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Reflecting your heart's desire: "Project Black Mirror" and faux-Kickstarting Siri's mind-reading routine

by Ethan Tussey

by Michael O'Neill for IN MEDIA RES

This viral campaign was executed in November 2011 by 4Creative (Channel 4's in-house marketing and promotions agency), prior to the initial series transmission of Black Mirror in December 2011 on Channel 4.  It not only opens a dialogue concerning Channel 4's historical affiliation with spoofs, hoaxing and satirical programming (such as Brass Eye and Nathan Barley), but also sheds light onto the relationship that the gaming/technology communities have with "vapourware" (projects that are announced and sound too good to be true, subsequently sinking without trace). The "project" featured within the campaign video also illuminates the fine line between repulsed fear and lustful desire vis-a-vis technology, if online reactions to it were any indication (linking our brains to Apple products can only end well, if our widespread fears concerning "Big Data" and fearful knowledge of AI-behaviour in science-fiction are any indication!).  It featured a technological innovation which was both fantastical yet representative of the next potential step in computing: from voice-activated mobile technologies to thought-activated ones ("hacking" Apple's assistant, Siri, in the process), seeking the assistance and support of the Kickstarter crowd in order to achieve such goals. 

 "Project Black Mirror" was, in short, extremely effective in conveying the style, tone and preoccupations of the television programming that it was promoting. It prognosticated upon pre-existing technologies and twisted them into foreboding shapes, whilst also questioning the impact that such devices/developments might have upon humanity's relationship with one another.  It also opened up a wider discussion concerning the nature of experiment and innovation (something which ostensibly hews close to the remit obligations of Black Mirror's parent broadcaster); is it being done for the betterment of humankind/audiences, or is experiment being undertaken quite simply because the "inventors" can (or must, in order to profit from consumers)?  4Creative's campaign created viral buzz within the technology community and on social media, with the type of conjectural technologies showcased by the "project", which would subsequently feature within the series itself, undoubtedly having an unsettling impact upon potential audiences before a single second of the programme was broadcast on Channel 4, planting the seed of disquiet and queasiness that is Black Mirror's modus operandi.

Black Mirror and Siri

A video about Siri

from Project Black Mirror: Siri controlled by Brain waves (2011)
Creator: Project Black Mirror
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey