I Link, Therefore I am
by George Simpson, Monday, Apr 25, 2005 8:17 AM EST
A WEST NYACK, N.Y. MAN was found dead at his computer apparently the victim of trying to keep up with too many professional forums. Childress H. Wanamaker, 54, an account executive at a New York-based new media company, died of starvation according to the West Nyack coroner's office. Wanamaker's emaciated body was found by Loraine, his wife of 26 years, who told MediaPost she had been bringing her husband meals on plastic trays for weeks, but that he never took the time to eat them.
"He was glued to his computer 24/7," she said tearfully. "He was so afraid he was going to miss an opportunity to contribute a comment or start a discussion, that he just stopped eating." She added that Wanamaker's last words were "OK Picard, stick that in your pipe and smoke it..."
Computer forensic specialists from SUNY at Cortland discovered that Wanamaker was subscribed to 48 different forums and networking communities including one apparently having to do with the elderly called "oldtimers" and another apparently limited to just 100 people. They also found that he posted a comment into one forum or another on an average of two per minute every hour of the day for the past seven weeks.
"He felt under terrible pressure to be part of the online community," said his son, Lucian, who says he tried several times to get his father's attention and lure him away from the computer. "The only time he even looked up was when I told him I had seen Dane Madsen trying to steal his car out of the driveway."
Police found what appeared to be an organization chart taped to the wall of Wanamaker's den with lines linking small photos of people unknown to the police including a Tom Hespos and an Adam Boettiger. Neither is considered a suspect in Wanamaker's death.
"Once, I thought I had him," said Lucian Wanamaker, "when I said that mom had made cookies, but half out of his chair, he just sat back down mumbling something about two Roman gods; I believe it was Jupiter and Atlas having some sort of titanic battle. 'Let them eat PIE,' he bellowed banging on his keyboard."
Computer forensic specialists reported that there was no order or continuity to Wanamaker's forum postings. "It looks like he just sort of randomly commented on whatever was in the discussion string at the time," said Stephen Hall, CUNY-Cortland adjunct professor of intemperate and impulsive behavior. "He let nothing go by unchallenged by his own point of view, nor failed to respond to any other community member asking for advice or a new job. This consumed not only 24 hours a day, but also, apparently, his physical health."
In what must be a record, Wanamaker was linked into to over 15,250 other community members, many of whom he exchanged notes with daily. He also contributed to 375 blogs and was expected to start an online column about the impact of interactive communications on health, when he died.
A virtual memorial service will be held online at a date to be determined.