Dreaming Online: The Global Cyberspace Dreamsharing Community

A taste of Cyberspace for those wondering what's going on with dreaming and Internet

If you haven't been online yet, your first experience might be something like walking into a surprise party. Everyone wants your attention and many will share your same interests, no matter how off-beat. I know that Al Gore talks about the "Information Super-highway" (1) and everyone gets excited about how much data is available but the real surprises online are the people. This human connection exists at several levels, from casual and committed one on one relationships, to global community connectivity and activism. As might be expected, these levels of relationship hold true for dream concerned individuals and groups as well.

What is the Internet?

Originally designed as ARPA Net by the U.S. Defence Department in the late 1960's to protect political telecommunications in case of an atomic war, the net was a series of four computers that all shared & exchanged the same information. By 1971 it had attracted the attention of the universities and there were 21 host computers, but no one was sure what the common language was going to be between all these computers. By 1982, the decision was made (TCP/ IP), and by 1986 there were 5,000 host computers , mostly at universities and government offices and all able to talk the same language and share the same information. By 1989, the Internet hit the public and media and there were 100,000 host computers. The last figure I heard for 1995 was that the Net had reached 5 million computers. (2)

To be connected to the internet, all one has to have now is a computer, a modem, some Internet software and an account with an Internet Service Provider. If you don't have a free university or government account, there are a multitude of providers and most now give you all the software you need when you sign up with them. The average cost ranges from $10 - $25 per month. The number of people using the Internet is already uncountable, but to give you a tool by which to guess the near future , I want to paraphrase Bill Clinton's October 1995 directive: "By the year 2000, all U.S. schools K-12 will be connected." (3) What will we and our children have access to when we start a computer net search for "Dreams"?

Dreaming in Cyberspace

To answer that question, it is important to know the distinction between the Internet and Cyberspace. The Internet is a more technical term, the way we connect with one another in computer mediated communications. Cyberspace is the place where this all happens. And there are several kinds of platforms or venues in Cyberspace that dream concerned individuals use. The most popular are E-mail, World Wide Web (WWW) and Usenet.

Usenet, IRC and Chatrooms

Usenet is a group of electronic discussion boards started in 1979 to discuss various university curriculum topics, but since that time Usenet has exploded into hundreds of topic from saving the rainforests to chat about the latest episode of the X-files. Like a real bulletin board, one can post messages, read other's messages and leave replies. The first dream bulletin board (alt.dreams) went up just a couple years ago and allows individuals to post dreams and dream related issues as well as making comments on the posts that go up. Some people want advice on how to recall dreams, some want their dreams interpreted, some want to start small online dreamsharing groups. The level of discussion is very uneven and the board is predominately used as a way for people new to dreaming online to ask questions and get connected with more serious projects. But I'm hoping in the near future to include on alt.dreams discussions on dream theory, dream research and the wide array of techniques used by dreamworkers. Also I see alt.dreams as an excellent venue for networking local and regional dream groups, distributing news and developing mutually supportive projects.

In the last year, two more dream related Usenet groups have appeared. The first is alt.dreams.lucid, a discussion board just for lucid dreaming issues, and alt.dreams.Castaneda, which discusses all of the Castaneda issues, but seems most invigorated by the variations on lucid dreaming that are being practiced. Other newsgroups such as alt.psychology.Jung and talk.religion.new age will occasionally discuss dreams in light of their own particular viewpoints.

A spin-off of the newsgroups are the real time internet Relay Chat channels. On the IRC channels you can enter one of hundreds of ongoing real time discussions, simply by typing in a sentence or two and sending it to a screen where others in the room are also sending sentences. Or you can create you own rooms, invite your friends or associates or wait for visitors. Complex interactions and threads can take place but generally the quality is usually lower than on Usenet. There are exceptions. These Chat rooms are also available on most commercial online servers and Fred Olsen has been doing dream reentry work on both Genie and AOL. His directed questions style works quite well in this real time mode. Another notable exception is the Dream Studio, which Donna Campos opens on Mondays nights at 6:00 PM EST on Compuserve. She invites a different guest each week to discuss a variety of dream topics. The key to these chat channels seems to be having a host or guiding moderator.

The World Wide Web (WWW): Internet Gets a Friendly Face

In 1990, a couple of CERN physicists in Switzerland were given the task of developing a network that could be used by a variety of international physicists. What they came up with was the World Wide Web, a system that could go out on the Net and use any resource. In 1993, Marc Andreessen gave this route a friendly face by developing for NCSA (National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the Univ. of Ill. in Urbana-Champaign) a program called Mosaic browser. He gave Mosaic away to the public for free. By December of 1993, over a thousand browsers a day were being downloaded (taken from the net).

What these browsers do is allow net connected users to travel from one friendly page to another at the click of a mouse. These friendly pages, or web sites (collections of pages), run about $10.00 to $30.00 a month to put up commercially and are free to many university students. What do people put on these pages? Everything! Pictures of themselves and their kids, one's life story, all the things you want to sell, and links that let you jump to other sites, your friends' sites, your business site, similar interest sites. And so, of course, we all put the dreams and dream information we want other people to know about on our web pages.

There are now dozens of Web sites that include information on dreams and dreaming. Dream Network Journal has as site, Electric Dreams has a site, and even ASD and the Lucidity Institute Inc., have sites. A good place to start browsing is a directory of many (not all) dream sites on Yahoo web directory. I've also made available a file called Dream Guide to the Internet which covers most of the sites and how dreaming is represented online. (4)

There are also several dream sharing sites now on the Web. The most interactive and sophisticated at this time is Dream Link. At Dream Link, you can not only finds lots of information about dreams, but actually participate in interactive dreams sharing. It works kind of like a specialized bulletin board. You go to the site with a Web browser and leave your dream and information about your dream. Linton and Becky Hutchison distribute your dream to their network and put both your dream and comments on the dream back up on one of their web pages. The future of the Internet is to be found in the Web. The now static pages will give way to real time video channels and more Interactive forums. But at this time, the one thing you can't get on your Web browser is electronic mail, and e-mail rules the Internet.

E-mail, E-zines and Mail Lists.

In early 1993 when the Web was still more of a great idea than a reality, if you wanted to connect with someone on more than a superficial level you used email. We still do. E-mail is like a regular letter except that it's cheaper and faster. I can send a ten page letter from my home in San Francisco to my friends in Australia for about 3 cents. And it gets there in minutes. (Of course, they are probably asleep and won't read and reply for several hours!) What is even better, I can make a copy of that letter and send it to everyone I have-ever met in Cyberspace with an Internet e-mail address (say about a thousand addresses) for the same 3 cents. If I did this, I would probably get 999 letters back, each costing me 3 cents, telling me to knock it off and please send only relevant, personal letters - but I think the point is clear.

E-mail mini-dream groups are easy to start and inexpensive to maintain. They have sprung up all over the globe. Usually with a dozen or less participants, email groups share dreams and comments about each other's dreams. They may last a week, or become a permanent group of friends.

In August of 1993, I found one such community that had grown to about 30 members and put out every couple of weeks a magazine, (or e-zine) Electric Dreams. Originally the community used the e-zine to distribute dreams and comments on the dreams from previous issues. But the members wanted to cut down on the 2 week time lag between dreams and comments. The solution was to have the dreams distributed to those interested in commenting so that dreams and comments would be printed together every week or two.

These dreamsharings were certainly not the same as off-line or face-to-face groups, but I felt very excited about the process and felt there was a great networking potential in sharing dreams on a global scale. I had recently been impressed with the networking style of Jill Gregory, the director of the Novato Center for Dreams. Through a variety of news bulletins, dream groups and other interpersonal projects, the dreamers in the Bay area maintain a creative personal community, while at the same time staying in contact with the international dream community. I wanted to model this regional approach on a global scale and added news, projects and other forums to the Electric Dreams community - but the core of the process, the dreamsharing, still needed some anchoring.

Early in 1995 I found an online model for dreamsharing. John Herbert had been running a variation of Montague Ullman style groups on the America Online (AOL) Seniornet. John had also run these groups earlier on local Bulletin Boards or BBS and compared them to face-to-face groups. (5) These BBS are local computer networks that allow people to dial up and participate in various activities, from getting software to playing games, to doing genealogical research. He would have the participants work on one dream at a time, first asking clarification questions, then making comments in the Ullman "if this were my dream..." style. At each step, the dreamer had a chance to respond if he or she wished. Now on AOL, John uses a similar bulletin board style, and participants can anonymously post dreams and comments within the mediated process. His preliminary research indicates that the online groups provide as much or more insight than face-to-face groups. Generally he attributes this to the reflective, unpressured time that dreamer and respondents have to make comments.

I took this process back to the Electric Dreams community, modified it for e-mail and have been trying out variations for about a year. The first were round-robins, where we had one file and a list of participants. The file was passed around with the next addresses of where to send the file. As the growing file passed through the mediator and dreamer, the next phase was enacted; from dream presentation, to clarification questions, to replies and comments. It was an administrative nightmare. We switched to a process suggested by Jay Vinton to simply have everyone maintain the group list and send each comment or reply to everyone else on the list. This has worked pretty well and if the continually positive and enthusiastic comments received from the dreamers at the end of the process continue, the two week group mail list will become a permanent fixture to the Electric Dreams community.

The two week Post-and-Comment style dreamsharing is still a part of Electric Dreams and recently I added a special mail list distribution and communication channel to facilitate this. Interested subscribers join the list and can not only submit dreams, but discuss the dreams as well as comments and aspects of dream interpretation in general. Bob Krumhansl pulls all the relevant dialogues, dreams and comments together and we publish them for the whole community every two or three weeks.

Electric Dreams continues to be a kind of eye on Internet for dreamers and a forum for direct dreamsharing, education and news. But even more it is a swarm of mutant butterflies in Cyberspace, a community experimenting with dreamsharing at its core. New forms of dreamsharing appear every week and with the addition of new technologies, even more forms will soon be available.

Technological Solution or Social Revolution?

Many people are wary of the Internet and the promises of its being just the latest in a series of 19th and 20th Century technological solutions that end up causing more harm than good. I agree with this caution and feel the Net will probably bring with it more problems than solutions. Just like democracy and Rock & Roll. I'm afraid it is already past the point of trying to pack it up and send it back to National Science Foundation. What we can do is become involved and shape the way that online interaction occurs. For example, just as with off-line dreamsharing, on line dreamsharing continues the valuing of inner resourcefulness, of intuitive perception, of supporting each person in being his or her own authority in matters of meaning and value and bringing those out into the community at large.

I don't mean to offer online dreamsharing as better than off-line. I'd rather not set up a feeling of competition here; I personally love the physical embodiments of dream drama and the risky emotional contact and personal closeness of face-to-face meetings. This is just not available at this time on the Net. Rather, I'd like to present online dreamsharing as something new, opening a new niche, a new wavelength that is different from face-to-face dream sharing. Online dreamsharing complements and supports all other kinds of dream sharing through the more specific development of reflective skills and more general global dissemination of the benefits of communities tied together through the sharing of dreams.


(1) Gore, Al (1991 Sept.). Infrastructure for the global village. Scientific American, 265 (3), 150-153.

(2) Gaffin, Adam (Oct, 1995). EFF's Guide to the Internet. Electronic Frontier Foundation.

(3) Clinton, Bill (1995). October Speech at Fairmont: San Francisco, CA. [Actually, its not just Internet that this administration plans to connect schools to but an even faster network now in development]

(4) Wilkerson, Richard (1996) DreamGuide to the Internet. San Francisco: DreamGate Publications. For a free copy of this guide go to the IIDCC Gopher, URL: gopher://gopher.igc.apc.org:70/11/orgs/iidcc/ articles/4

(5) Herbert, John (1991). Human science research methods in studying dreamwork: Qualitative and quantitative analysis of face-to-face and computer network dreamwork groups. Unpublished Study - Saybrook Institute July 20, 1991.

Web URLs cited in article:

Dream Network: http://waking.com/waking/dream - or - http://www.hmtp.com/new/dream/dream.html

Yahoo Dream Web Directory: http://www.Yahoo.com/Science/Psychology/SleepandDreams/

The Lucidity Institute, Inc. http://www.best.com:8O/~lucidity/

Electric Dreams Ezine Homepage: http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/~ mettw/edreams/home.html

IIDCC DreamGate Community (International Internet Dream Community Center) gopher://gopher.igc.apc.org/70/11/orgs/tidcc