There are specific physical processes that human bodies use to create and enable dreaming. They are specific in the sense that they have the same feeling about them each time we can catch sight of them.
These are in part revealed to our conscious thinking selves when we are aware enough to perceive dreams. They are particularly obvious when we can perceive the ways that we unconsciously and consciously make up and redirect dream stories.
Things can be more complex than they first appear. An example. Someone I know, M, talked to me about their delightful (to them) habit, of waking slowly into a dream and then directing and redirecting their dream in that slightly awake space.
The person was an enthusiastic reader, and many of their dreams were about them reading books. They enjoyed, in sleep, reading the new stories in the new novels that appeared in their dreams. As they described this to me, they said,
"I can see myself reading and enjoying the books. But WHO is writing them in the fraction of a second before I read the words, and how?!"
In design research, there is a similar question.
Any designer will describe their ability to see themselves in their thoughts struggling with the creating of good design solutions in their heads.
This brings up the deep, and some would say central or only, question in design research, that echoes M's insights above,
"How does a new creative design thought get created in the fraction of a second before the designer perceives in their mind?"
And as important, or perhaps more important, is the rider question,
"How does that process, happening a fraction of a second before the outcomes are perceived, identify and put forward new design thoughts that respond to the unknown inconsistencies of the problem context and improve on the answers to it?"
This in many ways also echoes M's insights above because it describes much the same constraints as the processes of moment by moment generating a new story for an almost asleep (and unconscious) reader to read in their dreams.
There are similar questions apply to our moment to moment behaviours as individuals. One example is a thought experiment for those who deliver presentations.
Imagine (or remember) oneself presenting some ideas to an audience. As in a dream, or as in creating a new design, one is faced with the challenge of aligning the presentation to the audience and the ways the audience is moment to moment responding. In a sense, one is at that moment directing and redirecting the dream, or rather redirecting the externality of the presentation on the basis of the dream in one's head about the current state of the rhetoric about the content of the presentation and the audience response. Again the question, as one changes direction in the presentation, is,
"How do the new thoughts about what to do next or differently get created in the fraction of a second before the presenter perceives them in their mind?"
A similar thought experiment can be applied to the movements of our hands and bodies that we make whilst delivering a presentation. In this case, the question has a slight change of focus,
"How do the new physical actions and behaviours of the presenter (in any one moment) get created in the fraction of a second before the presenter perceives them (if they perceive them at all)?"
From the perspective that thought is a behaviour, all the above are in essence the same question.
Hypothesis - Dreaming and Design
I hypothesise that,
"Dreaming and the way we make up dream stories is the same process as when we think up a new idea when conscious or unconscious, or anything that starts in the moment in our minds, or when we do something, including subconscious actions and body language."