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. If you’re another educator who uses “Black Mirror” in the classroom, I would love to hear from you.

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Black Mirror Reflection Guidelines

This semester, University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media students watched four episodes of “Black Mirror” – Nosedive, White Bear, Playtest and Arkangel. 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.

 

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: 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: Glory Cult

Today, being religious requires going to church and hearing a pastor live and in-person. In 2045, the religious experience in America has evolved and physical pastors are no more since 2040.

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: Fake News

In the near future, when a baby is born, the doctors immediately place a new reality altering implant within the baby’s brain. In essence, this implant would be both an audio and visual filter that would allow people to fact check information in real time which plays very well into the fake news politics we see in today’s world.

Black Mirror Reflection: Dis-order

The year is 2065, and the latest home innovation is the newest feature from Amazon XX, which automatically restocks every car and home that is registered with them. From things as simple as toiletries to kitchen appliances, they have it covered, and it is instantly replaced.

Black Mirror Reflection: Medical Advancements

Everything she is hearing from him about the new medicine sounds wonderful. He says it is cutting edge and is the newest pharmaceutical drug on the market. She tells him she wants to get it for her father, but is stunned when he tells her the cost. She knows that this isn’t something his insurance would cover and decides she must find a way to get it for her sick father.

Black Mirror Reflection: FilterMe

The year is 2078, and an extreme form of political correctness has taken over the entire U.S. A new software called “FilterMe” that was created three years prior to this time is installed on every technological device that filters everything you read, say, and type in order to regulate political correctness.

Black Mirror Reflection: The Center

Scientists have developed technology that gives them the ability to make people live longer, adding years onto their lives. When this discovery was made, it was groundbreaking and exciting, with everyone wanting to be one of the first individuals to use it.

Black Mirror Reflection: WarFace

Seeing his only surviving family member live through what seems like a war every day, Kevin decides to search the internet for help. He stumbles upon a website called “WarFace,” a state of the art, virtual reality company that develops video games about wars and combat while studying the effects of what simulated war experiences can do to the brain.

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 Network

The Network is an online social media platform that lets members instantly watch other members’ lives. A chip is inserted behind the optic nerve, and the neural images are automatically uploaded to The Network for members to view. Once implanted, the only way to turn the stream off is death.

Black Mirror Reflection: Chromosomes

Today, there are companies like 23andMe and Ancestry that allow you to send in a sample of your DNA to trace your lineage. In the near future, these types of companies and products will become highly advanced, pushing towards a more invasive industry with ulterior motives.

Black Mirror Reflection: Mr. Perfect

The year is 2025, and there is a new dating app recently released called “Mr. Perfect.” “Mr. Perfect” is just like any other online dating app where two people interact through the internet hoping they will find a romantic partner. However, this app is a little bit different because the women on the app control every aspect of and are the sole pickers of the men they wish to speak to.

Black Mirror Reflection: Scream of Consciousness

In a country much like America, the government has decided they have reached their limit with mass violence and terrorism. Their solution is to implant a chip in every citizen’s mind that uploads their stream of consciousness and thoughts onto a platform like Twitter.

Black Mirror Reflection: Dreamador

In the year of 2030, the Dreamador was invented, which is a brain implant that has to be surgically inserted, and it is a device where people are able to record their dreams when they are asleep and watch them the next day. The Dreamador was invented to increase life expectancy and to force a routine sleep schedule. 

Black Mirror Reflection: Locked Out

Jane, a mother of four, lives in Nashville. Her husband is leaving for the weekend on a business trip. Jane has to watch her four children by herself, but it won’t be a problem because she has a smart house.

Black Mirror Reflection: Memory Making

The year is 2090, and most of the world’s memories are contained in one single, all-encompassing, free-to-download phone application.People still live these fragments out in real-time: going on vacation, visiting their grandparents, seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time, et al. But there are key differences to memory-making in the new technological era, creating a rift between humanity’s ability to recall the past emotionally or in sensory-based waves, and the means by which we store these moments for ages to come.

Black Mirror Reflection: Fallout

In a pristine, utopian society, there lives a typical male businessman who works for a startup company. He has business dinners, exercises, works at home, walks around the city, etc. Everything seems irritatingly normal and happy until one night when he is lying in bed trying to remember his childhood and parents.

Black Mirror Reflection: Analysis and Partner Match Process

In 2070, people are smarter, more technologically advanced, and have learned from history’s mistakes. The episode focuses on a young woman named Heidi, who is approaching age 25. She has been waiting for this day for as long as she can remember. This is because, in Heidi’s world, turning 25 means you go to Headquarters for your “Analysis and Partner Match Process” otherwise known as APMP.

Black Mirror Reflection: No Fire

In the future, there is a new gun technology. A gun will only fire if a certain person owns it. If a person bought a gun and it was theirs, the technology, through fingerprint or DNA, would only allow the gun to be fired if that person was holding it.

Black Mirror Reflection: Every Moment of the Day

In the future, instead of having multiple apps, they will all be rolled into one that will resemble Facebook. This app, however, does not require you to do much work. Instead of having to type a post and send it yourself, the app will do it all for you.

Black Mirror Reflection: Prospect

The episode would be titled “Prospect.” It would follow a D-I athlete in the year 2089, but after legislation against youth football and other sports pull the traditional varsity sports down in popularity, eSports have taken over as the top sport on college campuses.

Black Mirror Reflection: AppleOfMyi

In society, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is no longer relevant, because humanity judges everyone and everything from the first glimpse. Wallace and Samantha have just married and are trying to start the family of their dreams. The new trend is a new mobile app that allows families to create their children in the image they want.

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: Undocumented Citizens

In the future, everyone is documented by the government thanks to advanced technology. In a futuristic maternity ward, doctors place chips behind the ears of many children just below the skin. Max is returned to his mother after the chip injection, and viewers watch Max grow to age 8.

Black Mirror Reflection: The Dating Game

The year is 2037. Developers of dating sites have created new software to make it easier to find your soulmate and take the hassle out of dating people you may not be interested in. This new technology allows you to scan a person you see on the street or look up potential mates and see their dating profile, which allows every person they interact with romantically or go on a date with to rate them and leave comments about their interactions.

Black Mirror Reflection: Quikdoc

Society has begun using AI for nearly everything. AI has replaced doctors’ offices and created apps you can access from anywhere at anytime. The app the Wilson family uses is Quikdoc. Quikdoc is capable of doing anything a doctor, pharmacist, or technician can do. But sometimes mistakes are made.

Black Mirror Reflection: Sally

It is difficult to tell humans apart from artificial intelligence robots. Sally is one of many artificial intelligence robots created by the United States government.

Black Mirror Reflection: Mastercar

Sam and Dave are two friends, who after Sam’s recent purchase of a new car, set off on a road trip from New York to California. While both are aware of the government GPS that comes with all new cars via the license plates, they aren’t worried because they figure it’s a free country; they can do what they want.

Black Mirror Reflection: Worthy

At first, it would be very difficult to understand why this group of specific people is grouped together in the reality show. What links each season of people together is their desperate need for an organ transplant. An interactive show, the cast competes throughout the season to win the hearts of America’s viewers, and most importantly, the organ they need to continue living.

Black Mirror Reflection: To Serve and Protect

In the opening scene, we see a group of high-ranking government officials in a top secret room of an unmarked building in a large, crime-ridden metropolis. As they officially gather around, three men in white lab coats wheel in a large man-sized item covered by a sheet. The sheet is lifted to reveal an android, a robot with an unusually small metal torso and head with large robotic arms and legs much longer and larger than any normal human proportions.

Black Mirror Reflections: Road Trip to Space

The episode follows the Carson Family, a family of five, who is going on a family vacation to space. Paul Carson goes to the local grocery, where he sees an ad that reads “A Free Family Trip to Space.”

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: Life is But a Dream

In the near future, a new social media platform with profiles similar to Instagram or Twitter is invented. Everyone’s profile posts footage of a person’s dream. The dreams are live-streamed as you are dreaming them, posted to your profile, and permanently displayed without the option to be deleted.

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: Heaven or Hell

Nicole Kidman would play the main woman and Alexander Skarsgard would play the man. The technology being used is augmented reality to create everyone’s personal heaven and hell. Depending on what kind of person you were while you were alive depends on what kind of augmented reality you end up with for the rest of your life.

Black Mirror Reflection: Conspiracy

The episode’s theme would be around modern journalism and the rise of conspiracy sites that have been given more credence in society. In the episode, the investigative department teams with a few industry insiders in the journalism field to track down the owners of a popular news/conspiracy site.

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: Let’s Keep In Touch

In an effort to stay connected and keep track of one another on late night endeavors, friends downloaded an application on their phones that tracks their every move as long as they have their cell phones. This application becomes helpful when a member of the group cannot be reached or hasn’t spoken to a member of the group in a while. They view this app as a way to keep each other safe.

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.

‘White Bear’ violates NPPA Code of Ethics

Most episodes of “Black Mirror” are a little disturbing, and “White Bear” is no exception. At first, it seems like a dystopia or post-apocalyptic world. After some reflection, I think what is often the most unsettling thing about the “White Bear” episode and so many other episodes of “Black Mirror” is you are kind of going through the experience with the character.

‘Nosedive’s’ score is a commodification of the value we see in others on social media

While the premise of “Nosedive” can seem rather far-fetched at first, it ties heavily into our every day lives and ways social media is being implemented today. Thematically, the episode does a good job in representing the populace’s addiction to social media. The score is interesting as a literal commodification of the value we see in other people on social media.