In the Wake of Visual Failure: Black Mirror, Sandra Bland, and the Ontology of the Glitch

Event title superimposed over photo of woman in sweats running past people filming her on their cell phones

Event Date

Hart Hall 3201

Cultural Studies and American Studies present

In the Wake of Visual Failure: Black Mirror, Sandra Bland, and the Ontology of the Glitch

In December 2014, the UK series Black Mirror became available in the US through Netfllx's video streaming service. A dystoplan, Twlllght Zone-inspired take on modern technology and Its effects, Black Mirror's season 2 episode "White Bear" provided an unintended critique of the deaths of Eric Garner and Walter Scott and the arrest of Sandra Bland, all of which were captured by mobile phone technologies and circulated on social networks. This talk puts into conversation these active crises of spectacular black suffering and the fictive world of Black Mirror, where in the terms of a Black woman 's incarceration is to be subjected to racial terror, utilizing the voyeurism of mobile phone spectators as psychological torture. While the visual capture of racial violence by these emerging visual technologies has often been praised as a preventative measure in providing transparency and safety, at the same time it has also been critiqued as voyeuristic consumption of black suffering. Using the footage of the Sandra Bland arrest as a dialoglcal space, this talk Illuminates the failures of the technological rescue narrative, how the neoliberal carceral state is a space where black suffering becomes a literal commodity, and finally, how Twitter users' responses to the Bland arrest call into question the place of visual evidence and modes of witnessing.

Wendy Sung is an assistant professor of critical media studies at UT Dallas' School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication. She is also an alumni of the UC President's Postdoctoral Fellowship program. Her research focuses on media technologies, racial violence, cultural memory, and spectatorship practices . She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan's Department of American Culture.

Co-sponsors:  Cultural Studies, American Studies