Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Core Post 3: Convergence Culture + Black Mirror
Perhaps the show that most typifies the pitfalls of convergence culture is the dystopic British television series Black Mirror. A number of episodes of Black Mirror perpetuate Henry Jenkins' theory of a “culture in which fans and others consumers are invited to actively participate in the creation and circulation of new content.” Black Mirror presents a fictional world where society is intertwined in digital culture and technology in more insidious and pervasive ways than it is currently. The very aim of Black Mirror is to make the audience aware of its own role in both the participatory and convergence culture that they are watching on their screen. Brooker repeatedly nods to the spectator’s own environment. In “15 Million Merits” when watch the characters watch an X-factor or The Voice pastiche called Hot Shots, it is us who become the show’s focus. Fiction retains its power - not by protecting a (never total) submersion of the viewer in the viewed - but by constantly encouraging the spectator to leave the diegesis and reflect on their own experience. With the constantly evolving nature of television, immersive techniques are becoming even more doomed to failure. We watch shows like Black Mirror on our computers, with our email and Facebook open in other tabs - a far cry from the blacked-out cinema hall - something that Henry Jenkins noted as a form of media convergence and “structured interactivity”. Charlie Brooker embraces and instrumentalises this. Rather than demanding we forget our own reality, we are invited to place it beside that of the show - to set it in a comparative parallel. Brooker uses the series to reinforce this cycle of oppression - rather than freeing everyday interaction, technology makes its users more impotent, more obsolescent. The real question, then, is whether the Brooker is holding up a Black Mirror to society - whether this reflects anything at all, or whether it is merely an escapist product that we consume, a symbol of our willingness to participate in passive entertainment.