University of Essex – Dream Project
The University of Essex career development programme ‘Essex Futures’ is a programme for early career members of staff which aims to give staff an insight into the running and governance of the University, along with the opportunity to work alongside colleagues from other departments across the University. There is also the opportunity for the programme members to work collaboratively on a creative and original project. Matt Ffytche from the Centre of Psychoanalytical studies came up with the idea of recording dreams from staff and students on the web to give an insight into ‘dream life’ at the University. Five colleagues have joined him on the project; two sociologists Roisin Ryan-Flood and Michael Halewood, head of corporate marketing Claire Lindsay; Penny Brearey-Horne from the law department and head of University of Essex Commercial Services Finance, Angela Treagust. This project has really captured the imagination of the whole University community.
Over a two-week period in February staff and students at the University’s three campuses in Colchester, Southend and Loughton were encouraged to share their dreams. They were asked to anonymously upload accounts of any dreams they had over the fortnight, they also had the opportunity to upload images associated with their dreams. Over a hundred dreams were recorded, these are being sifted and categorised into themes before being made available for viewing on the university website in the summer term.
Participants were encouraged to consider questions such as: Have you ever dreamed about campus? Do studies or spreadsheets invade your sleep? Where do you escape to after hours?
An additional strand of the project was the commissioning of a sound-artist (Will Montgomery) and a photographer (Lynne Pettinger) to record the University whilst asleep. These sound recordings (which included placing a microphone in the lake and recording the main boilers) as well as the photographic images will be placed on the website and will also make part of an exhibition.
There are already a number of themes that at evident from the dreams, with a number of students dreams linked to family, friends and their living environment along with strong links to travel. 43 percent of students at Essex come from overseas, this may be a factor in dreams about flying. It has been found that a number of the dreams from staff related to their work environment, exams or losing something in their day. Some staff also uploaded dreams about their colleagues.
Academics from various fields, artists and creative writers will also use the accounts of dreams as inspiration for commentaries and responses. For example, Andrew Samuels from the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, current head of the UK Council for Psychotherapy, will be among those offering insights.
Matt Ffytche, from the University of Dreams project team, who is also an academic within the Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies, said: “The goal of the project is not the interpretation of individual dreams, but creating a window onto the dream-life of the university as a whole.
“The idea is to use the site as a way of bringing members of the university together outside of the usual organisational divides.
“The emphasis will be on showcasing the inner life of the University in the present, allowing people to browse the dreams rather like an ‘open house’ of Essex’s unconscious.”
The project has gained considerable interest both locally and nationally, within and outside the sector. The work can potentially be used as a methodology for a future research project. The learning that has come out of it has already surpassed initial expectations, the project team are looking forward to sharing their outputs from this unique project at the launch event on Tuesday May 3 at the University of Essex featuring the novelist Iain Sinclair and the writer and commentator Marina Warner and. There will also be other linked events including an exhibition of photographs and images emerging from the dream project.