Black Mirror is a thrilling sci-fi TV series that originated in the UK. After Netflix purchased the program in 2015, it became a phenomenon in the US – multiplying its popularity, increasing its episode count, and receiving eight Emmy nominations.
Each episode tells its own unique, suspenseful story about the potential consequences of technology in our culture. For example, one episode dives into the use of social media and how it skews our perception of ourselves and others. Another imagines a world with memory implants that allow you to play back your daily experiences like a movie (ultimately leading to dark consequences).
Black Mirror gets its name from the reflection a person sees in a screen when they turn off a piece of technology. The show itself acts as a dark mirror – depicting a warped view of where technology could lead us all.
As Black Mirror creator, Charlie Brooker explains, “if technology is a drug – and it does feel like a drug – then what, precisely, are the side effects? This area – between delight and discomfort – is where Black Mirror is set.”
Choosing Your Own Fate
Black Mirror’s latest production, Bandersnatch, is much different than its previous releases. Bandersnatch is a standalone, interactive film that requires the viewer to choose the actions of the main character in order to dictate the outcome of the story. This choose-your-own-adventure film is the only one of its kind. It took two years to produce since it required 312 minutes of footage to account for the different paths a viewer might choose.
While Netflix has offered other interactive films, they’ve traditionally been tailored to children. Therefore, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is the first Netflix production that allows adult viewers to watch, interact, and decide the fate of their own Black Mirror story.
Bandersnatch tells the story of Stefan, a young video game developer. He’s on a quest to complete a choose-your-own-adventure game called Bandersnatch. Viewers are asked to make major plot decisions throughout the film – dictating the fate of Stefan’s game and the end of the story. When a critical scene in the plot is reached, the viewer is asked which decision they would like to make. Viewers simply click their remote or touch their screen to make their selection, advancing them forward in the movie.
Bandersnatch is an immersive experience that allows the viewer to shape their own version of reality. If this type of interactive series takes off, Netflix could gather more than just user data – they’d be able to better understand their audience’s decision-making process. Not only could this help Netflix curate new content, it could leave room for them to collect richer information about their audiences.
A Tech-Infused Future
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is offering viewers a peek into the future of interactive technology. From voice-controlled devices to virtual shopping, interactive experiences are becoming more and more prevalent in our culture. Alexa is getting smarter, VR is getting more realistic, and cars are driving themselves.
While technological advancements are often welcomed by our culture, there are many dangers that coincide with them. That’s what Black Mirror aims to point out. We’re consumed by technology, but we often don’t think about the weaknesses or unsettling truths that may accompany it.
Black Mirror makes us stop and think about those costs. For example, what would happen if you became so accustomed to interacting through a screen, that regular social situations became intimidating? Or if Alexa recorded a private conversation between you and your spouse?
Dark, Dangerous Implications
As technology becomes more pervasive, the margin of opportunity for negative consequences widens. But this doesn’t mean that technology should be given up or even restricted; it simply requires us to be mindful as a culture.
We can work to ensure proper safeguards are put in place to prevent technology from causing negative repercussions in the future. By limiting screen time for both ourselves and our children, taking time to disconnect, and assessing which smart devices comply with our needs rather than desires, we can ensure a tech-healthy culture.