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: Phaxxon Industries

Trent Walters is a normal teen. He grew up in the suburbs in a middle class family, and had just graduated high school. He waited until the spring semester to enroll in college so he could work to save some money during the fall.

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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Masked Men

Facial recognition is a growing technology that could potentially replace many things in modern society. The conversation of facial recognition recently caught fire with Apple’s release of the latest iPhone X.

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: Every Breath You Take

Georgie is a gossip and is always talking about those around her. She knows everyone’s secrets, but doesn’t know a private group is recording every word she says through the microphone of her phone. Even when she is not using technology, technology is using her.

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: Artemis

In 2320, the Earth is quickly becoming far too cramped. In response, an aeronautics corporation called Artemis has launched a project. The moon will act as the planet’s storage, aided by a “lunar elevator.”

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: 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: There’s Something in My Eye

Many people wear contacts. They would become an operating system interface for users. Instead of having to look at tablets and smartphones, all people have to do is look forward. But in this world, contacts can be hacked.

Black Mirror Reflection: Too Good to be True

A young black woman, Lila, in her mid-20s, just graduated from college. She received an email one day telling her to enter into a drawing in which one lucky winner wins the latest and greatest technological advancement, a car that can drive itself wherever you’d like it to go. No strings attached.

Black Mirror Reflection: Modern Plague

Everyone is suddenly alerted by the government about a piece of information displayed on their phones, telling them when and how they will die. Austin, who is 20 years old, is told his time of death will be in exactly 12 years, and he will die of cancer, which runs in his family.

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: College Admissions

The year is 2040, and the college admissions process in America has drastically changed yet again. Whereas students used to be evaluated on their standardized testing scores, GPA, and assortment of extracurricular activities, hopeful applicants are now evaluated on the way they use their social media.

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: Pest Control

In the future, people live in a world where drones complete everyday household tasks. Albert is a middle-class white male in his early 40s. He has multiple drones in his home that assist with daily chores.

Black Mirror Reflection: Faking It

Anne is the definition of a pretty girl. She is popular, skinny and loved. She has been pretty since she was a kid, but her vanity led to multiple surgeries that made her waist smaller, her nose thinner, gave her fuller lips and bigger breasts. It is no surprise that she is an influencer, and that is what she lives for.

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: 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: 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: Face to Face

People live in their own rooms without any other human contact. They have robots who go into the world and do things for them. Kate, who has her own luxurious room and high speed robot, has grown up living in a room by herself, and she loves it. Kate gets her robot to bring her food, run errands, and do virtually any task that must take place outside of her room.

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: Socially Awkward

Everyone is addicted to their cell phones – to the point they cannot interact or communicate with each other confidently without them. Brode clings to his girlfriend. They hang out and get dinner, but they just shyly look at each other and text each other. They don’t talk. Because technology has made them too awkward to hold a conversation in real life.

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: The Game

Picture this, you live in a world that is run by an application. With every decision you encounter in life, a bubble pops up with the decision you are facing along with four different solutions to the decision.

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: Mesmerizing Advertising

Scientists are already discovering ways in which neuro-hacking, a thread of technological hardware, would work and how it could be used for neuro-science-based self-improvement of mood and health. But where there is good with newfangled machinery and techno-advances, there can also be bad.

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: 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: Come Together America

Around 2040, social media and technology have really taken off. There have been several new social media websites invented, and everybody is amazed by social media and technology, even more than they are today.

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: 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: 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.

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.