By Michele Bacigalupo
The significance of dreams mystifies even the most intellectual minds in the universe. While we sleep in our vulnerable states of subconscious, dreams produce a multitude of images before our closed eyes, and the scenes may stir any emotion within us. Dreams have the potential to affect our states of being–whether we are asleep and unaware, or awake and all too aware. They may haunt us or entertain us, enlighten us or fill us with anxiety.
The question that Hunter Lee Soik, founder of the app Shadow, is presently researching is whether or not a person will benefit from recalling their dreams. Shadow has been in development for several years, and is currently in the alpha testing stage. Soik even gave a TED talk on his vision for the app. Shadow will be released to the public later this year, but in the meantime, Soik encourages users to sign up for the alpha testing phase. Available on Shadow’s website are invites to use the app.
“Dreams are invisible data, but what happens when you make that data visible and connected?” Soik asks, “Can it tell us more about ourselves, and about humanity as a whole?”
Soik describes the invisible data stored in dreams as “unseen potential.” He brings up psychologists Freud and Jung, musing over what they might have discovered had they had access to the advanced technology that we now take for granted. They would have certainly been in possession of more data and more chances to prove complex theories. That’s where Shadow comes in. The app can advance the work Freud and Jung began. It can provide opportunities to explore ESP or precognition, a perception of events before they happen.
Although Shadow has only been used by a select group of people so far, the app has already created a database composed of dreams from all over the world. Soik intends to continue building the database, forming it into a massive source of information to further the science of dreams.
Shadow works by employing an alarm clock, set before the user falls asleep, which gently wakes the user up during the hypnopompic state–the stage leading out of sleep. The alarm clock is programmed to awaken individuals at this time because it is when people are most likely to remember their dreams. Once awake, users are able to record their dreams. If they choose to do so, they can also share them on the dream database.
Soik says that Shadow certainly takes a user’s privacy into account. When a dream is posted in the database, a user can opt to make it public, private, or anonymous.
The app is the only of its kind currently in development. An elite team of PhD researchers is fine-tuning the design in order to ensure that future users have the optimal experience.
Soik invented Shadow after completing a period of working long hours as a creative consultant on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne tour. Once the tour was complete, Soik finally had a chance to catch up on sleep, and he hit the pillow hard. For the first time in years, he had vivid, REM level dreams. When he woke up, he wanted to remember his dreams, and searched the app store for something to help him. His search, however, found nothing suitable for the purpose he had in mind. Soik desired not only to remember his dream, but also craved the ability to share them with others. He wanted to transform dreaming into a social experience.
Shadow will allow users to face their subconscious head on. It puts everything right in front of the individual. For people who may be reluctant about receiving such information about themselves, Soik says that it helps to remember that these are just dreams, not reality. Whatever bizarre occurrence took shape in an individual’s dream, it remains only that–a dream–a thread of subconscious over which we have no control.
Soik says that he now records almost every dream he has (many live in Shadow’s database), and that he notices improvements in his own life since he started doing so.
“I’m trying to be the most transparent, honest person I can,” says Soik.
He tells BTR that he’s changed a great deal since he first began developing Shadow, pursuing his vision to recall and make sense of his dreams. He feels more confident, more “transparent.” When Soik listens to audio recordings of himself, he says that he recognizes his voice speaking, but he doesn’t hear himself in that voice. He acknowledges that he is an entirely different person now than he used to be a few years ago.
He’s also living a life that follows his own design. Soik lives off the grid as far as email is concerned. He prefers to discuss matters through text message. Texting is more immediate, and by relinquishing email, Soik says he has “on average reclaimed four hours per day.” His personal phone number is readily available online, and he does not have a specific criteria for people who wish to reach him. Soik is happy when he talks to people in real life; he believes in actual conversations, and is willing to say hello to anyone who wants to meet him.
A hope for interconnectivity between dreams and the social sphere is the driving force of Shadow. Right now, the potential of the dream database appears limitless. Be sure to keep an eye on the development of Shadow, as it promises to enhance both our quality of life and sleep.
All photos courtesy of Hunter Lee Soik.