Digital Zombie

Ash embodies remediation, a term that appeared in Ewan Kirkland’s article “Resident Evil’s Typewriter: Survival Horror and Its Remediations,” and was defined as “digital media’s deployment of old media formations in constructing new media” (115). In the Black Mirror episode “Be Right Back,” the real Ash at the beginning of the episode is the ‘old media’ and the new robot Ash is the ‘new media’. Basically, he is a digital zombie. But the problem presented in the episode is the difference between digitized memories and memories that social media never experienced, such as Ash’s memory behind his childhood photo which was sad and connected to his brother’s and father’s deaths. But when zombie Ash sees it, he calls it funny. Social media cannot fully replicate Ash because it works on the assumption that people put their whole lives on social media, which is impossible. Even with the addition of Martha’s personal messages and videos, the artificial intelligence cannot account for Ash’s life before social media which founded who he is and moments not captured between Ash and Martha, represented by zombie Ash’s inability to react when Martha places his hand on her chest. As Kirkland writes, “the lack of ‘the real’ in digital media represents a central problematic for horror video games whose affect depends on evoking a tangible experience of imperilment, embodiment, and spatial depth” (116). Zombie Ash struggles with the same problem. Part of “the lack of ‘the real’” is the navigation between 2D and 3D, which Kirkland gives the example of video games making the connection between the player and the avatar body by using “erratic uncontrollable avatar movements combined with joypad vibration” (117). The joypad vibration is the physical connection between the player and the avatar body and attempts to cross the border from 2D to 3D, but still lacks the real. Ash’s avatar body is physically present in 3D and has the visual details of the human body like pores and lines, but his skin is smooth. When Martha asks him how he is so smooth, Ash replies, “It’s texture mapping. The really tiny details are visual, 2D.” He then tells her to touch his fingertips, and she feels no fingerprint. It is the little details like that and breathing, sleeping, and eating – the lack of the real – that remind Martha he is not Ash.

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