, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 137–153 | Cite as

Mobile dreaming: oneiric subjectivities in the age of the smartphone

  • Robin E. SheriffEmail author
Original Article


Emerging scientific models of dreaming posit that dreams are continuous with waking life and that they engage a (possibly functional) rehearsal of human sociality. This article supplements these models by bringing it into productive conversation with anthropologically informed approaches to subjectivity, intersubjectivity, and technicity, showing how oneiric ecologies and sociality are culturally and sociohistorically situated. Based on dreams collected from US college students that prominently figure the complex relationality of mobile media, this article argues moreover that dreams often index, question, and comment on otherwise hypocognized changes in the texture of everyday life. New models of dreaming, in other words, are greatly enriched by qualitative, ethnographically sensitive modes of analysis that move beyond ahistorical notions of the social and that reveal emergent, agentive, and culturally responsive subjectivities at work.


Dreaming Mobile media Subjectivity College students 



  1. Alter, Adam. 2017. Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked. New York: Penguin Press.Google Scholar
  2. Arnold, M. 2003. On the Phenomenology of Technology: The ‘Janus-faces’ of Mobile Phones. Information and Organization 13 (4): 231–256. Scholar
  3. Betancourt, Michael. 2016. The Critique of Digital Capitalism: An Analysis of the Political Economy of Digital Culture and Technology. Brooklyn, NY: Punctum Books.Google Scholar
  4. Biehl, João Guillherme, Byron Good, and Arthur Kleinman. 2007. Subjectivity Ethnographic Investigations. Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boutang, Yann Moulier. 2011. Cognitive Capitalism. Cambridge, UK: Polity.Google Scholar
  6. Blackman, Lisa, John Cromby, Derek Hook, Dimitris Papadopoulos, and Valerie Walkerdine. 2008. “Creating Subjectivities. Subjectivity 22 (1): 1–27. Scholar
  7. Brereton, Derek P. 2000. “Dreaming, Adaptation, and Consciousness: The Social Mapping Hypothesis. Ethos 28 (3): 377–409. Scholar
  8. Bulkeley, Kelly. 2004. Dreaming is Play II: Revonsuo’s Threat Simulation Theory in Ludic Context. Sleep and Hypnosis 6 (3): 119–129. Scholar
  9. Clark, Andy, and David Chalmers. 1998. The Extended Mind. Analysis 58 (1): 7–19. Scholar
  10. Csordas, Thomas J. (ed.). 1994. Embodiment and Experience: The Existential Ground of Culture and Self. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Dean, Jodi. 2009. Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies: Communicative Capitalism and Left Politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Deleuze, Gille and Félix Guattari. 1987. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  13. Domhoff, G.William. 2018. The Emergence of Dreaming: Mind-Wandering, Embodied Simulation, and the Default Network. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Freud, Sigmund. 1961. Civilization and Its Discontents. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  15. Gackenbach, Jayne, Yu. Yue, and Ming-Ni Lee. 2018. Media Use and Gender Relationship to the Nightmare Hypothesis: A Cross-cultural Analysis. Dreaming 28 (2): 169–192. Scholar
  16. Galinier, Jacques, Aurore Monod Becquelin, Guy Bordin, Laurent Fontaine, Francine Fourmaux, Juliette Roullet Ponce, Piero Salzarulo, Philiippe Simonnot, Michèle Therrien, and Iole Zille. 2010. Anthropology of the Night: Cross-Disciplinary Investigations. Current Anthropology 51 (6): 819–847. Scholar
  17. Hall, Calvin, G. William Domhoff, K. Blick, and K. Weesner. 1982. The Dreams of College Men and Women in 1950 and 1980: A Comparison of Dream Contents and Sex Differences. Sleep 5 (2): 188–194. Scholar
  18. Haraway, Donna. 1991. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. London: Free Association Books.Google Scholar
  19. Hartmann, Ernest. 1996. We Do Not Dream of the Three R’s: Implications for the Nature of Dreaming Mentation. Dreaming 10 (2): 103–110. Scholar
  20. Hartmann, Ernest, Rachel Elkin, and Mithlesh Garg. 1991. Personality and Dreaming: The Dreams of People with Very Thick or Very Thin Boundaries. Dreaming 1 (4): 311–324. Scholar
  21. Hayles, Katherine N. 1999. How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Heidegger, Martin. 1996. Being and Time. Translated by Joan Stambaugh. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  23. Hutchins, Edwin. 1995. Cognition in the Wild. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  24. Ihde, Don. 1999. Technology and the Lifeworld: From Garden to Earth. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Ingold, Tim. 2012. Toward and Ecology of Materials. Annual Review of Anthropology 41: 427–442. Scholar
  26. Kearney, Mary Celeste. 2005. Birds on a Wire: Troping Teenage Girlhood Through Telephony in Mid-twentieth Century US Media Culture. Cultural Studies 19 (5): 568–601. Scholar
  27. Latour, Bruno. 1987. Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers Through Society. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Ling, Richard Seyler. 2012. Taken for Grantedness: The Embedding of Mobile Communication into Society. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lohmann, Ivar. 2007. Dreams and Ethnography. In The New Science of Dreaming, Volume 3: Cultural and Theoretical Perspectives, ed. Deirdre Barrett and Patrick McNamara, 35–69. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  30. Mageo, Jeannette. 2013. Dreaming and its Discontents: U.S. Cultural Models in the Theater of Dreams. Ethos 41 (4): 387–410. Scholar
  31. Mageo, Jeannette. 2017. Nightmares, Abjection, and American Not-Quite Identities. Dreaming 27 (4): 290–310. Scholar
  32. Mageo, Jeanette Marie (ed.). 2003. Dreaming and the Self: A New Perspective on Subjectivity, Identity, and Emotion. Albany: State University Press of New York.Google Scholar
  33. Miller, Daniel. 2005. Materiality: An Introduction. In Materiality, ed. Daniel Miller, 1–50. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Miller, Daniel, Elisabetta Costa, Nell Haynes, Tom MacDonald, Razran Nicolescu, Jolynna Sinanan, Juliano Spyer, Shriram Venkatraman, and Xinyuan Wang. 2016. How the World Changed Social Media. London: UCL Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Negri, Antonio, Michael Hardt, and Danilo Zolo. 2008. Reflections on Empire. Cambridge, UK: Polity.Google Scholar
  36. Ochs, Elinor, and Lisa Capps. 1996. Narrating the Self. Annual Review of Anthropology 25: 19–43. Scholar
  37. Ortner, Sherry. 2005. Subjectivity and Cultural Critique. Anthropological Theory 5 (1): 31–52. Scholar
  38. Pandya, Vishvajit. 2004. Forest Smells and Spider Webs: Ritualized Dream Interpretation Among Andaman Islanders. Dreaming 14 (2–3): 136–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pink, Sarah, Larissa Hjorth, Heather Horst, Josh Nettheim, and Genevieve Bell. 2018. Digital Work and Play: Mobile Technologies and New Ways of Feeling at Home. European Journal of Culture 21 (1): 26–38. Scholar
  40. Revonsuo, Antii, Jarno Tuominen and Katja Valli. 2015. The Avatars in the Machine: Dreaming as a Simulation of Social Reality. In Open Mind, ed. T. Metzinger and J. M. Windt, Vol. 32.
  41. Ribak, Rivka and Michele Rosenthal. 2015. Smartphone Resistance as Media Ambivalence. First Monday 20 (11).
  42. Richardson, Ingrid. 2005. Mobile Technosoma: Some Phenomenological Reflections on Itinerant Media Devices. The Fibreculture Journal 6.
  43. Richardson, Ingrid. 2007. Pocket Technospaces: The Bodily Incorporation of Mobile Media. Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 21 (2): 205–215. Scholar
  44. Richardson, Ingrid. 2010. Ludic Mobilities: The Corporealities of Mobile Gaming. Mobilities 5 (4): 431–447. Scholar
  45. Ricardson, Ingrid. 2011. The Hybrid Ontology of Mobile Gaming. Convergence 17 (4): 419–430. Scholar
  46. Schiller, Dan. 2000. Digital Capitalism: Networking the Global Market System. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  47. Scholz, Trebor. 2013. Digital Labor: The Internet as Playground and Factory. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  48. Schredl, Michael. 2010. Explaining the Gender Difference in Dream Recall Frequency. Dreaming 20 (2): 96–106. Scholar
  49. Sheriff, Robin E. 2017. Dreaming of the Kardashians: Media Content in the Dreams of US College Students. Ethos 45 (4): 532–554. Scholar
  50. Sheriff, Robin E., and Jeannette M. Mageo. 2019. Young American’s Dreaming in the Specular Age. Ethos. (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  51. Shipley, Jesse Weaver. 2015. Selfie Love: Public Lives in an Era of Celebrity Pleasure, Violence, and Social Media. American Anthropologist 117 (2): 403–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Solomonova, Elizaveta, and Xin Wei Sha. 2016. Exploring the Depth of Dream Experience: The Enactive Framework and Methods for Neurophenomenological Research. Constructivist Foundations 11 (2): 407–416.Google Scholar
  53. Sparrow, Gregory, and Mark Thurston. 2010. The Five Star Method: A Relational Dream Work Methodology. Journal of Creativity in Mental Health 5 (2): 204–215. Scholar
  54. States, Bert O. 1997. Seeing in the Dark: Reflections on Dreams and Dreaming. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  55. Stiegler, Bernard. 2008. Technics and Time, 2: Disorientation. Translated by Stephen Barker. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Stiegler, Bernard. 2014. Organology of Dreams and Archi-Cinema. The Nordic Journal of Aesthetics 47: 7–37.Google Scholar
  57. Telban, Borut, and Daniela Vávrová. 2014. Ringing the Living and the Dead: Mobile Phones in Sepic Society. The Australian Journal of Anthropology 25 (2): 223–238. Scholar
  58. Turkle, Sherry. 2011. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  59. Van den Bulck, J., Yakup Çetin, Ömer Terzi, and Brad J. Bushman. 2016. Violence, Sex, and Dreams: Violent and Sexual Media Content Infiltrate Our Dreams at Night. Dreaming 26 (4): 271–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Walkerdine, Valerie. 2007. Children, Gender, Video Games: Towards a Relational Approach to Multimedia. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wegner, Daniel M., Richard M. Wenzlaff, and Megan Kozak. 2004. Dream Rebound: The Return of Suppressed Thoughts in Dreams. Psychological Science 15 (4): 232–236. Scholar
  62. Wellner, Galit. 2014. The Quasi-Face of the Cell Phone: Rethinking Alterity and Screens. Human Studies 37 (3): 299–316. Scholar
  63. Wise, J.MacGregor. 2015. A Hole in the Hand: Assemblages of Attention and Mobile Screens. In Theories of the Mobile Internet: Materialities and Imaginaries, ed. Andrew Herman, Jan Hadlaw, and Thom Swiss, 212–231. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of New HampshireDurhamUSA

Personalised recommendations