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Do the Japanese dream of Graph Theoretic Sheep?

->Thought One: There are two pieces of obscure Japanese pop culture, both produced contemporaneously (that is, the early aughts) in which dreams are compared to networks: Yume Nikki, and Paprika
->Thought Two: Paprika states this clearly: our protagonist says "The Internet and dreams are similar. They're areas where the repressed conscious mind escapes."
->Thought Two cont'd: Yume Nikki means Dream Journal in Japanese. You play as a girl named Madotsuki. In the real world, you are confined to your studio apartment. You may fall asleep and thereby find yourself in a mesmerizing, haunting dream world, a cavern and a nightmare. The game plays out almost entirely within the dream world.
->Thought Two cont'd: And arguably, Yume Nikki produces its meaning through its graph theoretic components. What I mean by this is that a large part of Yume Nikki, and what makes it unique, is the way that it plays with how locations are linked up to each other.
->Thought Two cont'd: Yume Nikki's locales can be mapped as a directional graph: that is, a network where the links between nodes go one way. A good example of this is as follows: A moment that gives me sheer delight in this game is that you will often find yourself trespassing from one screen to the next; you will attempt to turn around to return to the previous screen you were in and you will find that it is suddenly not available to you, despite the fact that it seems you should be able to return to it. To concretize: In the Yume Nikki fan wiki, all locations have a list of "connecting areas", and these areas are either specified as one-way arrive (that is, you can connect to B from A, but not A from B), one-way access (the opposite), or unmarked (indicating that you can go both ways). Frustration is often caused because a player of the game does not prima facie know that a link is one way, and the locations suggest that there should be a two-way path. An example (finally, an example): in The Underground World, there is a non-descript door that leads to The Mall. However, once in the wall, you cannot go back to The Underground World. If you wished to explore The Underground World, and then went to the mall, you would have to circumnavigate back to The Underground World (which can only be accessed at random).

That is: Yume Nikki is a game of exploration, with only nominal set goals, which can be best modeled as a directed graph. Understanding graph theoretic techniques can actually behoove a player of Yume Nikki: the maze like nature of Yume Nikki can be more easily traversed by players who know about BFS, DFS, A* and other algorithmic approach to networks. In my experience, at least, it has helped me in that game
->Thought Two cont'd: Yume Nikki's main meaning making device, outside of the graphical design and expertly haunting soundscape, is that it is easy to get lost in. It inspired a genre of games that are about navigating and about getting lost: Lisa the First is one such direct descendent. Feeling lost cowers the player; obviously. The being lostness, however, is inextricable to the way that it plays with networks. Players understand it: on the Yume Nikki wiki, the locations are mapped into a flowchart. Few other games can be diagrammed as flowcharts, which are directional graphs.
->Thought Three: This doesn't even include Serial Experiments Lain, which is about the Internet and the hallucinatory line between reality, dreamscapes, hallucinations, and online. SEL is given an homage in Paranoia Agent, directed by Kon, who directed Paprika. SEL is difficult to square away with this trend of Japanese media of graph theoretic dreams, but it is worth mentioning do to its influence on Kon. Finally, though we know nothing about the creator of Yume Nikki, we do know that they appreciate Lovecraftian horror--The Thing with the Quivering Jaw is one example. Young girls playing with dreams and networks. That's what I'm talking about today.
->Thought Four: I'm going to say something apocryphal, but it is an apocrypha that I have made important to me. It is a quote that I believe is in The Book of Disquiet by Pessoa. He says something to this effect, but maybe not quite to this affect. But, I prefer my version and refuse to find what he said:"The one thing better than to write is to dream; and the one thing better than to dream is to not dream."
->Thought Five: Not to mention the fact that every art form has decided that they are the work most akin to dreams.
->Thought Five cont'd: Andre Bazin famously said that the ontology of cinema is dreams, and that the editing room, the cut, produces this dreamlike dimension to film. You go into a dark room to see a movie, and you dream collectively.
->Thought Five cont'd: Pessoa obviously saw the relationship between writing and dreams. The Coen Brothers (I am doubling down on apocrypha here, as I don't know if this is true) famously have a cot in their office so that, when writing a movie, they can sleep often, in order to find their scripts in dreams.
->Thought Five cont'd: Then there is surrealism, which was the most important of the modernist movements, and which purported that all art could draw from dreams.
->Thought Five cont'd: Which is to say that dreams are everywhere within human creativity. It is one of the reasons that we should fear creativity, I think, because it is inherently centered in the unreal. This is Not A Popular Take. But, certainly Pessoa, or my version of Pessoa, had some wisdom in saying that the only thing better than to dream is to not dream.
->Thought Six: But, networks are a truly terrible way to describe and to understand dreams.
->Thought Seven: A thought from my current playthrough of Yume Nikki: though it is truly a horrifying game, playing Yume Nikki is nothing like dreaming. Dreams do not loop in on themselves. You do not revisit the same locales and find yourself going through trap doors on accident and having to backtrack to get to where you were. I have never dreamed of such things, at least. That Yume Nikki is a video game, and therefore is something which can be played through again--and it has oddly wonderful replay value for a game with no real goals, because the world is too vast, and the connection to world so arbitrary (so graph theoretic) that it is impossible to build a mental map of the place, making every play through feel fresh and unnavigable and daunting--which is something that dreams cannot be (clearly).
->Thought Seven cont'd: Yume Nikki is not like dreams because it can be seen again. A dream is momentary, frantumaglia. Paprika does not really even deign to be like dreams; other works by Kon, like the superior Perfect Blue, are more dreamlike.
->Thought Seven cont'd: No art is like dreams because all art can be experienced again. Even the most violent of surrealist works can be witnessed over and over. We can select into experiencing art. We cannot select into experiencing dreams. Or: the ontology of cinema is not dreams, writing is not dreamlike, and nothing save for, maybe, waking life is at all like a dream.
->Thought Eight: And graph theory is the least dreamlike thing of all. It is abstract and structured.
->Thought Eight cont'd: And the Internet is also not like dreams.
->Thought Eight cont'd: Were I a little more interested in due diligence, I would open up Zizek and discuss his theory of the dream and ideology. But I am not that way. I link that out to the reader to do. But, I say this: Zizek sees, via his intellectual debt to Lacan, dreams as a means of displacement, of which networks do poorly. Networks bind. Networks, even ones that you are meant to get lost in, do not displace.
->Thought Nine: Then, these works have little to say about dreams, despite nominally being about dreams. This is why I dislike Paprika--I am one of the few who, having known Kon's film, prefer Inception, Nolan's rip-off. Paprika is only about dreams, but has no understanding of them, trying to make the Internet into a place of dreams. Yume Nikki I like greatly, but that is because the graph theoretic and the technical aspect of video games go well hand-in-hand, and you learn that, while it does not have much to say about dreams, it is compelling and it is interested in horror even outside of the surreal realm. Frankly, I think it has a lot to say about networks, if little to say about dreams.
->Thought Nine cont'd: Or, despite the similarities in content, in networking dreamscapes, one succeeds because it is actually about networks, and not about dreaming, and one fails because it is about dreams, but has little to actually offer in terms of comparison to dreams. Dreams look different than that of which art is capable.
->Thought Ten: There are things like dreams. Ideology if one believes Zizek. I believe that waking life is more a dream than we suppose or allege. The Internet is certainly not like dreams. But even within games and movies that make dreaming their focus, that are dreaming machines, art finds itself incapable of reproducing the dream. That is: in the two works that best get at dreaming, or at least the best works of this ilk produced in Japan during the early aughts, the best that can be found is networks, the precise opposite of dreams.