Net Mirror Library

For your listening, viewing pleasure, here is our collection of Net Mirror Narratives, storytelling of the near future dystopia.

The Truth

The Truth makes movies for your ears: short stories that are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, and always intriguing. Each story is different, and usually 10 to 20 minutes long. We take you to unexpected places using only sound.
  • Under the Influence “Rory, an influencer with over 2 million followers, discovers she has the incredible ability to rewrite history through social media. But what does having 2 million followers really mean if you have nothing to say?”
  • Robocalls “Eddie Doyle is being targeted by bots that are getting smarter all the time.”
  • The Decider “What if a device could tell you exactly how satisfied you’d be with any decision? What if you could carry the future around in your pocket? What if you never had to say “what if” again?”
  • Voyager Found “NASA’s Voyager spacecraft has just landed: meet the aliens who found it.”

The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone (marketed as Twilight Zone for its final two seasons) is an American anthology television series created and presented by Rod Serling, which ran for five seasons on CBS from 1959 to 1964.[1] Each episode presents a stand-alone story in which characters find themselves dealing with often disturbing or unusual events, an experience described as entering “the Twilight Zone,” often with a surprise ending and a moral. Although predominantly science-fiction, the show’s paranormal and Kafkaesque events leaned the show towards fantasy and horror. The phrase “twilight zone,” inspired by the series, is used to describe surreal experiences.

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  • The Brain Center at Whipple’s “Wallace V. Whipple, owner of a vast Midwestern manufacturing corporation, decides to upgrade his plant to increase output by installing a machine named the ‘X109B14 modified transistorized totally automatic assembly machine,’ which leads to tens of thousands of layoffs. Some former employees try to convince him that the value of a man outweighs the value of a machine, but their protests fall on deaf ears.” (Wikipedia)
  • The Obsolete Man “In a future totalitarian state, Romney Wordsworth is put on trial for being obsolete. His professed occupation as a librarian is punishable by death as the State has eliminated books. He believes in God, also proof of obsolescence, as the State claims to have proven God does not exist. Following a bitter exchange, the Chancellor finds Wordsworth guilty and sentences him to death, allowing him to choose his method of execution. He requests that he be granted a personal assassin, who will be the only one who knows the method of his death, and that his execution be televised nationwide. Though televised executions are commonplace, the secretive method is highly unorthodox; the Chancellor nonetheless grants both requests.” (Wikipedia)
  • Time Enough At Last “was adapted from a short story written by Lynn Venable (pen name of Marilyn Venable). The short story appeared in the January 1953 edition of the science fiction magazine If: Worlds of Science Fiction about seven years before the television episode first aired….It is ‘the story of a man who seeks salvation in the rubble of a ruined world’ and tells of Henry Bemis, played by Burgess Meredith, who loves books, yet is surrounded by those who would prevent him from reading them. The episode follows Bemis through the post-apocalyptic world, touching on such social issues as anti-intellectualism, the dangers of reliance upon technology, and the difference between aloneness (solitude) and loneliness.” (Wikipedia)
  • A Thing About Machines “A repairman has paid a house call to Bartlett Finchley, who is having trouble with the TV, and notes that he should not damage his appliances (he smashed the screen of the TV for a mild inconvenience). It turns out he is an ill-tempered gourmet magazine critic who reviles humanity (a misanthrope), though he seems to be simultaneously lonely. He’s as inept with machines as he is with people. Frustrated, he constantly abuses machines and starts to think machines are conspiring against him. The people he tells about this write him off as paranoid, but eventually every machine in his house (including his car) turns on him. Before this happens, he mentions the radio doesn’t work, then his clock chimes more than the hour. His typewriter types the message, “GET OUT OF HERE FINCHLEY”, three times. A woman on the TV speaks the same message, and upstairs his electric razor rises menacingly into the air, lunging at him like a cobra. He rips the telephone cord out of the wall, but a voice on the phone speaks the same words.” (Wikipedia)

Black Mirror

[Black Mirror] examines modern society, particularly with regard to the unanticipated consequences of new technologies. Episodes are standalone, usually set in an alternative present or the near future, often with a dark and satirical tone, although some are more experimental and lighter.

[Charlie] Brooker developed Black Mirror to highlight topics related to humanity’s relationship with technology, creating stories that feature “the way we live now – and the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy.”

This series is only available on Netflix, trailers embedded below… Some suggested episodes if you do have access include (links to Wikipedia articles):

The Entire History of You – With the implantation of a device called a “grain” behind their ear, users can record everything they see and hear. Using a remote, a user can perform a “re-do”, playing back their memories directly through their eye or to a video monitor.

Be Right Back – Ash lives with his girlfriend Martha, spending a lot of time on social media, until one day he dies in a traffic accident. A few days later, Martha finds out that she is pregnant and decides to use a new technology that is able to simulate Ash’s voice and personality on the phone, based on his social media profile and other audiovisual material. This service helps her overcome her despair, until one day she accidentally drops her phone and panics. The artificial Ash tells her of the service’s experimental stage, in which she agrees to have the replica transferred into a synthetic body, almost identical to Ash. However, Martha realises that the android is not able to replicate the small details in her loved one’s behaviour and starts distancing herself from it.

Nosedive – Using eye implants and mobile devices, people rate their online and in-person interactions on a five-star scale. This system cultivates insincere relationships, as a person’s rating significantly affects their socioeconomic status. Lacie is a young woman currently rated at 4.2 and keen to achieve self-improvement, hoping to reach a 4.5 rating to qualify for a discount to a luxury apartment. Lacie tries to gain favour from highly-rated people, as they have larger impacts on scores, and sees a great chance to achieve her goal, when school friend Naomi asks her to be maid-of-honour at her upcoming wedding, with many highly-rated guests. After a series of mishaps on her way to the wedding that send her ratings plummeting, Naomi calls Lacie and tells her not to come.

USS Callister – Robert Daly, a reclusive but gifted programmer and co-founder of a popular massive multiplayer online game, is embittered by the lack of recognition for his work. He has created a mock Star Trek-like simulation on a private server, using DNA from his co-workers to create sentient digital clones of them, serving under himself their abusive captain of the starship USS Callister. When the digital clone of new hire Nanette Cole is brought into his game, Cole’s clone encourages the other copies to revolt against Daly.

Arkangel – Marie briefly loses track of her three-year old daughter Sara, and decides to have her implanted with the Arkangel system, allowing Marie to use a tablet to track her, monitor her health and emotional state, and censor sights she doesn’t want Sara to see, such as blood. As Sara grows up, Marie recognises that Arkangel is hampering Sara’s growth, but the tracking device cannot be removed; instead, Marie disables the tablet. As Sara becomes a rebellious teenager, Marie becomes distrustful of her and reactivates Arkangel, discovering her to be taking drugs with a boyfriend Marie does not approve of.

Screening Surveillance

In all aspects of life, personal information is collected and analyzed by organizations that produce various outcomes— surveillance is not simply good or bad, helpful or harmful, but it is never neutral. These three short films were created to raise awareness about how large organizations use data and how these practices affect life chances and choices. We need to consider these implications, and critically examine the logics and practices within big data systems that underpin, enable, and accelerate surveillance.
  • Blaxites “highlights issues that arise when different data systems are connected. Blaxites follows the story of a young woman whose celebratory social media post affects her access to vital medication. Her attempts to circumvent the system leads to even more dire consequences.
  • Frames “exposes the problems in trusting sensor data and facial recognition to interpret human behaviour. In ‘Frames; a smart city tracks and analyzes a woman walking through the city. Things she does are interpreted and logged by the city system, but are they drawing an accurate picture of the woman?”
  • A Model Employee examines data ownership and the need to earn a system’s trust… to keep her day job at a local restaurant, an aspiring DJ has to wear a tracking wristband. As it tracks her life outside of work, she tries to fool the system, but a new device upgrade means trouble.

sava’s Recommendations

These narratives were recommended by sava saheli singh following our discussion of the Screening Surveillance series.

  • The Monopoly of Legitimate Use (Trailer) – “The Monopoly of Legitimate Use takes the very physical notion of inhabiting a space or territory into the technological world, where networks can form political territories and places where people can gather and align themselves to particular ideological beliefs. Revell’s three films: Bumper, Blackspot and Stateless explore three individuals – migrants and refugees – in a near future, moving between the layers of this vertical geography to try and find refuge or exploit the geography to their benefit. The films raise questions about the tools and methods we use to identify ourselves politically as well as the rebalance of control caused by network technology that is simultaneously globalising and localising.”

Our Friends Electric “is a short film by Superflux about voice-enabled AI assistants who ask too many questions, swear & recite Marxist texts.”

Uninvited Guest “is a short film that explores the frictions between an elderly man and his smart home.”

In The Robot Skies “is the world’s first narrative shot entirely through autonomous drones… In this near future city drones form both agents of state surveillance but also become co-opted as the aerial vehicles through which two teens fall in love.”

Instafamous “Vincent V Leonard (@vincentvleonard) is an Instagram star living in Los Angeles. He engages Yash Patel, a freelancing click farmer to boost his popularity. Vincent’s and Yash’s worlds begin to intertwine.”

Blue-Eyed Me “In a world where pets are genetically engineered to look like their owners, two stories from opposite ends of the globe become intertwined.”

Miscellaneous Web Narratives

  • In Event of Moon Disaster “In July 1969, much of the world celebrated ‘one giant leap for mankind.’ Fifty years later, nothing is quite so straightforward. In Event of Moon Disaster illustrates the possibilities of deepfake technologies by reimagining this seminal event. What if the Apollo 11 mission had gone wrong and the astronauts had not been able to return home? A contingency speech for this possibility was prepared for, but never delivered by, President Nixon – until now.”
  • Ring™ Doorbell Log “Amazon’s Ring™ doorbells are motion-activated high definition surveillance cameras. Once triggered, Ring™ cameras transmit video to the Ring™ app and Ring™ servers, where the video footage is preserved for future viewing. What happens when Amazon begins using AI object detection to identify, categorize, and report what the Ring™ camera sees? Imagine a year from now, Halloween night, October 31, 2020…”
  • Data Does Not Lie an interactive fiction created in the tool texture, written by Jim Monroe “You study samples under your microscraper. You extract the data. Then — and only then — you sleep.”
  • Stealing Ur Feelings – “An augmented reality film revealing how the most popular apps can use facial emotion recognition technology to make decisions about your life, promote inequalities, and even destabilize democracy makes its worldwide debut on the web today. Using the same AI technology described in corporate patents, ‘Stealing Ur Feelings,’ by Noah Levenson, learns the viewers’ deepest secrets just by analyzing their faces as they watch the film in real-time.” (learn more about the project from Mozilla)
  • Deep Reckonings – “series of explicitly-marked synthetic videos that imagine public figures having a reckoning. The public figures include: Brett Kavanaugh wrestling with the way he responded to the sexual allegations against him; Alex Jones grappling with his spread of deceitful conspiracy theories; and Mark Zuckerberg confronting his techno-utopianism. These figures don’t admit to actions that aren’t publicly known, but instead take responsibility for actions that are. Deep Reckonings exists in dialogue with the broader conversation about the ethical implications of synthetic media, and how artificial intelligence impacts our understanding of truth. The project seeks not to deceive nor demean, but to imagine and inspire. The videos make their fakery explicit not only to prevent misinformation, but also to leverage a superpower of synthetic media — that we can know they’re fake and they still affect us. In this spirit, Deep Reckonings explores the question: how might we use our synthetic selves to elicit our better angels?”

Image Credit

Amplifier Image from pxhere shared into the public domain using Creative Commons CC0