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Neurorhetorics: Cybernetics, Psychotropics, and the Materiality of Persuasion

Neurorhetorics: Cybernetics, Psychotropics, and the Materiality of Persuasion

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Published by Žarko Almuli
Volume 16, Number 2, Spring 2008
Special Issue: Psychedelic Science
Volume 16, Number 2, Spring 2008
Special Issue: Psychedelic Science

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Published by: Žarko Almuli on Feb 07, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Neurorhetorics: Cybernetics, Psychotropics, and the Materialityof Persuasion
Jeff Pruchnic
Configurations, Volume 16, Number 2, Spring 2008, pp. 167-197 (Article)
Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press
For additional information about this article
Access Provided by Universiteit van Amsterdam at 02/07/11 11:22AM GMT
1. Friedrich A. Kittler,
 Discourse Networks, 1800/1900
, trans. Michael Metteer, with ChrisCullens (Stanord, CA: Stanord University Press, 1990), p. 215.2. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari,
What Is Philosophy?
, trans. Hugh Tomlinson andGraham Burchell (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), p. 210.
This article maps notable moments in, and intersections between,mid-twentieth-century scientic investigations into cybernetics andpsychotropics. In particular, it ocuses on the two elds’ recurringinterests in identiying the role o rhetoric, or persuasion, in the var-ious networks (biological, technological, cultural) that surroundedboth their scientic investigations and the presentation o such re-search within their ormal disciplines and to the public. The articlebegins and ends by considering might what be learned rom thishistory in thinking through our possible analyses o, and responsesto, the contemporary moment, one in which two phenomena thatvery much grew rom these earlier scientic inquiries—psychophar-macology and human–machine networks—are becoming increas-ingly ubiquitous.
“The cultural-technological standards do not represent Man and his Norm. Theyarticulate and decompose bodies that are already dismembered.”Friedrich Kittler
“Will the turning point not be elsewhere, in the place where the brain is ‘subject,’where it becomes subject? It is the brain that thinks and not man—thelatter being only a cerebral crystallization.”Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari
Neurorhetorics: Cybernetics,Psychotropics, and the Materialityof Persuasion
Je Pruchnic Wayne State University
Congurations, 2008, 16:167–197 © 2009 by The Johns HopkinsUniversity Press and the Society or Literature and Science.
In March 2002, twenty-one-year-old Wisconsin resident ShawnWoolley committed suicide.
What made Woolley’s death the topico both a potential civil suit and popular media attention was thecombination o his psychiatric diagnosis—clinical depression—andhis primary pastime—twelve-hours stints engaged in the popularonline role-playing game EverQuest. Spending the majority o hiswaking lie inhabiting a virtual body in a simulated realm, Woolley’smother argues, aggravated his depressive episodes and increased hiswithdrawal rom “real” social interaction. While the distribution o agency and culpability o Woolley’s mother’s lawsuit is unsurprising
videogame killed
son—subsequent considerations o hisdemise provoked more complex questions: Insoar as such pro-longed immersion in the virtual realms o online gaming would al-ter Woolley’s dopamine levels, was his “obsession” a orm o sel-medication that eventually ailed?
Or, conversely, did Woolley’sintense engagement with a simulated reality hasten the physiologi-cal acceleration o his condition?It is the combination o these conficting narratives o Woolleyand his demise that orm an exemplary tale or lie in the age o cy-bernetics and psychopharmacology. Perhaps never really reducibleto a single or static body or mind, contemporary human subjectivityhas become inextricably marked by a mutating distribution o agency and cognition, a circulation o shiting networks gatheringinterior and exterior capacities. On the one hand, our location in aworld gone inormatic, our perormance o and interaction withsimulated selves, telepresence, and telecommunications inspire acertain technologically driven ecstasy, a eeling that Brian Rotmanreers to as a “becoming beside onesel” through the creation o plu-ral selves and various digital proxies.
To emend McLuhan’s paradig-matic slogan, interactions with new media technologies have pro-duced not so much an “extension o man,” but a distribution o human subjectivity throughout the inosphere. On the other hand,however, the products o contemporary technoscience have intro-duced a corresponding “intension” o the sel in relation to the
168 Congurations
3. Woolley’s death (and its subsequent controversy) was widely covered by the massmedia; see, or instance, Stanley A. Miller, “Death o a Game Addict,”
 Milwaukee JournalSentinel
, March 31, 2002, and Martha Irvine, “A Troubled Gaming Addict Takes HisLie,” Associated Press, May 25, 2002.4. See M. J. Koepp et al., “Evidence or Striatal Dopamine Release During a VideoGame,”
393 (1998): 266–268.5. Brian Rotman, “Becoming Beside Onesel.” 1999. http://www.wideopenwest.com/~brian_rotman/becoming.html.

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