The Black Mirror series by Charlie Brooker is a collection of fictional dramas, mostly around an hour with one longer Christmas special. The content and characters change from episode to episode, however the overarching theme is exploring and commenting on how the world has changed in the last decade, with the development of technology systems and the growing presence of technology in the daily lives of the world’s individuals. The name Black Mirror refers to the appearance of a screen when the device has been turned off, the slight unnerving or sinister sensation of looking in this black mirror is comparative to the effect the program aims to achieve. Brooker identified that most current T.V programs centre around similar themes: soaps explore an element of sensationalised realism, talent shows and documentaries aim to educate and inspire and crime dramas take the audience on a journey which is nearly always resolved. The commonality between all these programs is this feeling of closure, which Brooker rejected in his series, inspired by programs such as the Twilight Zone where the audience would be left with a sense of devastation.
This combination of the loss of closure and the fact the content is commenting on the current culture or a version of it that we might not be far from in the future means that the program leaves the audience feeling a bit disturbed and unnerved, perhaps provoking them to evaluate their own behaviour and comparing it to see whether technology has affected them. In a Channel Four video Charlie Brooker explained the inspiration behind Black Mirror and commented that he actually had to change the content sometimes because it related too strongly to current events whereas he wanted the world to appear slightly futuristic. The overall effect from each video is very profound, it seeks to challenge your comfortable position in society with this futuristic, dystopian world which doesn’t appear to be far from that of your own situation. It is meant to appear realistic enough for the audience to relate heavily to it and put themselves in the position of the characters inside, there is an additional element as each episode appears to question the audience and get them to think about what they would have done, whether the happenings were right or wrong.
I feel that the Black Mirror series is extremely effective at providing a refreshing if unsettling take on the world and I like the challenging content of each episode as it forces the viewer to really consider their place in the world and whether this dystopian society will be realised. This challenging effect is a concept I wish to replicate in my final major project, however instead of a fictional moving image drama, my response will be photographic. The idea of commenting on a dystopian future is what I am trying to achieve by exploring and focusing down on the ASL (age, sex, location) format which has emerged in online communication culture. The concept that a person can be condensed and reduced into three forms of information is definitive of the culture technology has started to create where everything is constructed of code and algorithms. Comparative to this, photography has also transitioned from a physical, mechanical practice, to a digital process which is defined and made possible only by computer technology. The photograph now can take different forms, either the visual manifestation on the screen to be looked at or binary code which allows the photograph to be transported digitally. The difference between my work and the work of Charlie Brooker is that there can’t be a fixed interpretation constructed in my images as there is with his dramas. An image is highly ambiguous so instead of attempting to get every viewer to get the same meaning from the image, all I can do is explore the content myself photographically and open up the response to interpretation.
Aside from my image set there is also a lot of relevance here for my video documentary, I had previously established I might need a more serious approach to my subject content and the Black Mirror series definitely engages with this idea. These pieces however are dramas rather than video documentaries and the content, although based on a future version of this world, are still fictional therefore Brooker has an artistic license to make the characters do what he wants to benefit the story and the general effect. With my video documentary I don’t have direct control over what information and responses I will get in my interviews and I need to think about my responsibility as a practitioner to my subjects to not take what they say out of context and twist it to suit my own means. There will be editing of phrases and I might perhaps use them out of order if it benefits the structure however I must take care not to distort what they said as this would mean my video documentary would be providing false information. In terms of the content and structure of the Black Mirror pieces, they are extremely effective. By withholding some information and releasing it gradually the viewer initially relates to the characters and imagines themselves in that world before feeling sightly betrayed as the plot takes a sudden twist. This loss of closure Brooker references is definitely achieved in many of the videos and it leaves the viewer questioning their morals and whether the outcome was right or wrong. I should consider what I want the lasting effect of my moving image piece to be, whether I replicate this loss of closure that Brooker creates or whether the information will be packaged neatly, easy for the viewer to be able to consume.