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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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.”

Reflection: I Make Money Moves

Materialism has taken over the world, leaving the upper class rich, a small middle class, and a large class of poor people. Technology has advanced so much that people can read another person’s personal information from an app. This information includes what the person owns, such as the kind of car they have, how big their house is, fancy or regular clothes, and how much wealth they have acquired.

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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Getting Personal

What if there was a world in which an app told all of your deepest secrets between current and previous relationships. Your exes would give ratings and explain the breakup to everyone.

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: Designer Babies

Today is May 4. At this time, exactly two years ago, I was standing under an arbor in a long, white dress looking into the eyes of my now-husband, vowing that we’d be together forever. This anniversary is special, and the anticipation of the pressing conversation that we both know is coming gives me butterflies in my stomach. Finally! I thought. We get to pick out our baby.

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: 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: 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 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: 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: 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: APT

The world is divided. There are the “APT’s” and the “NON’s” all over the world. If you fall into the APT category, you have a genetically modified aptitude to be good at your passion. If you are a NON, what you enjoy doing is different than you genetic aptitude.

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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Easy Place

In Easy Place, everything is convenient. Everywhere you look, there is technology, and nothing natural. The trees are holograms, the birds are robotic, and even the streets move right under your feet. There are no pesky insects thanks to the permanent insect barrier very high in the sky. There are only smart houses and buildings where everything comes to you, such as food, water, merchandise, and maybe even work or services.

Black Mirror Reflection: Trumble

Rosie is a small town girl who becomes obsessed with her high school’s new virtual world addiction. She is a high school junior who joins a new social media app called Trumble that allows her to anonymously connect with other people in her community.

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.