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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
Configurations
Volume 16, Number 2, Spring 2008
Special Issue: Psychedelic Science
Configurations
Volume 16, Number 2, Spring 2008
Special Issue: Psychedelic Science

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Published by: Žarko Almuli on Feb 07, 2011
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01/29/2013

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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.
 Abstract
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
1
“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
2
167
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.
3
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
 your 
videogame killed
my 
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?
4
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.
5
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,”
Nature
393 (1998): 266–268.5. Brian Rotman, “Becoming Beside Onesel.” 1999. http://www.wideopenwest.com/~brian_rotman/becoming.html.

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