“Black Mirror” is a drama about media technology produced by the British BBC company. In the content of the first three seasons and 12 episodes, each episode is an independent story, and only the theme of intelligent technology runs through it. To connect them together. This play mainly expresses the use, reconstruction and destruction of human nature by contemporary digital media technology, just like its name, “Black Mirror”. The black comedy narrative explores issues of virtuality and reality, humanity and society, law and ethics through the relationship between humans and technology.
In the story setting of Nosedive (Season 3, Episode 1), everyone in the world is given a “value”. In the beginning, everyone’s value, in the same way, will continue to change with the subject’s behaviour later. This value divides all people into different levels consciously. In real life, there is such an intangible “value” corresponding to each user’s network behaviour for the various behaviours that everyone performs on social networks. It uses activities initiated and participated in by each user on different social network channels, such as user-generated content, interaction with others, recognition of new valuable people, precipitated user relationships, and self-produced content. Various social behaviours such as other users’ responses, forwarding other users’ content, etc., together constitute the user’s “value” in a particular social channel, which is the “social currency”.
In the concept of social currency proposed by Jonah Berger, he believes that social currency “It’s all about people talking about things to make themselves look good, rather than bad” (Berger, 2013)
Jonah Berger : Building Social Currency on “www.TheArtOf.com”
Berger started with social currency and explained how people share information to make themselves look good in front of others. In one example of the actual word, Berger cited airlines using their loyalty programs as an identity system, using consumer desires to shape their image in social circles. (Billiot, 2015) The value of “social currency” covers all the behaviours of users on social networks, and the behaviours of these users can define the value of themselves.
This value system creates a social problem manifested in the digital age is “digital inequality”. “The advantaged group has a higher tendency to respond to personal network exposure.” (Haieh, Rai & Keil, 2008, p97)
“The Internet is fundamental to a proper functioning of the entire economy and becomes staples forever individual, because it becomes equivalent with participation in social life whatsoever.”
—— “Understanding Digital Capitalism” by Timo Daum(Daum,2015)
Digital capitalism has not only failed to overcome the original polarization between the rich and the poor, but it has also created new inequalities and injustices, leading to the unique “digital divide” of informationized capitalism. Betancourt points out (Betancourt,2015, p10) Several characteristics of the digital halo: effective and immortal media, their infinite potential for perfect reproduction, and through immaterial means, are always limited to scarce capital.
Since the emergence of media, it has been uncomfortable as a vassal of politics and the legal system. The emergence of new media has brought more “public opinion” to politics and has produced a massive power of public opinion, which has affected politics and law’s decision-making.
In the first episode of the first season of Black Mirror, “The National Anthem”, the princess is kidnapped, and the kidnappers ask the prime minister to shoot indecent videos with the pigs and broadcast them live. The princess and the prime minister, as high-ranking political leaders, are precise because their status makes the prime minister’s embarrassment more exciting and entertaining. In this episode, the director used black irony to tell a ridiculous political joke. After the princess was released, no one paid attention because people were watching the indecent live broadcast of the prime minister. People are not concerned about the safety of the princess but political entertainment.
In real life, the media’s manipulation of politics can be seen everywhere. People’s political rights don’t need to have any meaning.
“The National Anthem” satirizes the use of social media in daily life and how it affects not only public opinion but also the mass media itself. The government has issued a ban on the news channel. However, the video is still available for everyone to watch on Youtube. “platforms are in some ways hamstrung between these two positions…stuck in the middle in both the legal and practical sense: halfway between users with different values…” (Gillespie,2017,p271) The emergence of social platforms in this episode accelerated the production of this farce. The kidnappers used the public speech to pressure the government, make them succumbed to a request which violated human morality. This result seemed absurd and reasonable.
In reality, this kind of political entertainment of public speech carnivals is not uncommon. The “Hillary Scandal” during the US election is an example. Dutto and WilliamH attributed this phenomenon to “technical novelty” (Dutton, W, 2009). Compared with other traditional media, it has timeliness and appears around a specific theme. For example, consider the Internet as a temporary novelty in political campaigns.
The difficulty of network supervision
Black Mirror – Arkangel | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix.
In the second episode of the fourth season of Black Mirror “Arkengal”, the mother implanted a special chip in her daughter’s brain when she was young. To protect her daughter, mothers can use special mosaic processing to blur out bloody or scary images. The daughter grew up under the “monitoring” of her mother. At first, the mother’s original intention was to protect her daughter’s healthy growth, but then she relied on surveillance technology, which made technology dominate people’s relationships.
In the real world, the government’s control over the platform has become people’s “chip”, and a “supervisory agency” is established to appropriately process content (Meanjin,2017). However, there are two points involved in the complexity of this chip set.
The first is the difficulty of coordination caused by the differences in national policies. Although some people think that it is desirable to shift from national media policies to global media policies, the possibility of global supervision and coordination is currently very low. (Flew, Suzor & Martin, 2019, p45)
Another aspect is the economic interest between the platform and the government. For example, as pointed out in “The platformization of Chinese Society” (de Kloet, Poell, Guohua and Yiu Fai, 2019), the Chinese government using a “credit system” to let social participants express the desire for safety, trust and good government
But at the same time, as a result of supervision, as shown in the drama, excessive supervision may restrict the development of platform communities, depriving the right of free speech and the display of cultural diversity. For example, the cultural platform Reddit is supervised by the uniformity of the platform algorithm, which not only rewards individual contributions, but also emphasizes popular and latest content, and most of its relaxation of moderate policies. (Massanari, 2016)
In this episode, the role of mothers and daughters as regulators and the masses expounds the discussion on the distribution of regulatory roles in the real online world and considers the appropriate control of platform speech.
“Black Mirror” is a pessimistic apocalyptic prophecy. It satirizes the absurdity of the present and previews the stylized vision of the future world. This British drama demonstrates a real-world pessimism through the discussion of the future network digital technology. As discussed in this article, the digital capitalization caused by social currency, the moral carnival caused by free speech on the platform, the contradiction between government regulation and supervision, all imply a kind of infinite possibilities of future technology on medium reshaping and the reconstruction of social structure.
Billiot, T. (2015). Contagious: Why Things Catch On, by Jonah Berger. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-4516-8657-9. Psychology & Marketing, 32(2), 232-233. https://doi.org/10.1002/mar.20775
‘Contagious’: Jonah Berger on Why Things Catch On – Knowledge@Wharton. Knowledge@Wharton. (2021). Retrieved 18 October 2021, from https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/contagious-jonah-berger-on-why-things-catch-on/.
Daum, T. (2015). »Understanding Digital Capitalism« – The Times We Live In – An Introduction. Dasfilter.com. Retrieved 18 October 2021, from http://dasfilter.com/gesellschaft/understanding-digital-capitalism-what-time-are-we-living-in-an-introduction.
de Kloet, J., Poell, T., Guohua, Z., & Yiu Fai, C. (2019). The platformization of Chinese Society: infrastructure, governance, and practice. Chinese Journal Of Communication, 12(3), 249-256. https://doi.org/10.1080/17544750.2019.1644008
Dutton, W. (2009). The Fifth Estate Emerging through the Network of Networks. Prometheus, 27(1), 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1080/08109020802657453
Flew, T., Martin, F., & Suzor, N. (2019). Internet regulation as media policy: Rethinking the question of digital communication platform governance. Journal Of Digital Media & Policy, 10(1), 33-50. https://doi.org/10.1386/jdmp.10.1.33_1
Gillespie, T. (2017). Regulation of and by Platforms. The SAGE Handbook Of Social Media, 271. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781473984066.n15
Hsieh, Rai, & Keil. (2008). Understanding Digital Inequality: Comparing Continued Use Behavioral Models of the Socio-Economically Advantaged and Disadvantaged. MIS Quarterly, 32(1), 97. https://doi.org/10.2307/25148830
Massanari, A. (2016). #Gamergate and The Fappening: How Reddit’s algorithm, governance, and culture support toxic technocultures. New Media & Society, 19(3), 329-346. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444815608807
Michael Betancourt. (2015). The Critique of Digital Capitalism: An Analysis of the Political Economy of Digital Culture and Technology (p. 10). Punctum Books.
Pesce, M. (2017). The Last Days of Reality. Meanjin. Retrieved 18 October 2021, from https://meanjin.com.au/essays/the-last-days-of-reality/.
https://www.washingtontimes.com, T. (2021). Top 10 Hillary Clinton scandals exposed by WikiLeaks. The Washington Times. Retrieved 19 October 2021, from https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/oct/12/top-10-hillary-clinton-scandals-exposed-wikileaks/.
Jonah Berger: Building Social Currency: Youtube.com. (2021). Retrieved 19 October 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=um6xiap-oQw.
Black Mirror – Arkangel | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix. Youtube.com. (2021). Retrieved 19 October 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yef_HfQoBd8&t=6s.