Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (1999 Fall). Electric Dream Visions from the ASD 1999 Conference. Updates, Events and Horizons. Dream Time Cyberphile. Dream Time 16(4).


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The Dream Cyberphile

by Richard Catlett Wilkerson

In this issue the Cyberphile will summerize the synergy of cyberspace at the 1999 Conference, explore the visions and research offered, look at ways to better your own online projects and offer highlights and insights to the future of the Internet.

California Dreaming Online

The 1999 ASD Santa Cruz Conference provided a variety of places and venues for the discussion and exploration of dreams and the Internet. Panel discussions, presentations, exhibits and Peggy Coat's daily Computer Cafe filled the original menu. The excitement overflowed the scheduled events and became an aroma that could be followed through the whole conference. The level of communication and planning soared on the wings of emerging technologies and consciousness that are opening into the 21st Century. On a personal level, "I will talk to you next conference." was replaced by "I'll e-mail you next week!" and "That sound like a good idea." has been replaced by "Let's set up a Web Site, bring in Italy and France and get this project going!".

For me, a particularly grand, exotic and wonderful community of Dreaming in Cyberspace emerged the conference. The multitude of projects that each had their own lives and destinies began to emerge from below the buzzing electric matrix and form together into a common realization that the 21st Century in dreaming is going to be alive, global, and more interesting that we could ever have imagined.

Cyber-Dreamwork & Research at Santa Cruz

The tools, skills and values that have been developed in dreamwork and dream research will form the core material from which the cyber-dream future will emerge, and we had a chance to review what we have learned. Peggy Coats(1) offered a panel on Dreams and the Internet which brought together many of the pioneers in this area to discuss what has happened since the 1996 panel in Berkeley. At the 1996 conference the question was whether or not dreamwork could ethically and safely be engaged online and the answer was unanimously "Yes!" At the 1999 conference, it was clear that this still holds true, but the issue has become more complex. Jeremy Taylor ended the AOL DreamShow when AOL wanted his groups to shift to a pay-for-dreamwork system. John Herbert noted that moderated groups were essential to teach people the "If this were my dream" non-projective techniques. Linda Magallón noted that swiping dreams online for research without asking seems a questionable ethical move and suggested we always "Ask First!". Jayne Gackenbach has been researching the effects of cyber and virtual reality on the human body and mind(2) and has been asking just what we are really doing by dragging people into virtual realities? Is this a just a new thing to learn, or are we fundamentally altering and restructuring our consciousness? The conclusion seems even more unbelievable than the question. It appears as if there is a whole new consciousness emerging that may be described as the Internet itself beginning to dream. The basic skills of dreamwork may soon serve us as we find that we are living in the dream of the world as well as in our own dreams. Hopefully, as Magallón has suggested, whatever imaginary we find ourselves in, we can behave and treat the other in a peer or partnership paradigm. I will return to the notion of the world-as-alive later.

Research Projects

Many wonderful research projects were demonstrated at the Cyber-Cafe over the week, including Dreaming Arnold Schwarznegger , NADIS: Numinous Archives Dream Interactive System,

Bjo Ashwill's dream journal and content analysis program and Robert Bosnak's cyberdreamwork program.

Bosnak's cyberdreamwork gives us a particularly good example of how the environment is about to become "alive". At the demonstration, Bosnak connected himself to a computer mediated GSR system (lie detector) and had a voice conference call via the Internet with three dreamworkers on the East Coast. Since ASD does not allow dreamwork online at this time, Robert offered himself as the subject and dreamer. As he told his dream and as the dreamworkers asked him questions about the dream and its meanings, we were able to watch the responses as well a general mood fluctuations. Bosnak points out that this kind of technology is just the beginning of a whole range of interactive relations that will be available in our communications.

For more on this project, see http://www.cyberdreamwork.com

If you missed any of these presentations, you can still visit the Comptuer Cafe at


Also, as part of the electric conference, were the content and category dream research sites of Bill Domhoff and Patricia Garfield. Bill Domhoff and Adam Schneider have added to the Content Analysis Site by opening DreamBank.. DreamBank allows casual users to sort through thousands of dreams by topic and generate thematic collections. I went through this part of the site, for example, and collected computer dreams from various population samples. With a research grant from DreamBank, you can also access a wider group of dreams and perform various Hall-Van de Castle content analysis searches.


If you have been reading recent Dream Times issues, you will also be aware of the Universal Dreams project of Patricia Garfield. This project is an experimental approach to developing categories of dreams in meaningful and common themes, such falling, losing objects, discovering new rooms and so on. If you have collections of dreams, you can stop by the Universal Dreams Web site and enter your collection or take the survey.


If you have a research project, the ASD Web site has page where you can display and explain your research and gather subjects and data. Contact Peggy Coats pcoats@dreamtree.com for more and ask her to display your research on http://www.dreamtree.com for extra exposure.

Jeremy Taylor mentioned that the Dream Show archives on AOL contain at 60,000 dreams. Finally, on dream research databanks, there is the many-years collection of the online dream sharing E-zine, Electric Dreams. Bob Krumhansl each month has taken dreams that have been offered to the e-zine and put them in easy to locate categories. For back issues of Electric Dreams go to http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams.

World Alive or Models of Simulation?

In 1989 Harry Hunt(3) noted that dreams, like other heavily visual-spatial patterning systems, tend to favor over time the movements of presentational symbolism (right brain, intuitive, emotional, direct felt qualities and rhythm). At the same time, representational symbolism (sequential, judgmental, logical-intellectual features) is slowly derailed. "More specifically, dreaming exteriorizes the processes of cross-modal synesthetic translation and mutual reorganization that may constitute the core of all symbolic intelligence" (pg. 206)

Jayne Gackenbach, in her presentation on Dreams and the Electronic Age(4), has moved this notion into a cultural context and, like the more recent of Hunt's theories, expanded the focus from the lone dreamer to the dreamer within a variety of virtual worlds and simulated realities. Here the question shifts from a what dreams are or aren't to a general question about consciousness as it moves through and is altered by emerging states of reality; dream reality, mystical reality, virtual reality and cyber-reality. More specifically, what is happening to our brains and minds as we re-organize our lives in or in conjunction with virtual reality?

It is interesting to note that the most popular dream conference systems online for young adults are the lucid dreaming and shamanic dreaming channels.(5) What is going on that lucidity and mythic Dungeons&Dragons type systems of dreaming fascinate and absorb our children's time and attention? Gackenbach's research seems to indicate that part of this is our kids's innate need for spirituality and the time they spend playing video games. With my generation, the non-interactive TV was the model for the substitute parent. We learned to question reality in general, but rarely questioned whether the present moment was real. A flock of therapies and spiritual exercises served that purpose. Now the media is interactive and the question of reality is constantly on the minds of those who play video games and those who participate in cyber-environments. The existential attention continually differentiates between real and simulated reality.

Is this simply an adjustment to new technology or is something else occurring here? Gackenbach brought up the notion of cognitive amplifiers which may be creating a whole new kind of consciousness. In their simple forms these amplifiers may be seem as any consciousness enhancing techniques like meditation, mindfulness, language acquisition and video game playing. These amplifiers not only augment consciousness, but may fundamentally change it. Hunt notes that these changes do not stop at the abstract/verbal level of processing, but continue to develop in higher states of consciousness, in nonlinear modes of spatial thinking and multi-modal processing which integrates self and affect with cognition.

In other world, the new media immersion we live in may be creating cultural amplifiers that are augmenting and altering us in ways we will hardly recognize but profoundly change us. As we immerse ourselves in the new environments, we become part of the environment.

This is nothing new to dreamworkers. The dreamworld is an internally generated virtual reality in the same way that video games are an externally generated reality. To the degree that both the dreamworld walls and virtual walls react and interact, they begin to functionally become quite similar. In a short time, due to interface with the Internet, the interactivity of video games (externally generated interactive virtual realities) will not be limited to nausea creating helmets, but will be on our walls, our cars, our clothes.

The consensus at the 1999 Santa Cruz conference was not to pull back from this onslaught of simulation and hyper-reality, but to engage with it in a way that allows us to co-create and import the values we have learned though dreamwork. As Stephen Aizenstat suggested in "Tending the Dream is Tending the World"(6), we have failed in our attempt to impose ecology sustaining and socially rational values on the world. Perhaps in learning to listen to what the World wants we will hear an emergent theme that has been previously drowned out by our forced interpretations.

What are these values embodied by dreamworkers?

Dreamworkers are generally very familiar with mediated realities. As Jeremy Taylor continually stated during the conference, a major job of living in simulated reality is work on projection, the task of separating who we are and who you are and what it is and what is me. This work used to be just the providence of psychotherapy, but has now grow to be included in many programs of spiritual growth, self-enhancement or interpersonal relations. At this time there are excellent models of non-projective dreamwork online. One is the "If this were my dream.." approach(7) which allows individuals in a dream group to participate by engaging their own fantasy systems and taking the dream as if it were their own. Another is the dream interview, as used by many Jungians and made popular by Gayle Delaney. A variation of this is dream-reentry, where the dreamer is led back through the dream with questions, and alternative imaginal pathways are explored.

Cyber-place rather than Cyberspace. As Robert Bosnak has noted, cyberspace tends to de-value the body. It is "wetware", there are "flesh-meets", there is the fantasy of dropping the body and beaming up, uploading from the dirty particular into an abstract model of a clean digital. Bosnak sees that this is only a phase. Cyberspace was built and originally inhabited by boys. Now the statistics are changing and women are increasingly coming online and changing the landscape, giving it civilization, bodily value and place significance. While boys prefer video game, young women chose chat rooms. The negative evaluation of the body may disappear as cyber-ecologies become less a place to fight and compete and more a place of spirit, of soul, a place to be rather than a place to conquer and pass through. Here dreamwork is of great value in slowing down the hyper-jumping. For example, when Princess Diana died(8) , the media flooded our fields with continual new but pointless news and events. One woman said she just didn't have time to grieve, as the next event grabbed for attention, the latest non-news about what happened became a headline.. However, in our online dream groups, we began working with these dreams and found that we could create cyber-environments where dwelling and grieving were possible. This story- telling quality of the Internet is has opened many new channels and will surely be a key to creating cyber-ecologies that sustain spirit. When we have, as Bosnak suggested, place without location, we will have to re-work our notions and habits of space and relationship. Our narratives may create this bridge and dreamworkers have many skills in taking fragmented images and weaving them into a meaningful store.

Symbol vs Sign. Dreamworkers are very familiar with Jung's continual de-valuation of the sign and valorization of the symbol. Signs simply point to something else, while symbols imagistically hold two or more great powers in a kind of suspension that allows for a transcendent new reality to emerge. But we need to keep a close watch on the sign as well. We are in the "Age of the Sign", according to many postmodern thinkers and cultural theorists. In this sense, culture is like an enormous mobile, with each hanging piece a reflective arrow pointing to and mirroring other signs, an endless sliding of signification where even the central string that holds them together has been forever lost. As Jean Baudrillard notes(9), in primitive [his term] and even medieval societies, there was a one-to-one correspondence with the sign. We could look at the marks on a person's body or the clothes they wore and we knew what that meant. Then the correspondence began to waiver, theater took the place of ritual and psychology the place the myth. Now we are just ending an age where the meaning and values have been stripped from any cultural practices and re-coded on capital. That is, value is often exchange-value in dollars. Once something has become valued as a commodity, its values are re-coded on capital and the older meanings get lost. As Robert Bosnak has noted, Mercury is the god of the Internet and this god is a deity of commerce. In recognizing that commerce is a deity, we learn, as with other archetypes, not to fight it directly but to do our own work. Baudrillard suggests this as well in contrasting symbolic exchange with sign exchange. Symbolic exchange lives outside of capital economy and is more tied into the exchange of gifts, of looks, of excess and festival and celebration and carnival. Dreams, dreamwork and dream sharing fit quite well into this scheme as dreams have always resisted commodification and thereby been de-valued by our culture. But how do we do this inner work outside of exchange values without all becoming introverted?

How does a sign culture of money and status bridge with a symbolic community of the sacred and spirit? It is a shift in consciousness much like in dreamwork where the whole dream is seen a alive. In moving into a cyber-ecology, we can begin to see the whole environment as responsive and interactive. And just as in life we have learned (or not learned, as in poor ecological practices) the need to go beyond interacting person to person and include interacting person to environment. In archetypal psychology the terminology might be seeing soul in objects once considered trash. Rather than throwing away dreams and creating a trashed psyche, rather than piling up old tires and creating a garbage dump, we see that our life space is alive and needs of its own beyond our individual wills. Can we learn to listen? This question was continually addressed during the conference. Dreamworkers, all in their own ways, are developing the skills not only to listen to dreaming world, but to participate and dance in it. In this way, the annual ASD Dream Ball is perhaps the best model of what virtual reality is really going to be like. Everything will be a mask, but one which we can dance and celebrate. Technology desires to dream as well. We can help this desire along.

If you would like to join the online dream movement, drop me a line and we can talk about the many networking and creative possibilities available online in dreaming.

Please send in your Papers

If you gave a presentation at the ASD conference this year, we would like to post your presentation (or a link to your site) on the ASD site. Please send you presentation in any format to rcwilk@dreamgate.com

Dream Web Site Owners: Tips on Increasing Visitors.

Last month I opened this section and mentioned how difficult it is for those of you with dream products and books to get attention online. Everyone wants to download the latest browser from Netscape, but who even knows that your site exists? Last month I talked about how to use e-mail to network. This month I want to suggest to you to add secret words to the pages on your web site. Secret Words? Well, they really aren't *secret*, they are technically called *hidden* words or meta tag statements. These live on your web page but are not seen by people casually visiting your site. But they do live inside your web page and direct the thousands of search engines on the Internet and tell them all about your site, how to index your site and what not to list. You can see what other people have done, and not done, buy selecting on your browser the "SOURCE" option. This reveals the hidden codes on a page, any page in your browser. The main meta tag or hidden statement you want to focus on is the KEYWORDS. These are words that people type in when they are looking for a topic online. But it is also important to have a SUBJECT and DESCRIPTION. You can simply fill these out and give these to your web manager and have them added to you site, or you can use forms online to help guide you through the process. Here is one site that after you fill out the form, will actually generate all the needed meta tags for your web site. You simple copy and paste them into the code of your site, or ask your web manager to add them.


Next issue: Getting on the right Search Engines! In the meantime, be sure to stop by the www.asdreasms.org site and visit the statistics pages to see why people visit our site and where they come from.


Final ASD Web Highlights:

The ASD Discussion Bulletin Board with Jean Campbell


The ASD DreamArts newsletter with Dawn Hill


Bibliography and Citations

1. Coats, Peggy (chair) (1999). "Dreams on the Internet." A panel presentation at the Conference for the Association for the Study of Dreams, Santa Cruz CA. [AUDIO TAPE] July 8th, 1999, University of California at Santa Cruz. [Peggy Coats, Jayne Gackenback, John Herbert, Linda Magallon, Richard Wilkerson]

2. Gackenbach, J. (No date). Video Game Play and the Development of Consciousness. Athabasca University [Online]. Available: http://www.sawka.com/spiritwatch/videogame.html [1999, July 30].

3. Hunt, Harry (1989). The Multiplicity of Dreams: Memory, Imagination and Consciousness. New Haven: Yale University Press.

4. Gackenback, Jayne (chair) (1999). "Dreaming in the Electronic Age." A presentation at the Conference for the Association for the Study of Dreams, Santa Cruz CA. [AUDIO TAPE] July 8th, 1999, University of California at Santa Cruz. [Jayne Gachenbach and Robert Bosnak].

5. See the Usenet Newsgroups such as alt.dream.lucid and alt.dreams.castaneda and alt.pagan and alt.gothic, talk.newage.religion

6. Aizenstat, Stephen (1999) "Tending the Dream is Tending the World." A presentation at the Conference for the Association for the Study of Dreams, Santa Cruz CA. July 8th, 1999, University of California at Santa Cruz.

7. Herbert, J.W.(1991) "Human Science Research Methods in Studying Dreamwork: Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Face-to-Face and Computer Dream Work Groups." Unpublished Manuscript, Saybrook Institute, San Francisco. [Online]. Available: http://users.aol.com/john0417/HuSci/Greet.html [1999, July 30].

8. Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (1998 Winter/Spring). Dream Sharing In Cyberspace Continue Updates, Events and Horizons. Dream Time Cyberphile. Dream Time 15(1&2). [Online]. Available: http://www.dreamgate.com/dream/cyberphile/rcwasd08.htm [1999, July 30].

9. Wilkerson, Richard Catlett. (1999). Signs of Simulation, Symbols beyond Value: Baudrillard and Dreamwork. In A Brief History of Dream Sharing, Theory, Techniques & Cyberspace. San Francisco: DreamGate.com Publishing. [Online]. Available: http://www.dreamgate.com/pomo

[1999, July 30]

This article may be slightly altered from its original form on the ASD Newsletter to conform to Web Format.