rotation at the top.

  • To what extent can you make an analogy to Theory of Knowledge, in the way that it looks out over all knowledge to see its characteristic features and the way the bits fit together? How far does the metaphor fit and plant an image of TOK – and at what point does it break down as irrelevant or even distorting?

3. And then the analytical moment.

I love the “wow” and can’t resist the metaphor, but it’s when we look at what knowledge is involved and what exactly is being shared in the communication that we’re into Theory of Knowledge.  I love this phase just as much, with all the thoughts that rise to the surface as I watch the video a second time (at least!).

  • The video carries the title “Everest Avalanche Tragedy”, labels spots on the ascent with their names, locates in one spot a terrible tragedy that killed 16 sherpas, imposes a red line for the route, floats the country names “China” and “Nepal” in the distance, and features a button for donation. To what extent is this film a record of what we see (perceptual), and to what extent a presentation of what we know (conceptual)? What does it have in common with maps? If it is used to establish ideas, what point is it making?
  • To what extent can we expect to share the personal experience of mountain climbers — their firsthand knowledge — even with the best of words and images? Does this particular video seem to be aiming to share experience, or something about experience at a scale removed from it? At what point does direct personal experience become knowledge – personal knowledge, then shared knowledge? In what ways does the sherpas’ knowledge differ from the knowledge of those who arrive from outside to climb Mt. Everest?
  • Why do you think that some achievements, some discoveries, some wrecks, some tragedies become mythologized? (Can you name a few that seem to be iconic of some idea or feeling?) What is it about Mt Everest, for example, that has made it part of popular knowledge, knowledge shared around the world? What is the role of images? numbers? stories? What ways of knowing are involved in its place in shared knowledge?
  • What areas of knowledge have been involved in our being able to see this video and understand what it is representing? What technology? What besides technology?
  • One of the significant features of this video is the further knowledge it invites us to gain, not about climbers in general but the sherpas who carry an expedition’s supplies up Mt. Everest.  (See the homepage of this video from Discovery Channel: What are the ethical issues that surround the climbing of this iconic mountain – such as impact on the people who live there and the environment? Are such impacts always best approached through ethical theories based on consequences (utilitarianism), or are other just as relevant?

And now, back to the “Wow!” I confess that I’ve written all of these analytical questions to place this video in TOK context — and to set up a possible class discussion — simply because I wanted to put the video on my blog. I wanted to share it because I find the overview amazing.  And I find the human tragedy, treated only quickly in this excerpt, deeply moving.


“Mount Everest: Experience the Trek to the Summit”, Everest Avalanche Tragedy, Discovery Channel.  For the whole of the avalanche tragedy, go to the homepage:

Eileen Dombrowski, Lena Rotenberg, Mimi Bick. Theory of Knowledge Course Companion, 2013 edition. Oxford University Press, 2013.