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It’s More Like an Eternal Waking Nightmare from Which There Is No Escape. Media and Technologies as (Digital) Prisons in Black Mirror

Abstract : The British series Black Mirror stirs much debate around its representation of dystopian futures of Western societies. Often grim, pessimistic and technologically-led, these representations confront the viewers with alternative societies deriving from the current use of new technologies. In each of the fourth season shown so far, multiple representations of real prisons or digital incarceration apparatus have been pictured: workers enslaved to power- generating stationary bikes in the first season, a convict imprisoned in a torture theme park in season two’s “White Bear” or digital clones trapped in a Star Trek-like simulation under the yoke of a tyrannical and sadistic captain – their real-life boss’ avatar – in season four “USS Calister”. These episodes present new forms of imprisonment, chosen or not, all linked with new media and technology. Using both semiology and visual analyses, this work aims at exploring the diverse mediated imprisonment forms proposed in Black Mirror. Drawing from Foucault’s reflections on penal systems and the biopower apparatus created by Western societies (Foucault, 1975; 1984), this chapter relies on the idea of a new panopticon, as crafted by Bentham, developed by Foucault and reused by the authors (Allard-Huver & Escurignan, 2018) to analyze the representation of the notion of ‘prison’. Indeed, in this new panopticon, mobile devices and social media serve as “disciplinary” tools to normalize people’s behavior. Black Mirror thus questions new forms of imprisonments and, paradoxically, new ways to escape or be liberated from them. Therefore, the dystopian societies depicted in Black Mirror clearly call upon our knowledge of technology: our “liberating” devices often turn into new form of servitude or are used as prisons for both the body and the mind.
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Julie Escurignan, François Allard-Huver. It’s More Like an Eternal Waking Nightmare from Which There Is No Escape. Media and Technologies as (Digital) Prisons in Black Mirror. Marcus Harmes; Meredith Harmes; Barbara Harmes. The Palgrave Handbook of Incarceration in Popular Culture, Palgrave Macmillan, pp.487-498, 2020, 978-3-030-36058-0. ⟨10.1007/978-3-030-36059-7_29⟩. ⟨hal-02470666⟩

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