The ‘death of neighbour’ seen in a Black Mirror (Be right back on Solaris)  (2021)

Rizza, Alfredo
The ‘death of neighbour’ seen in a Black Mirror (Be right back on Solaris)
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Contributo in volume (Capitolo o Saggio)
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Contributo in volume (Capitolo o Saggio)
A Stampa
Book Title:
Reading »Black Mirror«. Insights into Technology and the Post-Media Condition
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Language functions, phatic function, technology and textuality, social media and linguistics
Short description of contents:
This chapter analyses the communicative interaction between man and machine, considering aesthetic and spiritual aspects of losing and reconnecting with loved ones. It focalizes on the episode “Be Right Back” (S02E01). It defines the type of technology represented in the story, it describes the linguistic interaction between the protagonists, it offers a reflection on the concept of body and textuality, and it ends with a comparison between “Be Right Back” and Solaris by A. Tarkovsky framed in the theory of L. Zoja’s (2019) ‘death of the neighbour’. “Be Right Back” represents quite well the technology of contemporary social media as phatic systems. The theoretical backgrounds of this analysis include Chomsky’s view about the relationship between communication and language, and the theory developed by Wang and other scholars about phatic technology and phatic systems. According to Chomsky «the use of language is a very important means by which this species, because of its biological nature, creates a kind of social space, to place itself in interactions with other people» (Chomsky and Osiatynski 1984). Wang et al. (2011, 2012, 2016) produce an interesting synthesis of Malinovsky’s (1923) concept of ‘phatic communion’ and Giddens’ (1990) consequences of modernity. «A technology is phatic if its primary purpose or use is to establish, develop and maintain human relationships» (Wang et al. 2011, p. 46). The technology imagined in “Be Right Back” fits quite well in this framework. The story imagines that the technological reproduction of a deceased works surprisingly well in linguistic-communicative terms, but only to the point when the deceased is actually reproduced with a material body. Such a ’body’ and its behaviours show charecteristics that recall certain kinds of textuality (further insights into this topic are however not developed here). The chapter also highlights that the bodily reproduction of the deceased protagonist does not show fundamental human features such as free will, rationality, and compassion. In conclusion the episode seems to exemplify the ‘death of the neighbour’, a theory developed by L. Zoja (2019). The comparison with Solaris by A. Tarkovsky strenghtens these conclusions.
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Last Modified:
November 15, 2022
Bibliographic citation:
Rizza, Alfredo, The ‘death of neighbour’ seen in a Black Mirror (Be right back on Solaris) Reading »Black Mirror«. Insights into Technology and the Post-Media ConditionTranscript2021pp. 257-276

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Testualità, tecnologie, teorie (linea di ricerca) Department Culture e Civiltà Alfredo Rizza


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