COM 597: Black Mirror: Exploring the Ethical Questions of New Technology

Course Description:

Emergent technologies always have unintended consequences, which frequently result in unanticipated ethical dilemmas for consumers, businesses, organizations, governments, and society at large. This course provides students opportunities to explore these ethical dilemmas and understand how to mitigate them. Students will learn practical strategies for identifying and managing ethical issues at the intersection of human behavior and technology that can be applied across sectors. Using the British television anthology Black Mirror as an organizational base, this course will provide project-based learning opportunities for students interested in exploring the darker side of new technologies. (Netflix announced this summer that they would pick up Black Mirror for an original third season—a sign of the show’s influence and provocative approach.) Students interested in this course should note that Black Mirror is a speculative fiction future-based show with mature themes related to technology and society. Episodes are fascinating, but also disturbing, as the show features graphic content, often of a violent and sexual nature. Students are advised to take this under consideration before enrolling in the course, but also know that all episodes will be watched together in class as part of a facilitated discussion. This format is a pedagogical tool that transforms the viewing into a shared learning opportunity, in real time. Each Black Mirror episode taps into our unease about technology and will provide fruitful examples of ethical themes—and each episode is a superb platform for ethical debates. Also, please note that due to the design of this course with weekly group work that carries over into the next week, absences will be very difficult to overcome.

Student Testimonial:

“This class was fascinating. I took it because it fulfilled the law and ethics requirement for the Communication Leadership program, and I knew it would be more interesting than a typical law or ethics class and it was fun! Black Mirror is such an interesting series and one that you can talk about endlessly, but how Katie Price approached the content, the themes, and the way technology was involved was really fascinating. I so admired Katie’s teaching style and the discussions she encouraged us to participate in. I loved this class and recommend it to everyone, although I know it won’t be taught every year, consider yourself lucky if you can take it! You will learn so much and really find ways to approach an interesting and thought-proving series with a new light.”