The Kinematic Subject

The Vehicular Experience of Speed and Automobility in Virtuality/Reality

Autotelic Experiences

Is the raw experience of speed enjoyable? Speed in itself will not equate either an experience or pleasure/enjoyment/desire… After all, travelling at supersonic speeds at high altitudes has little or no immediate perceptual danger (except for a little turbulence and the hum of the engines, and the possibility of gravity ‘kicking in’). Due to the subjective affects of kinaesthesia and ecstasy, speed becomes enjoyable. For a driver, speeding through an environment full of aporia can be enjoyable in itself, which is what happens during the flow experience of autotelic activities.

A flow state of consciousness is created in the experience of autotelic activities. An autotelic activity is as Csikszentmihalyi argues, the optimal experience of enjoyment (1990). It is a ‘self-contained activity, one that is done not with the expectation of some future benefit, but simply because the doing itself is the reward’ (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990: 67). Derived from the two Greek words, auto meaning self, and telos meaning goal, the autotelic experience occurs when the subject is intrinsically motivated to perform an activity.

Csikszentmihalyi argues that the phenomenology of enjoyment has eight major components: the activity has a chance of completion, the subject has the ability to concentrate, concentration is made possible by clear goals and immediate feedback, the subject has a deep engagement with the activity that removes the awareness of external problems (external of the activity), the subject has a sense of

control over their actions while concern for their own \safety\ declines, and the subject perceives an altered time duration(1990: 49. The most interesting observation from this is that virtual racing encompasses every single one of these components.

If we additionally consult Callois’ model, surprisingly we can conclude the same thing. Callois theorised that intrinsically rewarding activities satisfy the four central human needs of competition, chance, representation, and vertigo (Csikszentmihalyi 1975: 26). Csikszentmihalyi noted that a mixture of two or more of these needs are found in most activities (ibid). What is interesting about the activity of any goal oriented social activity that requires movement within a environment through the interface of the vehicle (eg first person shooters, racing games etc) is that they appear to satisfy every one of these ‘needs’.

For a brief example, competition exists as there are multiple subjects with the same goal; there is a chance of random technology failure (a common occurrence in motor racing), the representation occurs in the projections of speed or media representations of motion, and vertigo occurs as a result of the exposure to these projections and representations of speed (kinaesthesia and ecstasy). According to these two models of intrinsic enjoyment by Callois and Csikszentmihalyi, one could conclude that racing simulations are one of the most enjoyable activities a subject can experience.

Flow states of consciousness have a number of interesting effects on the kinematic subject. Specifically, their experience of a precise subject position becomes blurred and changes, and that their control becomes a series of automatic responses.