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CCI 304 Presents The Dream Machine at the Student Scholar Symposium

Never one to approach research and/or curriculum from a stagnant position, Dr. Patrick Fuery is once again leading an intrepid group of Creative and Cultural Industry students headfirst into a project that promises to turn heads. His Creative and Cultural Industries in Practice course, focused this fall on the topic of content creation, is one that is meant to help students develop a critical awareness of the various theories, concepts and practices by encouraging students to undertake a range of projects that aim to explore the ways in which theory and practice interact within the field of CCI. And the project that the students of CCI 304-03 were tasked with creating in pursuit of this is none other than The Dream Machine.

The Dream Machine is the name given to a device invented by Brion Gysin and Ian Sommerville in the early 1960s. It consists of a cylindrical tube with a series of circular slits that are illuminated from within by a hanging light bulb. The tube is positioned on top of a spinning motor which turns the tube at high speed, causing the light to flicker through the slits. The user looks at the light through closed eyelids, which creates the illusion of moving patterns. The dream machine is said to induce an altered state of consciousness, similar to dreaming, by using a combination of strobing lights and constant, repetitive sound. The strobing lights help to trigger visual hallucinations that are meant to mimic those experienced by people under the influence of psychedelics allowing users to perceive colorful patterns and images. While the dream machine is used to study how different states of consciousness can be induced and what effects they have on the brain, it can also be used for more personal purposes, such as to experience different states of consciousness for the purpose of exploration or relaxation.

The building group was tasked with building the dream from scratch. Watch this video made by one of the CCI 304 students Cooper Scott'23, as he asks Senior CCI students Marissa Thompson'23 and Rebecca Day'23 to describe the behind-the-scenes process of building the Dream Machine and some of the challenges that came with it.

Senior and CCI minor Sean Lindsey ‘23, describes The Dream Machine as being “more like a tool that you can use to access parts of yourself that you didn’t even know you had,” while senior Daniella Beneabou ’23, interprets the Dream Machine as being, “a psychedelic version of sitting in a car and driving by trees with your eyes closed, seeing the sunlight flicker through the trees, and entering into a hallucinating headspace.” Beneabou’s interpretation is in line with the creator’s intention for the Dream Machine. The Dream Machine was designed to induce hallucinations through visual, auditory, and tactile stimulation.

While interesting in its own right, one might wonder how this project connects to a Creative and Cultural Industries course that is focused on content creation. “The Dream Machine is a project that focuses on helping students think outside the box when it comes to content creation and CCI. It is an interdisciplinary project that brings together all aspects of CCI including art, music, technology, and content creation to create an immersive experience that stimulates the senses and taps into alternative ways of thinking about the world,” explains Dr.Fuery.

To elaborate, the class itself was divided at the start of the project into four small groups of 7-8 members each. There was a building group, a poster group, a music group, and finally a social media group. Throughout the span of the project, the groups were in constant communication with one another in order to brainstorm conceptual ideas, to troubleshoot issues that arose, to make sure that the project was representative of each individual facet of the project and that the final version of the machine met their expectations.

As easy as this sounds, there were hiccups in the building process that required them to work together to re-think their original plan. Supply chain shortages meant that some of the materials originally planned to use were not available. New materials had to be sourced, requiring a lot of research and trial and error. The final design also ended up being smaller than originally anticipated, causing the building group to pivot on how the mechanics of the machine would need to be arranged within the housing in order to yield the intended experience.

A few group members from the poster group pose outside of the CCI house. Photo courtesy of CCI Senior Pamela Coelho.

The poster team was charged with making three different posters that they felt represented the experience of The Dream Machine to be used for promotional purposes. The posters each have a different theme to them but were all designed to be visually appealing and to easily attract the attention of people passing by. Several of the posters were made to look like abstract representations of a hallucinogenic or body experience, while the third featured creator Brion Gysin looking closely at the spinning object with the tagline "A Voyage of Exploration Without Restriction.” Senior CCI 304 student and poster group member Jade Buchanan-Moh, noted that “developing the posters allowed us to understand the historical context and purpose of the Dream Machine better since each poster represents a different aspect of the Dream Machine’s functions or history.”

The three Dream Machine posters created by the poster group in CCI 304. Posters courtesy of CCI 304 students.

The music group pose in front of the CCI house. Photo courtesy of Senior CCI Student Pamela Coelho.

Karina Howansky ‘23, a senior Communications major and CCI & Music double minor reflected on what it was like as part of the team that designed the project’s soundscape, “The ideation process for this project was quite extensive, with the team starting out with various ideas, some of which were eventually abandoned, and others that were kept, refined, and expanded upon.” She expands further by saying that “at the start we were thinking about finding an existing piece [we could use], but at the end we settled on creating our own composition and collaborating on what genre of music we wanted. For this we used Garage Band and thought about whether we wanted more of a lo-fi beat, or a more meditative melody. At the end we settled on a version that we thought would work well for the experience and therefore stuck to a repetitive hypnotic vibe– for lack of a better word.” The team also created a voiceover for the experience which is meant to guide the user through the experience and help them relax.

The social media group smile outside of the CCI house. Photo courtesy of CCI Senior Pamela Coelho.

The group overseeing the social media campaign had to take into account the many aspects of the project, including making sure that they were capturing and representing each of the other group’s areas, while crafting their marketing strategies. Strategic and Corporate Communications major and CCI minor, Cooper Scott’23 who was in the social media group explained how they were responsible for “promoting and maintaining the project’s Instagram account, which we used to post updates about the project, educational information on The Dream Machine, as well as interesting facts about the research we were conducting and the progress we were making throughout the semester.” In addition they created content for “Youtube using a mix of images and videos to increase public awareness and transparency about the project,” explains Senior Business major and CCI minor AJ Torres ’23.

The fruits of this collaborative effort were on display this Wednesday, November 30th at Chapman’s Student Scholar Symposium from 3:00-4:30pm in Beckman Hall, 404. Created to support student research and creativity in all academic areas and colleges, the Symposium is a unique event that highlights the tremendous accomplishments made by students who are engaged in research and creative scholarship. When discussing why she was excited about presenting the project at the Symposium, Senior SCC major, Lily McNamara ‘23 says that this project “is a different presentation than I suppose anyone has ever seen at the Symposium.” Senior AJ Torres’23 notes, “I think [the Dream Machine Users] are really in for an individual experience because for every person [it] will be different from those who go before or after them.” For those who participated in the debut of the Dream Machine at the Symposium, one participant reported feeling like “I was falling down a rabbit hole similar to Alice in Alice in Wonderland.” Others reported having experienced as if they were “swaying on a boat, unbalanced,” and “memories of being in a forest with [their] mom with sunlight peeking through the trees and seeing blue and yellow colors as a result.”

CCI 304 students pose proudly in front of the Dream Machine at the Fall 2022 Student Scholar Symposium on Wednesday, November 30th. Photos Courtesy of Dr. Patrick Fuery.

In addition to the Scholar Symposium, the CCI students and Dr. Fuery are submitting to present the Dream Machine and their collaborative research surrounding the project at the 2023 National Conference on Undergraduate Research hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in April, 2023.

This chance to envision, collaborate and create is key to our Creative and Cultural Industries in Practice courses as it gives the students the opportunity to marry theory with the practical world. CCI students are often able to think divergently and creatively because they are encouraged to think outside the box and explore their individual interests within the minor. The Dream Machine project is just one example of this type of thinking. Dr.Fuery explains that, “This type of thinking is critical in today's ever-changing and increasingly complex world because the ability to come up with innovative solutions to problems is a highly sought-after skill by employers and essential for success in many types of jobs.” The Dream Machine project gives students the opportunity to practice these skills as well as demonstrates the CCI Center’s commitment to supporting students in gaining valuable experience conducting and presenting research.

To learn more about the Center for CCI, the Classes offered, and the dedicated Faculty like Dr. Patrick Fuery, you can check out our Chapman University website.

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