Review of Black Mirrors Episode 2

I had not heard of Black Mirrors until a few weeks ago. Now, I can see the importance of this series, and I will share what I think about Black Mirrors Episode 2 (BM 2) in this post.

I believe Black Mirrors addresses issues surrounding contemporary digital culture. Before I began watching Black Mirrors Episode 2 (hereafter BM 2), I had only read that this series was “ostensibly set in the not-too distant future” (Brown, 2017). The series was described with other comments; fetishes, dehumanisation and screen obsession(s). I had to watch this series as part of my study in a Masters Unit, ALC 708, but I must admit my interest was strong at this point.

This blog post shares my views on BM 2, and in no way, is this intended to be a spoiler, so feel free to read knowing that the opportunity to view BM 2, like I had, will still be there for you too.

I made almost two pages of notes during this episode. Here is a summary listing some key-words that I felt were encapsulated in the second episode.

  • Humans in the virtual world were constantly presented with choices to Like or Dislike content. 
  • Humans each had a personalised experience via display screens.
  • Users all appear similar, but have a unique experience.
  • Humans were represented in digital form (avatars), but more than this, I felt they were targetted. Look out for the yellow outfits (hint, but no spoiler).
  • Daily actions earned points – these points were redeemable for real-life experiences.

Day 2 of the episode made me realise that even though humans shared the same space, they were isolated and physical contact through speech was limited, and there was no touching that occured. Points were awarded for positive daily actions (such as washing hands). As I watched Episode 2, I was drawn into the prospects of this being a daily reality in the not-too-distant future. If I had to put a timeframe on it, I would say 10 years. I do believe (and I say this from my experience of business study, teaching business, and my experience running businesses) that the technology to make BM 2 a reality already exists. It is, somewhere in the world, being piloted, tested and refined. This episode is but one way to test the public’s reaction to the new future daily reality.

In this virtual yet real society – where the lines between both are clearly blurred, I would say that looks are valued more than intelligence. References to looks were plenty. The daily bike-riding makes me believe that everyone must be fit in this world. Choices of individuals were denied, with content being shown against people’s wishes, and products being consumed against people’s desires.

In the end, it all got very frustrating for one character, and his rage and frustration led to an opportunity for him. However, I think this episode shows that joining in with the masses has a damaging pscyhological effect, and I think that this episode of BM 2 highlights how screens and technology are making people unwell.

The suggestive nature of this episode included concepts such as “walking down the red carpet means you are successful”, “looks are more important than brains” and “unhealthy people are made fun of, especially for entertainment purposes”.

Another key point I took away from this episode is that content – what people see – is filtered. While there are opportunities to create content, and there are benefits of creating content (which the last scenes confirm), unless you are a content creator, you are consuming other people’s content. Content creation is a reward in BM 2.

No doubt, too, in life, I could say that content creation is valuable. I look forward to exploring content creation further in ALC 708. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post, and for those who have not yet watched the episode of BM2, I would be interested to hear your thoughts here as well.




Critique of ‘From memory to sexuality, the digital age is changing us completely’

Original Article by Jonathan Freedland (JF) here

This review has been written as part of a Master’s Unit I am undertaking.

The inspiration for JF’s article may well have been George Orwell’s 1984.
The Olympic Village of 2012 has been overrun by a range of monster inhabitants.
That a book called Memory Palace has been written is suggestive of the fact that the memory is valuable. However, the title also suggests that the memory is guarded and perhaps, rare. I noted the reference to Magnetization and the wiping of all digital data with a stroke as a very real possibility. This reminds me of when I lost an external hard drive full of data because I had mistakenly packed it into my luggage as I went through the Beijing Airport. I called that event the “Loss of data at Beijing Airport”. Not as significant as a global event, but I did lose some important data (but cannot really remember what it was, now).

I think that many of us could write an article in response to the concepts covered in Memory Palace. In today’s busy digital society, though, how many of us actually will? There is another link to click, another page to read, another image to view, another YouTube cat video to watch. I suggest that in the aggregate form these digital elements serve to distract us all. Australia’s Productivity Commission no doubt has more data on the implications of viral online content, fake news and digital media in all it’s forms on our overall level of productivity.

JF raises an interesting point that after a few hours significant events are forgotten; the example of Soprano front-man Jame Gandolfini’s death is used, with reference to political scientist Ian Bremmer’s Twitter comments. I agree with Ian that the ‘trend’, the ‘popularity’ in not only shaping the news that individuals receive but especially their consumption of the news is limited nowadays. The temptation, the desire to move on to the next hashtag is simply too great, too easy. In some ways, and I say this as a Soprano’s fan, I feel disappointed that Gandolfini was not remembered for a sustained period in the Twittersphere. Great actors before Gandolfini were given their due mourning, their recall, their legacy lived on – why should talented actors be remembered less in the 21st century? This raises the interesting question as to how we could use digital technologies to remember them (copyright issues notwithstanding).

I forget what I did in the past, which is why I write things down. To remember. I think that there is too much information in our physical realms for us to remember it all. I am a fan of hard-cover books, and still like to buy a newspaper (such as the Australian Financial Review) over reading it online.
I store the knowledge I gain from those in a pile in my home office. But, then, I admit that I also have an online subscription to the AFR, and I will “Save” an article there when I read it and wish to recollect it later. I also use Evernote for the same reason – to clip and store quotes and various pieces of writing.
The challenge is unless I log back into Evernote, I don’t remember what I have written. So my reliance, and I certain I am not the only one, on the virtual storage of data is high. I wonder what would happen if the Evernote data centers were destroyed forever (by Magnetization?).

I agree with JF that future generations will forget their past. JF’s article seems to take the position that all those Facebook photos that your employer “should not see” won’t be seen anyway. I don’t agree that the youth of today will leave behind less. I think, and I am sure many parents can agree by the state of their bedrooms, they will leave behind a LOT. Every text is recorded at the telecommunication provider. Every Facebook post and like is recorded. Facebook likes even end up in your Google search. So, rather than be “Careful what you wish for, you might just get it”, the new maxim should be “Careful what you like, others might just find out”. Membership to Facebook groups is not as private as many would think either, and I am sure many younger online users think it’s cool and fun to comment in the communities of which they are a part.

I’m not sure Vines are as popular now as they were in 2013. Social media seems to move in ebbs and flows, peaks and troughs, and in the case of MySpace, from one service to another. What will happen if the user-base of Facebook shifts to the “next big platform”? This has been debated before. Is it realistic to assume that Facebook will always be the dominant form of social connectivity? What happens to the data on Facebook if the user base shifts elsewhere? Will there be an “Import your Facebook data” feature? Will Facebook purchase the new service?

JF is right. We have underestimated the nature of the change that the Internet is bringing to our daily lives. As I write this from my home office, I am alone (by choice), and know that once i hit the “Publish” button others can read this article from the comfort of their home or even their mobile phone, where-ever in the world they may be. If I wanted to I could ask them to post “Hello from…” at the bottom of this post even.

I feel like I have been writing for a while, and I had to re-read my work to remind myself what train of thought I was pursuing. I have been critical of the shift to “big data”. I can admit that. I remember using the Commodore 64 computer, pre-Internet, and how satisfying it used to be to swap software in the mail. Those days are long gone, and I think with them some important element of the experience has too. I remember managing a business selling Public Domain software. I used to have envelopes of orders lined up and ready to send. These days it would just be emails in the Drafts box ready to send. Better make sure I would send the right email to the right customer. The experience that today’s younger generation will get – their involvement in the management of business processes – is far less. They are operating on a global scale, but I wonder if they are aware of the implications of mis-using the technology that is available to them?

I will reserve my comments on issues of cyber-bullying and access to adult materials, as I feel they warrant separate articles in future. However, having said this, I am going to state that their effect upon us in the online world cannot be disputed. Nor is the effect I refer to positive.

The Internet has undoubtedly changed “us”, us being the human race. Therefore, I would finish this piece with a warning that if we think the robots are not going to influence our world, we are most likely wrong. Our reliance on the Internet and the connectivity of it shows that we, as a society, have subordinated to the global realities of speed, information processing, and the perils of information overload and forgetting what we were thinking, doing or planning.