Major global events of 2016: Year of shocking surprises
When history looks back at 2016, a couple of words will stick out most prominently: Trump and surprise. Donald Trump, real estate mogul and reality TV star, surprised everyone - reportedly even himself - by winning the 2016 US presidential elections after polls and experts tipped Hillary Clinton for the job.
But even before that there were other I-don't-believe-this moments over the past 12 months,
How Trump won the election: volatility and a common touch
The former Apprentice host has pulled off the most astonishing victory in US history, harnessing a disgruntled electorate to beat an unpopular opponent
It is one of the most astonishing victories in American political history. It will leave millions in the US and beyond in shock, wondering what is to come, and asking: how did Donald Trump do it?
Trump was the first reality TV star – and the first non-politician since Dwight Eisenhower – to win the nomination for president of a major political party. He was the first to spend part of his campaign denying sexual assault allegations and clashing with the family of a fallen soldier and a Miss Universe. At 70, he is the oldest person in history to be elected US president.
A simple message
Trump copied and recast Ronald Reagan’s promise to make America great again. In four words it captured both pessimism and optimism, both fear and hope. The slogan harks back to a supposed golden age of greatness – the 1950s, perhaps, or the 1980s – and implies that it has been lost but then promises to restore it. It went straight to the gut, unlike rival Hillary Clinton’s website manifesto and more nuanced proposals.
It was an appeal to the heart, not the head, in a country where patriotism should never be underestimated.
Chris Matthews, a host on MSNBC, said in September: “A lot of this support for Trump, with all his flaws which he displays regularly, is about the country – patriotic feelings people have, they feel like the country has been let down. Our elite leaders on issues like immigration, they don’t regulate any immigration it seems. They don’t regulate trade to our advantage, to the working man or working woman’s advantage. They take us into stupid wars. Their kids don’t fight but our kids do.”
“It’s patriotic. They believe in their country. .... [There is a] deep sense that the country is being taken away and betrayed. I think that is so deep with people that they’re looking at a guy who’s flawed as hell like Trump and at least it’s a way of saying I am really angry about the way the elite has treated my country. And it’s so deep that it overwhelms all the bad stuff from Trump. It’s that strong. It’s a strong force wind.”
Misogyny, racism and nihilism
Trump was wildly ill-disciplined. There was outrageous behaviour and offensive statements that alienated women, African Americans, Mexicans, Muslims, disabled people and, ultimately, believers in constitutional democracy. In any normal year, such a volatile package would have been disqualifying. But while those voices were amplified in the media, there were plenty of people who agreed with him. Some could not stomach the idea of a female president. Some proved that racism has not withered away, but rather in some cases has intensified, since the election of the first African American president.
A majority (56%) of white Americans – including three in four (74%) of white evangelical Protestants – said American society has changed for the worse since the 1950s in a recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.
Trump was the ultimate protest vote with obvious echoes of Brexit. Film-maker Michael Moore told NBC’s Meet the Press in October: “Across the midwest, across the Rustbelt, I understand why a lot of people are angry. And they see Donald Trump as their human Molotov cocktail that they get to go into the voting booth on November 8 and throw him into our political system. I think they love the idea of blowing up the system.”
How Donald Trump is like Ronald Reagan
Trump and Reagan shared a common goal, American greatness
Britain Votes to Leave E.U
LONDON — June. The United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, also known as the EU referendum and the Brexit referendum, took place on 23 June 2016 in the United Kingdom (UK) and Gibraltar to gauge support for the country either remaining a member of, or leaving, the European Union (EU) under the provisions of the European Union Referendum Act 2015 and also the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. The referendum resulted in a simple majority of 51.9% of people voting in favour of leaving the EU. Although legally the referendum was non-binding, the government had promised to implement the result and it initiated the official EU withdrawal process on 29 March 2017, which put the UK on course to leave the EU by 30 March 2019.
Britain has voted to leave the European Union, a historic decision sure to reshape the nation’s place in the world, rattle the Continent and rock political establishments throughout the West.
Britain will become the first country to leave the 28-member bloc, which has been increasingly weighed down by its failures to deal fully with a succession of crises, from the financial collapse of 2008 to a resurgent Russia and the huge influx of migrants last year.
Britain’s vote to leave the EU was the result of widespread anti-immigration sentiment, rather than a wider dissatisfaction with politics, according to a major survey of social attitudes in the UK.
Findings from the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey show Brexit was the result of widespread concern over the numbers of people coming to the UK – millions of whom have done so under the EU’s freedom of movement rules in recent years.
Writing 'Black Mirror'
Nosedive and Ideology
When we discuss ideologies evident in media narratives we must differentiate between those held in the time and place of production of a text and those held in society at the time and place of the consumption of that text. The reading of a text may vary according to time, place, culture, gender age or the consumption context Media texts are products of society and when examined in sequence, can illustrate changes in that society. Different societies may be built on different ideologies and therefore read tests differently.
Nosedive’, dir Joe Wright, 2016 the first episode of the third season of the tech dystopian series Black Mirror also reflects how audiences from different periods of time engage with, consume and read media narratives differently.
According to Statistica one the defining phenomena of 2016 reshaping the world is the world-wide accessibility to the internet and most pertinently the use of social media. The region with the highest penetration rates of social networks is North America where 70% of the population had at least one social media account. As of 2017 81% of the United States population had a social networking profile. This demographic, exposed to President Trumps strategic use of social media, business and social platforms such as Uber and the Peoples App and China’s move to rate its citizens through a social credit reflect how ideological and social contexts impact on the audiences reading of the text.
Nosedive takes social media to an Orwellian conclusion with its app called 'Rate Me' that has absolute market penetration. The 'Rate Me' app allows people to rate every interaction both online and offline out of 5. This leads to a world separated into people who are absolutely controlled by the app and those who joyously remove themselves from what has become civilised society. The text in presenting an examination of the potential cycle and outcome of social media engage the audience through either a preferred or negotiated reading of the text. A contemporary audience familiar with the unprecedented and rapid rise of social media is positioned to identify with the narrative presented in Nosedive, as opposed to an audience preceding the rise of social media.
A satire on acceptance and the image of us we like to portray and project to others’’ – creator Brooker describes the successful yet concerning episode. Nosedive is perhaps a heightened version of modern society, were through social media we are undeniably careful of the choice of words used around certain company or consider the correct way to project a comment in the most positive way. These are undeniable ingredients purposely included to make a contemporary audience immersed in social media not only think about our behaviour as an individual but collectively as a nation. This is distinct from an audience devoid of experience with social media who would be positioned to perhaps have an oppositional reading of the text given its dystopian view of the future.
Black Mirrors’ Nosedive was released at the height of the Unites States election campaign in 2016 resulting in Donald Trump’s presidency. Trump copied and recast Ronald Reagan’s promise to make America great again. In four words, it captured both pessimism and optimism, both fear and hope. The political positions of United States President Donald Trump (referred to as Trumpism)have elements from across the political spectrum merging populism with plutocracy and authoritarianism.
Trump also proposed sizable income tax cuts and deregulation consistent with conservative (Republican Party) policies, along with significant infrastructure investment and protection for entitlements for the elderly, typically considered liberal (Democratic Party) policies. His anti-globalization policies of trade protectionism and immigration reduction cross party lines
During this period, the cultural and social landscape of America had embraced social media as a major platform of communication engagement and identity. Nosedive” explores the consequences of integrating seemingly arbitrary social rankings into everyday life—in this world, where your number dictates which jobs you can get, which neighbourhood you live in, and even which cars you can rent.
The prevalence of social media is championed by Trump himself who uses Twitter as a platform for political commentary, opinion and announcements. Unlike Blade Runner, Nosedive is set in contemporary society as we follow the protagonist Lacie, on the journey to her idea of success. There are extreme gender regressive notions which are portrayed through the overall aesthetics of the episode, which resonate with the infamous Trump tapes which marked him as misogynist. Both the male and female characters, dressed in their perfectly mismatched shades of salmon and baby blue, prance around a clear 1950’s inspired architectural community which paints the picture of the nuclear family, and all that entails. The colours used - blue for boys, pink for girls - combined with female and male interactions causes for one to feel confused by the idea of regression contrasting with when the episode is supposed to be set, the future.
Preceding Trump the election of the nation’s first black president back in 2007 raised hopes that race relations in the U.S. would improve, especially among black voters. But by 2016, following a spate of high-profile deaths of black Americans during encounters with police and protests by the Black Lives Matter movement and other groups, many Americans – especially blacks – described race relations as generally bad.
Nosedive also explores how the American social system affects people of colour. The mise en scene employed in the text largely consists of pastels, soft pinks and peaches, milky mint green, but it is also very white.
In the episode, the majority of service roles like baristas, airline booking agents, car rental attendants, airport security—apparently associated with lower rankings—are played by people of colour. The one person we see being down voted out of a job and into oblivion was a black character, who desperately attempts to make himself more likable by buying smoothies for his co-workers, as if he had no choice but to engage in a self-fulfilling prophecy of poor ranking and servitude. Nosedive suggests our society marginalizes and devalues people of colour as an unconscious by product of that very system.
Nosedive” is both dystopian fiction and acute social satire. Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) lives in a version of America where every tiny interaction is ranked by the people involved on an app that syncs with augmented-reality contact lenses (or retinal implants, it’s unclear). The minute you see someone you can also see their ranking, meaning that reality has morphed into a pastel-coloured nightmare of aggressive cheeriness, as citizens attempt to out-nice each other and bump up their ratings.
Of course, a lot of this already happens. Many governments including the U.S. already spy on their citizens, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram collect an overwhelming amount of information on you, as does Google. The Peeples App gave users the capacity to rank any person around them on a star system. Globally in China Zhima Credit, a "personal credit" rating associated with Alipay, the main form of mobile payment in China is set to become mandatory for all citizens by 2020. The Chinese government has described the system as a method to improve trust nationwide and cultivate a culture of “sincerity.”
The episode aims squarely at the anxiety stoked by a social media and obsession with quantification. For anyone who’s ever made conversation with an Uber driver specifically to upgrade a passenger rating, or wondered why a tweet isn’t getting more likes, or even checked a credit score, “Nosedive” surely radiates shivers of anxiety and a dystopian view of social media. Its setting in a Truman Show-style universe that seems designed explicitly for Instagram. Nosedive is perhaps a heightened version of modern society, however there are undeniable ingredients purposely included to make one not only think about our behaviour as an individual but collectively as a nation.
Writer, Brooker heightens aspects of real life within the episode for dramatic purpose and entertainment, not to completely leave the audience with an uncomfortable feeling of regret towards our world. The defining moment at the end of the episode where the audience observe Lacie through subjective camera shots and rhythmic editing utterly let go of the repression and built up emotion which allows for a closure where the audience can reflect that although technology, social media and overall modern society can at times be overwhelming, it’s how we as humans utilise them in moderation that counts.
Questions from the VCAA SAMPLE EXAM 2018
Narrative and ideology
Question 1 (3 marks) Describe the relationship between audience engagement and the construction of media narratives.
Question 2 (4 marks)Explain how ideology can shape media narratives.
Question 3 (6 marks)Explain why audiences from different periods of time engage with, consume and read media narratives differently. In your response, refer to one of the narratives that you have studied this year.
Question 4 (7 marks)
Analyse how the relationship between two media codes and/or conventions convey meaning in another narrative that you have studied this year.
Question 5 (10 marks)
Media narratives can convey ideology through the selection and application of media codes and conventions.
Analyse how media codes and conventions convey ideology in the media narratives that you have studied this year.
Black Mirror and Ideology
The seductive dystopia of “Black Mirror.
Ideology and Black Mirror
Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker
Donald Trump one year on: How the Twitter President changed social media and the country's top office
Is Donald Trump like Ronald Reagan
Donald Trumps use of Social Media
BLACK MIRROR’ MEETS REALITY: CHINA MOVES TO RATE ITS CITIZENS USING A ‘SOCIAL CREDIT SYSTEM’
Black Mirror is coming true in China, where your 'rating' affects your home, transport and social circle
Inside China's Vast New Experiment in Social Ranking
When social media advertising is driven by liberal ideolog
Black Mirror’s ‘Nosedive’ Skewers Social Media
A new poll reveals which piece of Black Mirror tech the public wants to use the most
Black Mirror Creator Charlie Brooker Thinks Technology Is Making Us Miserable
NOSEDIVE AND IDEOLOGY
The Netflix original series Black Mirror, created by Charlie Brooker, presents its audience with chilling parables about the nightmares of life in the digital age. The third season of the anthology series begins with an episode titled “Nosedive,” directed by Joe Wright and starring Bryce Dallas Howard. Howard plays Lacie Pound, a woman who is obsessed with elevating her social media status.
Lacie’s narrative takes place in the not-so-distant future where people can “rate” interactions with their peers from one to five stars, forming an aggregate rating for each person. In this universe, a high star rating is widely sought after, as those with a high rating are afforded special privileges, like premium apartments and prestigious jobs.
Expressing disdain over her current living arrangements, Lacie pursues a new apartment in a “lifestyle community,” one that requires a 4.5 rating to qualify for the discount she needs to afford the payments. Lacie begins the episode at a 4.2-star rating and seeks a boost from so-called “prime users,” or those with a 4.5 rating or above. These users have more influence in the rating system (Schur & Wright 2016). When Lacie’s old friend Naomi, a 4.8, invites her to be the maid of honor at her wedding, Lacie quickly accepts, knowing a heartfelt speech will earn her the rating she needs (Schur & Wright 2016).
Lacie’s journey to Naomi’s wedding is filled with road bumps, causing her rating to be continuously marked down to a zero, resulting in detainment by the authorities. Despite her low rating and Naomi’s retraction of her invitation, Lacie shows up at the wedding to deliver her speech and continues until she is arrested. Once in jail, the technology placed in her eye allowing her to see other people’s ratings is removed, finally giving her freedom from her obsession (Schur & Wright 2016).
“Nosedive” is more relevant than ever to today’s society, as writers Rashida Jones and Michael Schur cleverly reference the current culture’s overdependence on technology and obsession with social media. Black Mirror received widespread critical acclaim for all three seasons (“Black Mirror: Season 3” 2017) and “Nosedive” earned Bryce Dallas Howard a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination (“Bryce Dallas Howard: Awards” 2017) for her neurotic and vulnerable performance as Lacie. ( industrial context)
Today, social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat play an integral role in society’s communication. According to a report by the Pew Research Center in 2016, 86 percent of Americans utilize the internet. Out of those online users, 79 percent use Facebook, 32 percent use Instagram, 24 percent use Twitter, and 24 percent use Snapchat (Greenwood, Perrin, & Duggan 2016). The pervasiveness of technology and social networking can be explained by the theory of technological determinism, which is the main ideology present in “Nosedive.” According to Professor Langdon Winner, technological determinism is the theory that technology governs the way that humans act in a social setting (Hess, 2015). Through the critical method of ideological criticism, technological determinism in “Nosedive” is identified through the disconnect of the characters from the real world, the connection between the characters’ happiness and social media, and the adoption of obsessive rating habits. ( ideological context )
Analysis ( ideological contexts )
“Nosedive” illustrates how technological determinism has transformed social interactions between the characters by illustrating a disconnect from reality, which leads to constant distraction and awkward face-to-face interactions with peers. The audience first observes the depth of Lacie’s preoccupation with technology in the opening scene. She jogs through her neighborhood with her eyes glued to a translucent device resembling a smartphone. A close-up reveals a social media program resembling a Facebook-Instagram hybrid, featuring photo updates from peers with a star ranking system below (Schur & Wright 2016). Lacie scrolls through the posts, rating her peers ve stars, ignoring the content of the entries. She jogs past an acquaintance and they both raise up their devices and rate each other five stars (Schur & Wright 2016), simply validating each other’s existence, void of a meaningful interaction between friends. Technology is overtly fused with reality when Lacie places an augmented reality lens on her eyes, allowing her to view her peers’ ratings. Black Mirror writers draw similarities to the younger members of today’s society. Generations like millennials are accused by older generations of excessive technology use—Instagram-ing every meal and relying on social media as their primary mode of communication. Through Lacie’s obsessive documentation of her daily routines, such as yoga or her afternoon coffee, and her shallow face-to-face interactions with friends, these accusations are seemingly confirmed.
Technology also plays a role in mediating strained interactions between Lacie and her peers. In one scene, Lacie is pictured getting into an elevator with a work acquaintance. Their exchanges are forced and insincere. They both peer down at their phones, perusing the other’s social media, in search of a topic of small talk (Schur & Wright, 2016).
A good scene to also reference the use of codes –e,g CAMELS
This dependence on social media for insight into the lives of one’s peers is comparable to a phenomenon discussed in the book How the World Changed Social Media. In the book, researchers surveyed social media users around the world to gauge how they utilized networking websites (Miller et al. 2016). Researchers used a theory known as the “Goldilocks Strategy” to describe how some social media users interacted with peers:
[Researchers] found that social media provided a way to keep these people, who fell somewhere between close friend and distant acquaintance, in a position that was neither too ‘hot’ nor too ‘cold’...By remaining connected on social media, users were able to give the appearance of being in touch without having to spend signi cant time and energy meeting them in person. (Miller et al., 2016)
The Goldilocks Strategy is observable in “Nosedive,” mainly through Lacie and Naomi. The two mention several times how they have failed to keep in touch, and throughout the episode, Lacie obsessively browses Naomi’s social media account. While the two have not exerted the energy to interact in person, they could surmise the details of the other’s life through technology.
Technological determinism is also evident in the role social media plays in the acceptance and happiness of the characters. In the episode, Lacie stands in front of the mirror, testing out a variety of laughs (Schur & Wright, 2016). It is apparent through the blank face she reveals between bouts of laughter that the happiness she exhibits is disingenuous. It is simply rehearsed to achieve high ratings, and therefore a high social status in the episode’s reality. This scene serves as an early indicator of the intensity of Lacie’s desire to be accepted by her peers—an obsession so severe that even something as visceral as laughter is rehearsed to please those around her. (more good scene/s to reference for codes and conventions )
Later, Lacie promptly posts a photo of her coffee to her social media, even though the disgusted look on her face after her first sip reveals she does not actually like the taste of it. She soon begins to receive five star ratings on her photo, resembling “likes” on a Facebook or Instagram post. Her mood instantly improves and the expression on her face resembles one of pride, as if posting a photo of her coffee is a noteworthy accomplishment. In the article “Social Media Triggers a Dopamine High,” psychology professor Mauricio Delgado states that social media “likes” trigger the reward centers of the brain, initiating an in ux of dopamine. Delgado further explains the addictive qualities of social networks:
If you’re getting positive feedback in social media—‘likes’ and shares and retweets—it’s a positive ‘reinforcer’ of using social media, and one that allows you to, a.) get the positive effects of it, and, b.) return to it seeking out more social reinforcement. (Soat, 2015)
The effects of these “positive reinforcers” are evident in the giddiness Lacie exhibits after she is validated by her peers, even by a superficial social media nod. Technological determinism has allowed humans to receive neurological rewards not merely from exercise or human interaction, but from a digital media audience.
The arbitrary rating system that structures the “Nosedive” universe depicts another way the technological determinism ideology has transformed the current culture: through the phenomenon of rating everything. Popular internet services like Yelp and Uber allow users to assign quantifiable values to their dining and travel endeavors. Today, like in Black Mirror, enterprises and humans alike must live their lives in pursuit of a desirable reputation. Internet ratings have even come to determine the fate of some American businesses. The NPR podcast “All Things Considered” stated that in the San Francisco Bay Area, “Restaurants with low or middling Yelp reviews have become more likely to go out of business. Places with high reviews have been unaffected,” (Harnett, 2017). Personal reputation and business also intersect in the transportation industry, as Uber drivers and passengers have a mutual obligation to behave well, due to the star rating they are prompted to appoint each other after the ride (Chamorro- Premuzic, 2015). In this scenario, the reputation and the profitability of Uber depends on high internet ratings. The abundance of Yelp reviews and Uber ratings are evidence of the impact technological determinism has had on society’s dining and travel habits. One cannot simply enjoy a meal or a car ride, but many feel obligated to register their approval or disapproval online.
Brooker, Jones, and Schur tell a cautionary tale in “Nosedive” regarding society’s current social-media obsession— one that is re ected in Lacie. The motif of technological dependence in the episode resembles the ideology of technological determinism in three main ways: through the disconnect of the characters from reality, the dependence on social media for happiness, and the characters’ xation on the rating system.
In this Black Mirror universe, a zealous use of technology is the prominent hegemony, one that is regularly reinforced by the rating system. The “Nosedive” society requires one
to subscribe to the rating system by rewarding those with high ratings and punishing those with low ratings. As seen in the episode, Lacie is barred from certain privileges as her rating begins to plummet. After her ight is cancelled, she is prohibited from booking another ight with the “prime ight program” and she is limited in the type of car she can rent because of her subpar rating (Schur & Wright 2016). Near the episode’s conclusion, Lacie befriends a truck driver named Susan. She discloses that she used to aspire to a high social status like Lacie, but she now counters the hegemony of the rating system by speaking her mind, regardless of its impact on her rating.
In a technology-dependent society, one may no longer require meaningful conversations and experiences to feel ful lled; for some, two taps on a screen that require minimal effort has the same effect. One’s worth is no longer based on merit or character, but dependent on internet status. In future years, the rating phenomenon will only proliferate. Future research could investigate the psychological impact of institutionalized rating systems on the minds of individuals. While society’s preoccupation with technology is not at the level this episode depicts, at the current rate, one must wonder if the shallow world of rating one’s peers is closer than it appears.
References Black Mirror: Season 3. (2017). Retrieved November 16,
2017, from http://www.metacritic.com/tv/black-
mirror/season-3 Bryce Dallas Howard: Awards. (n.d.). Retrieved November 16,
2017, from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0397171/
awards?ref_=nm_awd Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2015, October 26). Reputation and the rise of the ‘rating’ society. Retrieved November
24, 2017, from https://www.theguardian.com/media- network/2015/oct/26/reputation-rating-society-uber- airbnb
Greenwood, S., Perrin, A., & Duggan, M. (2016, November 11). Social Media Update 2016 (Rep.). Retrieved November 23, 2017, from Pew Research Center website: http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/11/11/ social-media-update-2016/#fnref-17239-1
Harnett, S. (2017, May 8). Restaurants with low Yelp ratings suffer under higher minimum wages [Audio blog post]. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from https://www.npr. org/2017/05/08/527452861/restaurants-with-low- yelp-ratings-suffer-under-higher-minimum-wages
Hess, D. J. (2015). “Power, Ideology, and Technological Determinism” [PDF]. The Society for Social Studies of Science.
Miller, D., Costa, E., Haynes, N., McDonald, T., Nicolescu, R., Sinanan, J., . . . Wang, X. (2016). Does social media make people happier? In How the World Changed Social Media (pp. 193–204). London: UCL Press. doi:http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1g69z35.20
Schur, M., & Jones, R. (Writers), Wright, J. (Director), & Borg, L. (Producer). (2016, October 21). Nosedive [Television series episode]. In Black Mirror. Los Gatos, California: Netflix.
Soat, M. (2015, November). Social Media Triggers a Dopamine High. Marketing News. Retrieved November 25, 2017, from https://www.ama.org/publications/ MarketingNews/Pages/feeding-the-addiction.aspx
1. In what ways does the author parallel Black Mirror’s “Nosedive” episode to actions and ideas present in modern society?
2. In what ways has American society become reliant on technology to support our sense of personal worth?
3. How does the use of popular media allow a variety of readers to enter into the conversation the author has started? Who might be the intended audience(s)?
1. How does the author make use of current sources and examples from “Nosedive” to examine society?
2. With attention to his writing style, how does the author account for the lack of visual information that watching “Nosedive” would give us?
1.Discuss the narrative possibilities presented in the opening scene.
2.Describe the introduction and characterisation of Lacie.
3.How does her characterisation reflect the production period?
4.What circumstances or conflict motivates Lacie to improve her social rating?
5.Conduct research online to find whether the Social Media rating system is a just an idea or actually happens in real life.
6.Analyse the use of production elements used to enhance Lacie’s obsession with improving her personal rating.
7.How does Nosedive reflect ideologies of the production period
8. Explain why audiences from different periods of time would engage with, consume and read Nosedive differently.
Black Mirror is coming true in China, where your 'rating' affects your home, transport and social circle
Alice Vincent, entertainment writer
15 DECEMBER 2017
In Nosedive, an episode of Black Mirror released on Netflix last year, Bryce Dallas Howard plays Lacie, a woman seeking the approval of her soon-to-be-wed childhood friend. But because this is a machination of Charlie Brooker's mind (Michael Schur and Rashida Jones wrote the script), Lacie's social standing was decided by technology and voted on by the people she interacted with.
Having a good score – above four-point-five out of five – meant that Lacie could qualify for a luxury apartment. If she lost her temper with a waiter or shop assistant, or associated with people with lower scores, her score would drop, excluding her from the more refined parts of society.
A story in Wired magazine reports on Zhima Credit, a "personal credit" rating associated with Alipay, the main form of mobile payment in China – and the power of Zhima Credit sounds eerily similar to that outlined in Nosedive.
Users will be given a score between 350 (low) and 950 (high), and rewards those with "good" scores with perks and rewards. Paying back debts will give you a good rating, but so will having certain qualifications, the products you choose to buy and, crucially, the company you keep.
The writer of the piece, Mara Hvistendahl, explains that she used the system in August and was immediately given a "poor" rating of 550, which meant she had to pay a $30 deposit before she could rent a bike at the cost of 15 cents. She also had to pay deposits to stay in hotels or rent GoPros or free umbrellas. "I belonged to the digital underclass," Hvistendahl wrote.
The Zhima Credit system is integrated with China's governmental blacklist, List of Dishonest People, as journalist Liu Hu found. Even though he hadn't signed up for Zhima Credit, he had a score that rendered him a "second-class citizen". As Hvistendahl describes it: "He was banned from most forms of travel; he could only book the lowest classes of seat on the slowest trains. He could not buy certain consumer goods or stay at luxury hotels, and he was ineligible for large bank loans."
Those with high Zhima Credit scores, however, had reverse fortunes: Lazarus Lui, who had a score of 722, was able to access: "favorable terms on loans and apartment rentals, as well as showcasing on several dating apps should he and his wife ever split up. With a few dozen more points, he could get a streamlined visa to Luxembourg."
As another high-scoring millennial told Hvistendahl, the ratings of those in your social circle impacts on your own score: "If your friends are all high-score people, it’s good for you. If you have some bad-credit people as friends, it’s not nice."
You can read the whole feature here. The perilously prescient Nosedive is available to watch on Netflix.
‘Black Mirror’, a title that refers to the ‘cold, shiny screens’ of the devices we are so attached to; an implied message that technology reflects the darkest elements of humans today. Charlie Brooker, the genius behind the show, outlines the concept with stating ‘they’re all about the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes time if we're clumsy’. Each episode, unrelated to one another in every sense from narrative to characters, vary in time period, also. Some episodes are set vividly in an imaginative, futuristic world yet, the most disturbing ones, are set today; shining an unsettling spotlight on the way we live as of now.
‘Nosedive’, series three - episode one, does just that as we follow the protagonist Lacie, (Bryce Dallas Howard), on the journey to her idea of success. There is extreme gender regressive notions which are portrayed through the overall aesthetics of the episode. Both the male and female characters, dressed in their perfectly mismatched shades of salmon and baby blue, prance around a clear 1950’s inspired architectural community which paints the picture of the nuclear family, and all that entails. The colours used - blue for boys, pink for girls - combined with female and male interactions causes for one to feel confused by the idea of regression contrasting with when the episode is supposed to be set, the future.
"A satire on acceptance and the image of us we like to portray and project to others’’ - Brooker describes the successful yet concerning episode. Upon the first viewing, one may feel outraged by such a world. Sickeningly-sweet, fake loners who roam around a pastel-coloured hell in seek to desperately maintain or improve an acceptable rating and acceptance from others in society. How sad must one be within themselves that the medicine to uplift them is another’s approval? To fuss over why a certain tweet has not got as many likes as you first had hoped; to have anxiety whilst waiting for your crush to match you on Tinder; or considering what mark you wish to score your Uber driver the entire journey, are aspects your independent, self-assured life would never consist of… right? Wrong. Nosedive is perhaps a heightened version of modern society, however there are undeniable ingredients purposely included to make one not only think about our behaviour as an individual but collectively as a nation.
In ‘Status Anxiety’, Alain De Botton (2004) states, that ‘those without status remain unseen, they are treated brusquely, their complexities are trampled upon and their identities ignored’, categorising them into nonsensical/absurd terms of ‘somebodies’ and their inverse as ‘nobodies’. In Nosedive, your rating determines your status. Drop below a 3.5 and you are considered an outcast - unable to rent certain cars, denied access to certain buildings or even catch a flight to leave the country. Nosedive could not support De Botton’s statement more. But what makes us a ‘somebody’ opposed to a ‘nobody’? What doors does that open for us or perhaps keep us out of? One of low status should not be read in material terms alone although typically we associate the benefits of high status to wealth. At no point do we see characters interact with the idea of money. Buying a simple coffee and cookie is exchanged with a rating to the barista and an extra cheery goodbye! Lacie’s coworker, blacklisted by colleagues after a breakup, is categorised as an absolute ‘nobody’. We see hints of his journey to rock bottom throughout the episode where he essentially begs Lacie along with others to rate him higher simply so he can access his office. Humiliated and scared of what is to come for his low rated life now, it is tortuous to watch what status, and lack of it, can oppose on someone.
‘In traditional societies, high status may have been inordinately hard to acquire as what mattered was one’s identity at birth, rather than anything one might achieve in one’s lifetime. What mattered was who one was, seldom what one did’ (De Botton, 2004). The concept of ‘Nosedive’ and rating one another which then opens doors to more opportunities challenges De Botton’s statement. In this world, one is not luckily gifted with status, it is earned. One can not commend Lacie for wanting a better life for herself, having goals and ambitions. Her dream of living in a certain area with a beautiful home is not absurd. Securing false friendships and repressing true emotions and thoughts to appear as a perfect human is, however. De Botton then justifies that ‘status anxiety is the price we pay for acknowledging a public difference between a successful and unsuccessful life’ and that the ‘fear that one might fail and disgrace ones self in the eyes of others is only a natural consequence of having ambition’.
Repressing ones true thoughts and feelings to achieve comfortable happiness appears utterly ridiculous to a modern society, especially due to the amount of technology accessible to us, which allows us to have the freedom of speech at the click of a button. Yet still, we are undeniably careful of the choice of words used around certain company or consider the correct way to project a comment in the most positive way. Something the characters in ‘Nosedive’ are no stranger of. Lacie even practices her greetings every morning in the mirror to perfect the perkiest introduction possible. There are countless reasons why us as humans do this. It could be said the most significant though, is the fear of rejection and our constant crave for love and acceptance. ‘’No more fiendish punishment could be devised, were such a thing physically possible, than that one should be turned loose in society and remain absolutely unnoticed by all members thereof. If no one turned around when we entered, answered when we spoke or acted as if we were non-existent things, a kind of rage and impotent despair would before long well up in us, from which the cruellest body torture would be a relief.’’ William James, The Principles of Psychology, (Boston, 1890). James highlights an important point that perhaps the attention of others matters to us simply because we are affected by a congenital uncertainty as to what our own value is. To support this, Botton expresses ‘there is something sobering and absurd in the extent to which we are cheered by attention and damaged by disregard’. The absence of love, to be ignored, rejected causes an emotion so incomprehensible that one would do all in their power to avoid - even if that may be to repress and subdue your true being.
Rejection leading to absence of love inevitably leads to loneliness. In a modern society where we’re more connected than ever before, with social media being the most powerful way to communicate, it does make one wonder how our time has been called ‘the age of loneliness’. The platforms available to us from Facebook, Twitter to Instagram allows for convenient connection but are we truly creating a link between relationships? The word ‘social’, connoting a group of people genuinely connecting, is ironically shown with the characters in ‘Nosedive’. A brief encounter in an elevator with Lacie and coworker consists of one another checking the other's profile accounts to see what they have been up to instead of simply asking and conversing - something that is not unattainable or unusual to happen in todays society. The “social” network has been linked to a surprising number of undesirable mental health issues, which aside from the feeling of loneliness, includes depression, low self-esteem, and bitter jealousy. According to studies and new research from the psychologists at Brigham Young University/ The University of Utah it has been said that social isolation and the feeling of loneliness increase a person’s chance of premature death by 14 percent - nearly double the risk of early death from obesity (The Huffington Post, 2016). Worrying figures for a modern world where the thought of feeling lonely is absurd due to our accessibility of ways to connect.
Although appearing negative, we must not forget what technology and social media really has brought us. Black Mirror may explore the murky relationship between humans and screens but it is in no way a bash against it. If anything, a celebration of what our modern society has become. Brooker heightens aspects of real life within the episode for dramatic purpose and entertainment, not to completely leave the audience with a uncomfortable feeling of hate towards our world. The truly beautiful moment at the end of the episode where we see Lacie utterly let go of the repression and built up emotion allows for an ending where one can go away feeling that although technology, social media and overall modern society can at times be overwhelming, its how we as humans utilise them in moderation that counts. Technology is exciting, but lets not drown in eagerness to the point where we lose sight of what is important.
De Botton, A. (2004). Status anxiety. 1st ed. New York: Pantheon Books.
Forbes.com. (2016). Forbes Welcome. [online] Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2015/04/08/new-study-links-facebook-to-depression-but-now-we-actually-understand-why/#5ebe05662e65 [Accessed 1 Dec. 2016].
Williams, Z., Kingsley, P., Stuart, K., Hern, A., Elan, P. and Parkinson, H. (2016). Reflections on Black Mirror – by those for whom science fiction became reality. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/oct/25/reflections-on-black-mirror-by-those-for-whom-science-fiction-became-reality [Accessed 1 Dec. 2016].
The Huffington Post. (2016). Why Loneliness Is A Growing Public Health Concern -- And What We Can Do About It. [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/21/science-loneliness_n_6864066.html [Accessed 2 Dec. 2016].
YouTube. (2016). Black Mirror: Bryce Dallas Howard and Alice Eve Discuss Their Chilling Social Media Episode. [online] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7S_QYL3JEU [Accessed 1 Dec. 2016].