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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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 Eye

A man who lives in the projects suddenly begins seeing advertisements for a new social media site called “The Eye.” The government is watching its citizens, and no one reads the terms and conditions of the site. Donny hates social media because he believes it is a “societal downfall.”

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: 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: 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: Dying to Live

Scientists have found a cure for aging. They have found medicine that prevents people from aging on the outside and inside. Although people cannot age, they can still die from disease and physical damage.

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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: 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: A Hard Pill to Swallow

Ashley, the 15-year-old freshman in the band, so badly just wants to be loved. She is bullied by her classmates for never kissing a boy, and she has never even talked to a boy. She is socially awkward, she avoids contact with boys of her age or older at all costs. She is scared boys are not going to like her for her, that they are going to make fun of her and run away from her.

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: 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: 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: 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: 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: Road Rage

It is the year 2085, and driving oneself is overrated. The only mode of transportation is by the use of self-driving cars. The cars are government-owned and operated through the use of a phone app and identification cards, or “ICs.”

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: 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: 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: 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: 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.

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.