The Kinematic Subject

The Vehicular Experience of Speed and Automobility in Virtuality/Reality
Doom. Photo copyright © Universal Studios 2005

Dromoscopy in Spectatorship

Manovich stated that experience is the most difficult aspect of the theorisation of new media (Manovich, 2001: 27). As this project argues, the experience of speed is linked to that of the experience of media. One of the foundational ideas in support of this argument is that media are vehicles; vehicles to mediate information, and more importantly, vehicles to mediate different spatio-temporalities. The vehicle can be described as any platform that creates the real or virtual movement of a kinematic subject’s experience of speed. This concept is established by Virilio’s identification of three types of vehicle: the metabolic vehicle of the body, the mechanical vehicle of the automobile, and the audio-visual (hereafter termed media for a greater applicability) vehicle of time-based media (1984: 50-78; 1990: 21-22). [Later on in the project I identify a forth type: the ethereal vehicle]

The metaphor of media as a vehicle comes as an insight into the way people experience reality. In the age of instantaneous, realtime media, no longer does the modern person need to actually travel, as the media vehicle performs the travelling for them [see Atopia]. However, there is a break occurring in this phenomenon of journey annihilation. In highly immersive (vivid) media, the experience of speed itself becomes preferable over other facets of media theory. Hollywood filmmakers are increasingly favouring the inclusion of scenes in films that ‘suspend narrative in favour of spatial play or aural perspectivism’ (Elsaesser, 1998: 204), thus privileging the engulfed spectator over the

engrossed spectator.

The most recent such example is the first person sequence in the film release of Doom (2005), which calls into question the relationship between first person shooters, driving simulators, and cinema spectatorship. Virilio's 'voyager-voyeur' (Virilio, 1984: 105-109) signifies for the kinematic subject a dual-perspective; of an active, navigating traveller, while simultaneously being a passive, remote observer. The first person sequence in Doom features the point of view of a player travelling through the event space of the corridors, where monsters appear and disappear according to the player's movement (appearance by turning the corner) and interaction (disappearance by shooting). The spectator has no control, but flows with the movement, with the player. This occurs for any spectator of video games, as well as footage from video cameras attached to moving objects, like the onboard cameras featured in motor sport, or for any camera in motion for that matter. In this scene, by showing a first person perspective for an audience transforms the audience into a voyager of experience with the distance of a voyeur.

How is this possible? Why is this engulfment prioritised over narrative? If we look at the perspectivism of the image, we can find some answers. The origin of perceptual movement comes from the horizon, the point that stays static while the rest of the environment is in perceptual motion. In 1938, Gibson described the psychological processes of driving as a 'field of safe travel'