Way back in September, Greg posted news of a Kickstarter for SHADOW, a dream recording app & online community. The app’s creator, Hunter Lee Soik, assembled an impressive team of dream experts to help shape SHADOW — Kelly Bulkeley, Deirdre Barrett, Scott Sparrow, and the oneiroboss Ryan Hurd himself, to name a few. I’d planned to interview Hunter recently, but a near-miss with a car saw my phone get run over. Then my mac decided to go to the great apple tree in the sky. Thankfully, Hunter was unfazed by this conspiratorial Pauli Effect and kindly took time from his extremely busy schedule to answer a few questions via email (one for each hour of sleep you should all be getting).
As I type this, there are only forty winks hours to go until the Kickstarter ends. The pledge goal has been reached (which is fantastic news for the SHADOW team, congratulations!), and this is your last chance to snag some terrific swag and gain early access to SHADOW before it’s officially released next year. In the meantime, give your spinning top a whirl and enjoy the interview.
RMG:In a nutshell, what is SHADOW and how did it come about?
HLS: SHADOW is a mobile alarm clock that helps users remember and record their dreams in a global dream database. The idea came about when I finally started dreaming again after a dozen years of hard work and little sleep. I wanted to remember what I was experiencing in my sleeping life, but I couldn’t find an app that melded a social dream journal with the kind of sophisticated design aesthetic I was looking for. So I learned as much as I could about sleep and dreams, approached some dream researchers with the idea, and SHADOW was born.
RMG:How does the app actually work?
HLS: You set the alarm like any other alarm clock, but when it wakes you up it uses a series of escalating sounds that helps preserve your dreams. Traditional alarm clocks destroy dreams by transitioning you out of sleep too quickly. Once you’re awake, SHADOW prompts you to record your dreams via voice or text (you can speak directly into the app or type what you remember). Then, with your permission, we pull the keywords from your dream content and add it to a dream database, where we can sort and visualize global dream trends.
RMG:What are the advantages of sharing your dreams with the SHADOW community, as opposed to keeping an old fashioned pen and paper dream journal?
HLS: Because SHADOW turns dreams into data we can actually use. We can visualize it, compare it, start to identify themes and trends within it on many scales (individual, community, global). If you had dreams many months apart about dogs, and you recorded that in a traditional dream journal, you’d have no way of easily finding those entries and reviewing them. And if all those happened to coincide with a thunderstorm or on days when you took a run you’d never know it, because you can’t cross reference the information in a pen and paper journal with anything. All the data in SHADOW can be sorted and filtered and synced with other quantified self products so you can learn more about yourself.
RMG:Has your own dreaming contributed to SHADOW?
HLS: Definitely. SHADOW is basically a result of my own dreams getting so vivid after years of forgoing sleep. When I started dreaming again, it was so cool I knew I needed to find a way to remember those dreams and share them with others.
RMG:Any particular dream that knocked your socks off with its realism or imagery?
HLS: The dream that sparked the idea for the app is one I’ve been using in the alpha version of the app (you can listen to it here). It’s about me going to a party at the Reichstag in Berlin and being told by the doorman that it’s a private party. I can only get in if I find Michael Jordan, so I wander the streets, find Michael, and we head into the party and find it decorated with a bunch of 3D holograms of his most famous dunks. This seems like a typical dream. But when I looked at it deeper, it was bringing different pieces of my life together. Things I’d experienced earlier that day with bigger ideas about access and transparency.
RMG:Are you surprised at the variety and depth of people’s dreams around the world?
HLS: Totally. Since starting this project, I’ve talked to so many people who’ve had really fascinating dreams. I’m so excited to see what happens when we have a way of organizing and sorting through them.
RMG:Apart from Stephen LaBerge’s NovaDreamer goggles, dream technology has been the stuff of science fiction. Wim Wenders featured a stolen dream-recording machine in his film Until The End Of The World, and Satoshi Kon’s anime Paprika also featured interactive dream technology. How will SHADOW contribute to the future of dream science?
HLS: SHADOW is bringing a huge new data set to dream researchers. This article really breaks down the larger implications for dream science, but on the most basic level there’s never been a tool to gather natural dreams on a huge scale before, so scientists haven’t been able to establish dream norms. With SHADOW, we’re much closer to doing that.
RMG:Some people think dreams are just random gibberish, the brain backing up the hard-drive. Others believe dreams give us access to other states of being, even other realms and dimensions. Will SHADOW cater to people of all beliefs and non-beliefs?
HLS: Absolutely. There are many different schools of thought when it comes to dreams and their meaning, and we’re interested in all of them. Even people who think dreams are random gibberish can generally recall a particularly intense dream experience they’ve had. It’s this thing we (almost) all do that we don’t pay nearly enough attention to. So we’re just excited to build this thing that can look at dreams on a huge scale and see what we find.