The Internet as a Dream Journal1
Richard Catlett Wilkerson
The most common way to record a dream today is in a dream journal. However, this was not always so. Early dream sharing was most likely verbal and done around a village fire. Whoever else happened to be awake at the time acted as the journal, a human surface against which the dream was recorded. Rather than the private and isolated act that keeping a journal has become, the dream was originally distributed across the social network.
Contemporary dream groups have helped bridge this gap between the isolated dreamer and his/her society. But since we donít wake up within direct earshot of the group, sequestered journal keeping remains our primary recording medium. The Internet canít yet give back the intimate social experience of the village fire, but it does offer new opportunities in social recording and processing. With a few selections, one can both record and share a dream at the same time. The dream might go out anonymously to a general public or be shared with more personal details in an intimate group.
E-mail will automatically stamp a date and time on your dream record. Even if you send the e-mail to yourself, this creates a dated journal. Many e-mail programs offer special mail boxes, that will automatically sort through both incoming and outgoing e-mail. Most people use these for sorting incoming mail from a particular topic area or person, but they can just as easily be used to keep a record of dreams.
E-mail can be further configured to distribute to a group. Different groups now online offer different methods for recording your dreams and getting different types responses. Willem Linschoten offers a group called the Daily Analyst. Willem is a psychiatrist but offers the group as a public exploration of psychoanalytic dynamics. Participants, mostly from the Netherlands and America, create a living journal of dream adventures against a heuristic background of educational essays and comments.
The Daily Analyst - http://callisto.worldonline.nl/~cb008448
For those who like group projects, mutual dreaming and psychic dream tests, the Intuition Network offers the e-mail list email@example.com. Here dreams are send in with subject titles marked with a "d." indicating a dream, or a regular subject title for conversation. The group has different levels of self-revelation, from full anonymity to full disclosure. Everyone is on a first name basis and the feeling tone is very friendly.
http://www.intuitions.org select Conferences to find the Dream list.
MorpheusDreams is a new list that specializes in dreams and spirituality. The forum leader, Dr. Deus, is quite active and responsive and the center of the group. Special topics, such as dreams of the dead and transcendent dreams will cycle from one week to the next. The moderator likes to generate lots of mythological associations, and has as his stated motive the proof of a divine soul.
The Electric Dreams community offers three different dream journal opportunities via e-mail. The first is a list called dream-flow. This is an open list, where dreams and comments on dreams flow in and out from a variety of sources. The dreams and comments are doubly recorded. The e-mail posts are archived publicly and they are also published once a month on the Electric Dreams e-zine, which is the second e-mail list. Electric Dreams also allows dreamers to send in pictures and dream inspired graphics in an illustrated version of the same e-zine. Electric Dreams is also archived online in a distributed manner, with members keeping full and partial collections on mirror sites, creating a redundant and thereby robust memory and archiving system.
The Electric Dreams community offers a third e-mail group, called the DreamWheels. [No connection with the wonderful Ramsay Raymond Dreamwheel] These are more private groups that are limited in number and time or duration. They experiment with various kinds of dream sharing, the most popular being the styles developed by John Herbert for electronic channels in the early 1990s. [see Cyberphile 1997 ASD Newsletter 14(1)] The records of these groups are usually keep confidential, though they are occasionally published with the permission of the participants.
Bulletin Boards, Usenet Newsgroups and Web Sites.
Another way to use the Internet as a dream journal is to post dreams on a bulletin board. The most popular bulletin boards on dreams and dreaming are the Usenet Newsgroups. To contact these, you really need a news-reader program and your Internet provider [ISP] has to carry the groups. If you are on America Online, you can use the keyword "usenet" and then subscribe to the newsgroups you want.
The most popular dream boards are alt.dreams, alt.dreams.lucid and alt.dreams.castaneda but there are several others that talk about dreams and dreaming as well, including alt. jung alt.psyhology, alt.psychology.help and talk.religion.newage.
Posting to these boards creates two kinds of archived records. The first lasts about two weeks. During that time, people can comment on your posts, creating "threads" of notes that are connected to the original post. After that time, the posts go into long term holding archives. The best way to access these archives right now is via a search engine called Deja-News www.dejanews.com This service will also allow you to post messages without having direct access to the Usenet Newsgroups.
As an archiving service, these groups are very convenient. Dreams sent in to them will be time stamped and dated. Researchers can search via keywords. Donít expect too much in the way of intelligent comments at this time. The Oneiroatti have not yet found these groups. There are Internet Service Providers (ISP) such as America Online, MSN and Prodigy that offer bulletin board posting of dreams as well in their local forums. But the status of the posts, how long they will last and what happens to the archives over time is at present unclear. See for example the AOL Psych Online forums or the Alternative Medicine Forum, Altmed.
An alternative to the Newsgroups and ISPs is the individually owned web site. Jeremy Taylor, for example, provides a dream discussion area where dreams can be posted in the same style as on a Usenet Newsgroup. The guestbook has archives, but it is unclear what will happen with the posts over time.
An artistic variation is as site by Gail Bixler-Thomas, where dreamers can post the dream with a picture and the dreamerís own interpretation.
Jesse Reklaw has been providing a unique dream recording service for years, but only a few special dreams get chosen. He turns the chosen dreams sent in into comic strips, and these are archived.
Again, the length of the post is up to the individual Web site owner. The solution is to put up and maintain your own private Web site.
The private dream journal sites are too numerous to mention individually, but I wanted to point out a few of the characteristics and general flavor of these sites. Often they are like a normal journal, with dream collections from various time periods. These can vary widely. Some people have put online dream journal collections that cover many years of dreaming, while others have put up collections that cover a few days or months. Many of the sites include illustrations and are more like dream inspired art galleries, while others are completely text entries and pages. Some of the online journals include feedback forms and comments to the dreamer, while others allow for sorting and searching of particular dream themes. A new appearance has been the appearance of Web-Rings, which tie together themes, such as dream journals, together in a connected hyperlinking indexing system. Dan Cummings attempted a similar project within one web site. He linked themes within dreams to other sites. For example, creating links from a dream alligator to a site about mythic alligators and save the crocodile clubs. [see ASD Newsletter, 1995 12(2), 7]
Storing dreams and recording dreams in computers offline have been discussed by Peggy Coats (see above article) and others, such as Sarah Richards [ http://www.iris-publishing.com/] and Cynthia Pearson. ["The Dream Index: Thanks to Bill Gates, It's Working." Paper presentation, ASD-12, June 22, 1995.]
The channels of these journals used to be read-out-only or print. That is, we could print the files or read from them verbally or to ourselves. Now they are becoming more integrated with online programs and beginning to distribute themselves across the global network.
If you have been feeling anxious about this dispersal of private material into the public arena, you are not alone. The Internet has made the issue of private vs. public as problematic as the issue of nurture vs. nature. What happens, for example, when your boss reads your dream journals, or your husband, or children?
For those concerned about how dreams might expose material too personal to share, but still want feedback & social interaction, there is always anonymous sharing. This is the Internetís solution to confidentiality. E-mail accounts online are now free. That is, once you have established one e-mail account, you can sign up for several others. Netscape, Hotmail, Tripod and other ISPís give these away free in exchange for attention. AOL offers its members 5 or 6 e-mail name accounts. With these accounts you can send and receive mail anonymously. To protect people with dream about close friends, some people use the global find and replace on word processors to exchange personal names with pen names and pseudonyms.
Anonymous intimacy, public privacy, exteriorized interiors, networked emotional fields, computer mediated souls. Sound crazy? Welcome to the 21st Century! Here the boundaries of recording dreams and sharing them are in flux. Archiving can now just as easily be publishing. Recalling dreams may include a wide range of computer mediated assistance. The word "journal" becomes more of a perspective than an object, an organizing intelligence as well as a repository of data. We neednít get lost in the chaos. As the term "journal" begins to take on additional meanings and values, it forces us to more carefully extract and define the essence of these activities and practices. We begin to unfold the value that we place on dating and time stamping our dreams. We begin to explore the differences within and between the textual, verbal and graphic recordings.
We begin to examine the boundaries of representing and presenting dreams, of their beginnings and endings, their resistance and persistence. Is the dream over once we wake up and begin recalling it, or when we semi-lucidly begin recalling before fully waking up? What kind of record is it when the text is distributed over global networks and returned with comments?
There is one thing we can be sure of and that is the methods for recording and keeping dreams will continue to evolve and overflow the boundaries of our present day techniques and practices. This becomes especially so when the Internet itself is used as the village fire that acts as the pages of the manuscript. This digitally mediated journal is a fountain of networked flows through which you can truly transverse the inscription of your own dreams.
1. Originally published as part of the ASD Cyberphile: Wilkerson, Richard Catlett (Winter, 1999). The Internet as a Dream Journal. The Association for the Study of Dreams Cyberphile. Dream Time 16(1)