The Kinematic Subject

The Vehicular Experience of Speed and Automobility in Virtuality/Reality

Distance and Buffers

While spectating motor racing in reality is a globally popular activity, the broadcast of such events can also achieve an experience of speed for remote spectators. Remote spectatorship is also recently emerging in online racing simulators. The Live For Speed Nations Cup is possibly the first international online racing league that can potentially be spectated by a mass audience either live, or in replays (2005). The average age of an Australian Racing Simulation Enthusiast is 29.7 years old (A.R.S.E., 2005), which illustrates the potential for virtual spectatorship of such events beyond their teenage years.

Schnapp argues that a cultural themic of speed became possible through the mechanical buffers between human-horse-environment (1999: 11); in other words, the creation of an interface through which the kinematic subject can explore their environment. Historically, this developed through the horse-carriage, horse-drawn mobile, and finally the automobile (Although Schnapp fails to mention any war-oriented machines).

The open-wheeled racer may experience a greater sense of ‘speed’ than the driver of a speeding luxury car. How is this so? The differences in the kinematic subject’s experience of different vehicle types in part lie within the buffered distance the vehicle creates between kinematic subject and environment. What is a ‘buffer’? A buffer is the spatio-temporal distance created by the interface of a vehicle between the subject and environment. An open-wheeled vehicle like that of PRB Clubmans, the Arial Atom, and go-karts typically have very low buffers, while luxury cars like the Maybach Exelero have very high buffers. Kant argued that distance produces delight (Schnapp, 1999: 24). Car safety requirements have over the years increased the perceived distance between the kinematic subject and their environment (Schnapp, 1999). While these buffers have allowed greater speeds to be reached, the increased buffers of the vehicle interface reduce the relative perception of the vehicle’s actual velocity, resulting in a reduced perception of speed. The result of these high buffers is a