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.

1 comment:

  1. Thinking about a fictional show like Black Mirror in relation to this week's topic of convergence is an interesting approach. When doing the readings, I was focused moreso on nonfiction programs, contestant-driven shows, and the "media" (scary word). While I've only ever seen two episodes of Black Mirror, I think you aptly point out the way it functions in our fully integrated converged (wc?) society. To my knowledge, many of the episodes bring light to the diegetic society's intertwinedness of technology and social media, which might as well be our own. Even though it's showing the mirror back to us, so to speak, while we might be glued to our own social media, computer screen, etc., I do think that its almost call and response technique is able to circumvent many of the problems associated with convergence, of course keeping in mind that my perspective is limited to only two of the episodes.