The Black Mirror Project

Black Mirror is a British science fiction television anthology series set in the near future that explores the potentially dark consequences of technology and social media. Each episode has a different cast with a unique story and, like most science fiction, it offers a prophetic warning about what could happen if we lose control and allow technology to control us.

The show, created by Charlie Brooker, was first broadcast on British television in 2011. It is now a Netflix original series, and some have called it a modern day “Twilight Zone.”

Recognizing its potential for the discussion of modern and future media, some colleges and universities across the country have incorporated “Black Mirror” into their journalism and communications classes.

This is a fan site. It is not affiliated with the television show “Black Mirror.” It’s just creatively inspired by it. We dream that Charlie Brooker will turn one of our ideas into an episode. For more information, email ldrucker@olemiss.edu.

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Black Mirror Reflection Guidelines

This semester, University of Mississippi Meek School of Journalism and New Media students watched three episodes of “Black Mirror” – Nosedive, White Bear and Playtest. Then they were given three instructions:

1. Think about the three episodes of “Black Mirror” that we watched. Think about technology and social media in the near future. Research the future of technology by Googling and reading several articles on the subject. Talk to friends, family and professors to get ideas.

2. Imagine that you’ve just been hired as a writer for the television show “Black Mirror.” It’s your job to come up with a storyline for your own episode, but you only have a week to do it or you get fired. Your episode will be featured in the next season of “Black Mirror.”

3. Write a one-page, double-spaced report describing your episode and the characters that you imagine starring in it. What technology is used and how? Think about a scenario involving technology and social media, and take that idea to an extreme. There’s your story.

Students who may find the assignment too creatively challenging are given the option of researching the future of technology and media, focusing on one aspect of it, and making a prediction about it.

You will find a collection of creative “Black Mirror” responses on this website that is designed to showcase student work while prompting discussion of the future of technology and media.

Black Mirror Reflections

You’ll find a number of student-submitted Black Mirror Reflections below. You can read more about the project here. If you’re interested in submitting your own Black Mirror Reflection or writing a review of an episode, email ldrucker@olemiss.edu.

 

Black Mirror Reflection: A Beautiful Life

In a future overpopulated world, doctors have developed an affordable medicine that allows people to live longer. People can add years to their lives by taking the medicine. However, this eventually leads to overpopulation and competition for food, jobs, shelter and other resources. One woman trying to make ends meet finds herself in a life-altering situation.

Black Mirror Reflection: Two Worlds of Information

Two worlds exist. The people of the larger world are controlled by the media they consume. The people of the smaller world experimentally release media to the larger world to test their intelligence.

Black Mirror Reflection: Alexa

In the near future, people begin to rely on the newest model of Alexa for everything. Companies and businesses replace employees with devices like Alexa, eliminating daily personal interactions. For one woman, the new technological advances have resulted in a lonely existence.

Black Mirror Reflection: National Security

Just how much freedom are we willing to risk for our security? In the future, citizens will stand trial for committing “crimes” that are published on social media. They are convicted according to the severity of each crime. Violent acts result in penalties ranging from beatings to lynchings, and drugs and alcohol lead to long term jail time.

Black Mirror Reflection: The Land Down Under

In the year 3000, civilians live under water because it is dangerous to live on land where humans – obsessed with technology and videogaming – drive motorized vehicles as if they were video-game controls. People in these vehicles chase other vehicles to destroy them vying for total control of the world.

Black Mirror Reflection: History is Behind Us

In the future, scientists create a contact lens that displays a person’s past. While having a conversation with someone, these contacts allow you to read their names, past mistakes, and anything you need to know to characterize the person. This keeps people out of trouble and on their best behavior.

Black Mirror Reflection: Swipe Left or Right

In the near future, a beautiful girl begins a downward spiral when she receives negative feedback from social media similar to the Tinder app. Everyone walks around with their phones, swiping left or right each time they encounter someone, which affects the person’s dating and friendship ratings.

Black Mirror Reflection: An Apple a Day

In 2035, humans have given up their rights to a familiar corporation, Apple. Over the years, the company has fed the public’s tech addictions, and the entire world has become slave to the company. News of the latest iPhone upgrade permeates all forms of social media and television. Apple runs the world, and the company has all power over the government and its people, making citizens stay updated on their latest products or face consequences.

Black Mirror Reflection: The Game of Love

In the near future, babies are inserted with identical microchips at birth identifying them as soulmates. At age 18, young lovers must play a game to find each other that will end in love or death.

Black Mirror Reflection: Verified

In the near future, superiority is based on social media accounts. If a person is verified on Twitter or Instagram, they have more privileges than people who are not verified. There are Vs and Zeros, and they don’t mix.

Black Mirror Reflection: The Plug

In the near future, when someone “plugs in” to watch TV or a movie, they actually become the main characters within the picture, and experience everything that the main character is experiencing. Whether it’s physical, emotional or psychological pain, they feel it all.

Black Mirror Reflection: The First Amendement

In 2050, a law is passed that prevents people from speaking to each other aloud. The only contact allowed is through texting or some form of media. Some decide to fight back.

Black Mirror Reflection: A Vision of the Future

Between the years 2050-2059, I predict technology will take over the world. Most cars in the developed world will be computer-controlled. By 2050, bionic eye implants will be used by most people, and they will be able to relay data and footage on the spot.

Black Mirror Reflection: Warriors

Each year, there is a recruiting process, but only for girls. Girls who have just became teenagers train for war. They leave for this journey on their 13th birthday.

Black Mirror Reflection: Reflection of Society

Jamie lived in a perfect world – a world with no war, no hunger, no imperfections, nothing to worry about. Every morning, she woke at the same time, had the same perfectly cooked breakfast, and put on a perfectly tailored outfit. And before she left to attend an exclusive academy, she looked in a mirror. But it was not an ordinary mirror.

Black Mirror Reflection: Bubble Buds

In the year 2050, scientists have recently created a new pair of earrings that are linked to an app called Bubble Buds. The earrings enable the wearer to use an app and see other people in surrounding areas. They can zoom in, listen to conversations, thoughts and feelings with the touch of a button. This proves problematic for a young girl named Carlie.

Black Mirror Reflection: Be Yourself

In the near future, technology has evolved, and people can pay to Photoshop themselves in real life for certain periods of time. When you return home, you can undo your Photoshop. Kim is tired of being perfectly edited.

Black Mirror Reflection: For the Better

In 2034, after birth, each person is required to receive a brain implant called “MonorU.” MonorU broadcasts the thoughts every person has regularly, then displays those thoughts on a social media website called BetterU. Users vote to “censor” or “ignore” a person’s thoughts. Delvin McKinney, 17, is on the verge of dissenting.

Black Mirror Reflection: Face Swap

Two childhood friends, Johanna and Leilani, FaceTime to keep in touch. They attend different schools and lead two very different lives, but despite their differences, they remain very close. On one of their FaceTime calls, something strange happens.

Black Mirror Reflection: Neuro Hacking

A man named Tim Fischer has invented a form of technology called “neurohacking” in Germany, and the German government is using the technology to manipulate and control the citizens of other countries.

Black Mirror Reflection: Maid to Order

Everyone has artificial intelligence in their homes in the year 2065, and they are using robots in their everyday lives. The robots do daily chores and make sure families stay comfortable. A couple, Dave and June, are arguing about whether or not add a robot to their family.

Black Mirror Reflection: Birth Control

A mother, father, and daughter, 9, live in 2060, and technology and crime are more prevalent. When children are born, a microchip is implanted in their arms. This enables the government and law officials to track a citizen any time.

Black Mirror Reflection: Space X

In the future, there is an Earth colony and a Mars colony with distinctly different ways of life. With continuous travel between the two planets (Space X reusable rockets), the Mars colony is significantly more affluent, and this becomes a problem.

Black Mirror Reflection: Facetune

What if we could edit people’s appearances in real life the way we edit them in photos? For example, if someone uses an app to make themselves appear thinner and their friend’s teeth look whiter – what if they could actually fix that as instantly in real life as they can on their devices?

Black Mirror Reflection: Indefinite Friends

In a future government-controlled community that is a visual utopia, friendship is prized above all else, and community members are assigned indefinite friends that know their whereabouts at all times. Life gets complicated when a government agent assigns Maggie a new indefinite friend.

Black Mirror Reflection: A Virtual Match

In the near future, people use an app that enables them to virtually date. Once two people are matched and qualified to go virtual, they can go on a virtual date with one another “anywhere” they choose.

Black Mirror Reflection: All Clear

The world established in “Biodegradable” will be overwrought with pollution of water sources and overpopulation. In an attempt to curb the problem, the government develops a new form of water bottle, which is both entirely biodegradable and self filtering. It is mass distributed and poised to save the world, but not everything is transparent.

Black Mirror Reflection: Fitbit

The U.S. government issues a law that requires all citizens to wear a Fitbit that is linked to a government database. They must meet a 10,000 step requirement every day and have their diets monitored so that the country can become a superpower again.

Black Mirror Reflection: Higher Powers

In an age of frequent space travel, a nuclear explosion has destroyed the Earth, and humans live on a space station. Many space stations only hold people of higher rank considering the cost of expensive and limited seats. A young girl sneaks on board seeking freedom, but realizes things aren’t as they seem.

Black Mirror Reflection: The New Digital Age

In the near future, any time you see something on social media that you like, you have the opportunity to immediately buy that item. Everything you see online has a purchase button right at your finger tips.

Black Mirror Reflection: Social Politics

In the near future, U.S. citizens use a social media app on cellular devices to control the government. The citizens have the power to vote in elections and control policies using the app. However, the immediate control citizens have over government leads to the country’s destruction.

Black Mirror Reflection: Drive Me Crazy

In the year 2050, society is beginning to adapt to life with self-driving cars. Many people are skeptical about whether to trust the cars, but they are left with no choice when a law is passed prohibiting human-driven cars from roadways. As society becomes dependent on self-driving cars, and cars become “smarter,” passengers eventually experience nightmare consequences.

Black Mirror Reflection: The Perfect Date

In 2060, a group of sorority girls are having a difficult time finding a date for their last formal before they graduate and go off to space school. So they decide to order a hologram date with their touchscreen computers using the website Perfect Date.

Using Black Mirror in the Classroom

Some have called “Black Mirror” a modern day “Twilight Zone,” and like the vintage science fiction series that often envisioned the future, “Black Mirror” brilliantly conveys how media and technology could alarmingly devolve in the near future. That’s why some educators are using it in the classroom.

Frank Bridges, of Rutgers University, has written a piece called Black Mirror as a Pedagogical Tool in the Classroom. He said a show like “Black Mirror” “allows students to experience a taste of the not-so-distant future for 45 minutes and still have time to discuss their ideas in class.”

Bridges cites the episode The Entire History of You in which an implanted device called a “grain” captures and indexes video and audio of everything viewed by the recipient.

“The episode may feel jarring and its ideas inconceivable,” he writes, “but it can be explained to the class that elements are already available with existing technologies such as augmented reality glasses, compact flash memory, retinal implants, and networked home devices.”

Bridges said educators can incorporate other materials, such as media articles, to prepare students before watching the episodes that can prompt them to begin thinking about the future of technology.

In my mass communications class at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media, students first learn about the history of mass media before we begin envisioning the future with the help of “Black Mirror.” Students begin to think about their personal relationship with technology, social media and electronic communication. Some have said it was “eye-opening.”

Emily Glover, of the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education, offers advice about how to teach pop culture and TV shows. She says television shows, news stories, podcasts and other popular media can be used as teaching tools to help students learn digital literacy skills.

Glover said the ethical use of technology is one of the main themes of digital literacy. It’s important for students to understand how media and technology affect them and how they affect media and technology.

“The British anthology series ‘Black Mirror’ (often compared to ‘Twilight Zone’) requires the viewer to reflect and discuss the implications technology has (and will have) on our lives,” Glover writes. “While episodes push high school classroom boundaries, some courses in higher education have jumped on the ‘Black Mirror’ bandwagon.”

Glover said teaching television programs such as “Black Mirror” and “The Twilight Zone,” (which we also looked at this semester in contrast), provide an engaging framework for discussing the appropriate use of technology, media ethics and the future of tech.

In a MediaShift article, Jeremy Littau writes that one of the great things about science fiction is that it can tell us about ourselves. He explains that the original “Star Trek” series used the idea of “humans traveling the galaxy in a starship to tell stories about race, gender, class and moral choices.”

Littau, an assistant professor of journalism and communication at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, has also used “Black Mirror” in his classroom to approach weekly discussions about technology, media and society. Wednesdays are “Black Mirror” days in his class. Students watch the show and Tweet a 140-character review about the episodes. He also shows them other tech-related articles.

Littau is right when he says “Black Mirror” is not for everyone, and I agree it should be handled with care if used in class. Personally, I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing some episodes with students, and I use trigger warnings when setting up the episodes.

Katy E. Pearce, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Washington, also uses “Black Mirror” in the classroom. In her syllabus, she writes that each episode taps into our unease about technology. “Each episode is a superb platform for ethical debates,” she said.

Pearce notes that students should realize the show is speculative fiction with mature themes. “Episodes are fascinating,” she said, “but also disturbing, as the show features graphic content.”

Some teachers have even posted “Black Mirror” Nosedive worksheets online for grades 9-12. The worksheets include a pre-viewing activity about social media habits, a viewing quiz, and worksheets about themes and complex characters. Students are asked to write a character-based essay.

My students were asked to envision themselves as writers for the show and come up with an idea for a new episode of “Black Mirror.” You can read some of their Black Mirror Reflections here.

Black Mirror Episode Reviews

Students watched several episodes of Black Mirror this semester. Here are a few of their reviews.