Nosedive, the first episode to the just released third season of Black Mirror, is your post-high school Mean Girls amplified by your Instagram attached with a ratings system. The scenario proposed by the episode uses a ‘deconstructive methodology’ to ‘undercut’ existing yet ‘unexamined foundations of thought’ about how we embrace the same social hierarchy we enforce and are entrapped by (Fry 2009, p. 154). We are introduced to a dark narrative as the protagonist, Lacie, practices her laughter in front of her bathroom mirror while her eyes implanted with microchips display her 4.2 rating, we start to self-reflect on our social interactions and the façade we have built for ourselves that is both our weapon and defence. A future of pristine suburban homes and white picket fences places domesticity and familial values at a high influence of social currency that we later see epitomised by the idea of luxurious limited edition domestic living tied to memberships and discounts based on ratings.
Dunne & Raby reinforce the idea of darkness as the ‘cautionary tale’ to ‘naïve techno-utopianism’ where we tend to in design ‘view people as obedient and predictable users and consumers’ (2013, p. 38). Through elevating the intensity of current social media to a scale of idealising those with higher ratings who also have a more influential quality when rating creates a numbers game that measures and polices sociability. Our innocent intentions of photo uploads become a forceful element in order to promote one’s status and eating becomes distinctly linked to aesthetics for social broadcasting where personal, physical enjoyment is determined by others’ approval. This injects a nurturing of behaviour to project, predict and plan your own future through socialisation, which is embodied by the “Reputelligent” institution in the episode that provides services to graph popularity arcs, inner circles and outer peripherals, and stranger interactions, and then personalises strategy based on rating goals. A question to be asked is whether in any way could forced sociability be beneficial in human interaction?
The motion picture, Her, further expands to the dark spaces of intimacy and with the use of AI, comments on how do we assess our behaviour and make the distinctions between the human to technology ratio especially when technology are the product of us as humans. Esther Perel in Helen Fisher’s Ted talk suggests ‘a vocabulary creates a new reality’ in the sense that a change in the nature of approach forms new values and she invites conversation about ‘when the context changes does the nature of love change’ (2016). Portraying intertwined social and economic ladders, and traditional gender elements through colour and wedding idealisation, Nosedive begs of us to re-examine how we comprehend love in terms of appreciation, value and meaning, most of all ‘does love require belief that the beloved is good’ (John 2013, p. 286). Furthermore, the emphasis on socialisation provides a lens to investigate personal and social value in the tactile sensitivity, mentioned in Jade’s post, of physical interactions. In sci-fi scenarios, the relationship between humanity and technology tend are inherently problematic to highlight the potential tensions and present ‘technology as a powerful force that both controls and liberates people’ (Campbell 2016, p. 3).
Campbell, H. A. 2016 ‘Problematizing the Human-Technology Relationship through Techno-Spiritual Myths Presented in The Machine, Transcendence and Her’, Journal of Religion & Film, Vol. 20, No. 1, pp. 1-28
Dunne, A. & Raby, F. 2013, ‘Design as Critique,’ in Speculate Everything, MIT Press, Cambridge, pp. 33-46.
Fisher, F. 2016, Technology hasn’t changed love. Here’s why, Ted, viewed on 27 October 2016, <https://www.ted.com/talks/helen_fisher_technology_hasn_t_changed_love_here_s_why#t-1133264>
Fry, T. 2009, ‘Methods of Change 2: Designing in Time’, Design futuring : sustainability, ethics and new practice, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, NSW, pp. 145-155.
Her 2014, motion picture, Warner Bros. Pictures, USA
John, E. 2013, ‘Love and the need for comprehension’, Philosophical Explorations, Vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 285-297
Nosedive 2016, television program, Black Mirror, Netflix, USA, 21 October