The Kinematic Subject

The Vehicular Experience of Speed and Automobility in Virtuality/Reality

(Dant, 2004: 63).

'It consists, at any given moment, of the field of possible paths which the car may take unimpeded. Phenomenally it is a sort of tongue protruding forward along the road. Its boundaries are chiefly determined by objects or features of the terrain with a negative "valence" in perception - in other words obstacles' (Gibson in Dant, 2004: 63; emphasis in original).

This ‘tongue’ metaphor is more recently known in psychology as optic flow (not to be confused with Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow as the optimum experience of enjoyment) (Loomis and Beall, 1998). It is a perception of a ‘field of safe travel’, where the positive and negative valence of the visual field are places of safety or danger (Gibson in Dant, 2004: 63). Skilled drivers are ones who can follow the journey of positive valence, while usually avoiding negative valence (Dant, 2004: 63). In automobility, these ‘pathways of desire’ are trajectories that result in the minimum travel duration towards the subject’s goal/s. This phenomenon of optic flow is immediately applicable to the perception of the three dimensional time-space through the two dimensional cinema screen (in actuality they are four dimensional and three dimensional respectfully). It is in this case where Baudry’s ‘illusion of mastery’ (1984) becomes most apparent. The audience does not merely sense motion: they respond to it by visually following possible pathways the subject in control

should, or shouldn’t go. The experience of speed is an active process, where the eyes are drawn to the centre of the perspective image, the point of future determination. The spectator thus becomes driver-oriented. While the spectator may not have direct control over the projected image, the psychology of optic flow provides an illusion of control in the anticipation of possible future trajectories. This is not the only way audiences respond to speed exposure, let alone the only subject position; for in simulations and new media (ergodic art), the audience themselves can control the motion.

While this explains the experience of a voyager, it does not explain the experience of a voyeur. An interface is commonly defined as 'a surface forming a common boundary, as between bodies or regions' (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000: interface). A boundary signifies a distance, which in the case of a vehicle, creates a distance between environment and subject; between spectacle and spectator. The cinematographic apparatus of the camera/projector functions not only as an interface, but as a barrier between spatio-temporalities. In the experience of motion,

there is both fantasmatization of an objective reality (images, sounds, colors) and of an objective reality which, limiting its powers of constraint, seems equally to augment the possibilities or the power of the subject. (Baudry, 1975: 43)