Electric Dreams


History Notes

Richard Wilkerson

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Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (1997 August). Cyberdream - History Notes. Electric Dreams 4(7). Retrieved July 26, 2000 from Electric Dreams on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams

I thought I would include this article for those of you who need a short summary of dream sharing online. This is a reprint of an topic I brought up on the Cybermind discussion list.


Date:Tue, 5 Aug 1997 23:50:27 -0400
From:AOL User <RCWilk@AOL.COM>
Subject: Cyberdreams - History Notes

Cyber-dream - History Notes

Dreams form a valuable group of objects in our culture in that, among other things, resist commodification. They are free, and its hard to sell them, or even get attention for them. It is no wonder the capital cultures attempt to teach us through mother's voice that "it's just a dream".We are taught to be bored and disinterested in other's dreams and see them as narcissistic indulgences and random neural foam.

Now that the grassroots dreamwork movement that has been growing since the sixties is online, there is an unique opportunity to watch and participate in how this unfolds in cyberspace.

When I first came online most of the dream sharing was done via email and occasional IRC. I tried to track down dream sharing in MUDs and MOOs, but it has proven to be too spontaneous. Someone will mention a dream they had, others may join in. If you have records of this, send me a reference.
All of the dream sharing at that time was non-clinical, grassroots insight and peer relationship oriented. The quality varied widely. Many groups achieved very imaginal, though time limited, insight groups. Sometimes it was just spew of folklore and pseudo-psychology.

The first really unique cyber-dream groups were developed by John Herbert as offshoots of his work in prisons and on BBSs. John migrated from the WELL to AOL when Seniornet offered him free bulletin board space to conduct his research. They really had him buried there, and it took me months to find him even after I heard he was doing dreamwork online.

John's study compared offline and online groups, revealing that while face-to-face groups, as he calls them, offer a more emotional experience, the online groups were self-rated as higher in insight by the dreamer presenting the dream. If you are interested in his work, see:

Herbert, J.W.(1991).Human Science Research Methods in Studying Dreamwork: Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Face-to-Face and Computer Dream Work Groups&quot; Unpublished Manuscript, Saybrook Institute, San Francisco, http://users.aol.com/john0417/HuSci/Greet.html
(25 Nov.1996)

About the same time the Usenet newsgroup alt.dreams emerged, originally suggested by Jack Campin as a way to study contemporary culture. He wanted a snapshot of dreams in the late 20th Century much in the same way that _The Third Reich of Dreams_gives a snapshot of the society in Nazi Germany. But it was soon apparent that the real appeal of alt.dreams was to share dreams and discussions about their significance and meaning.Now alt.dream.lucid and alt.dreams.castaneda have split off to form their own discussion areas. Still, there was continual disappointment around the dream sharing.

The original Electric Dreams community formed out of a response to the shallowness of these discussions. Using the unique Net abilities to send mail around cheaply, a group of 60 or so dreamers formed an e-zine of dreams and comments on dreams that they distributed bi-monthly. Eventually we began experimenting with Herbert's techniques via email, forming short lived but intensely focused groups. Unlike other mail lists that grow and shrink according to their own pattern, the Electric Dreams groups automatically unsubscrib*d everyone automatically at the end of each group. The key technique seem to be having everyone own upfront their own psychological projections, by saying prefacing, either literally or in an implied way "In my dream..."Or " If this were my dream...."This reduced the group as something being "done" to the dreamer and opened up the energy for the whole group to participate in.

About this time the Web was beginning to take off and an explosion of unique cyber-dream sharing began, from interpretive services to free comment boards to a wild and wide variety of non- interpretive sharing, such as dream inspired art galleries, hyperlinked dream journals and soulful mythical education centers arising from cultural and archetypal psychology.

In 1996 the Association for the Study of Dreams held its annual conference in Berkeley, and this was a hard time for the Electric Dreams community. Basically the ASD board was very wary of dream sharing online and determined to not have any exhibitions of this at the conference. This was during that paranoid time when the only reports to the general public on the Net seemed to be about child abuse and pornography. (The planning for the conference was all in 1994-1995).The board was very generous about dreams and computers in other ways and gave us room enough for the week to set up a half dozen computers, have demos, clinics, seminars, and discussion panels. Just no dream sharing. That was taboo. I'm still struggling with policies of linkage with the online web site.

The issue of free speech in Cyberspace then began to take prominence. As you can guess, some dreams and dream sharing can dip very quickly into - well, odd and adult topics. This has forced us to remind people who sign up for groups that they *are*, at this time, meant for adults. There is no reason they couldn't be handled appropriately with children, but no one to my knowledge has yet attempted to run such a group.

For the text of a sample group,

Once dreams have been liberated from the couch and brought out into the culture at large, a wonderful group of events seem to occur, at least within the group. New ways of entertaining dream images that are not tied to medical models begin to unfold in a wide variety of directions.

And that's the question I like to keep putting out - what are ways to approach dream images on the Net that provide meaning and value? Poetically speaking, what does the dream image itself call for that can happen only in current electric currents?