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 lie 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—
son—subsequent considerations o hisdemise provoked more complex questions: Insoar 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 lie 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 shiting networks gatheringinterior and exterior capacities. On the one hand, our location in aworld gone inormatic, our perormance o and interaction withsimulated selves, telepresence, and telecommunications inspire acertain technologically driven ecstasy, a eeling that Brian Rotmanreers 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 inosphere. On the other hand,however, the products o contemporary technoscience have intro-duced a corresponding “intension” o the sel in relation to the
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,”
, March 31, 2002, and Martha Irvine, “A Troubled Gaming Addict Takes HisLie,” 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.