The Kinematic Subject

The Vehicular Experience of Speed and Automobility in Virtuality/Reality

Flow and Subjectivity

During a flow experience of speed, the kinematic subject can be transformed to other forms of subjectivity. This appears to occur when the driver’s skill advances to the mastery of the vehicle, a state of control attained to the level of skill required for the possibility of goal completion.

Once the uppermost levels of mastery are reached, navigation becomes an instantaneous automatic response, segregated to the quicker, more primitive areas of the brain. One of the first experiences of this for a driver is when shifting gears becomes second nature. In this flow state of consciousness, the kinematic subject gets a sense of control without thinking, of becoming a passenger to their own actions.

One does not experience enjoyment in merely controlling the velocity and direction of travel. When one is in control of their environment, as one is when experiencing automobility, it is the control of the distance / proximity from aporia (problematic danger) that is enjoyable. This is unlike ordinary circumstances in games, where the difficulty level is set by the game, environmental aporia, or other subjects to match that of the kinematic subject (player). Instead, the skill level of the driver’s control over the vehicle (and thus the environment) is matched by the self determined dynamic challenge of aporia negotiation. The determination of aporia proximity determines the chance of survival or crashing, and thus the kinematic subject has ultimate control over their experience of travel. Cinematic works on the other hand are enjoyable due to the medium’s

illusion of mastery’, or Manovich’s ‘interactivity’ (2001).

An example here is the case of racing and competition driving, where speed is a requirement to win. In that speed is desirable and enjoyable, the visual perception of kinetic manoeuvres serve as elements that contribute to the experience of speed, thus becoming enjoyable in their own right; becoming mini-goals of a speed experience.

What is an even more interesting observation is that the mastery of an interface used for goal oriented activities may lead to a cinematic experience of automatic performance. In this case, the kinematic subject has the enjoyment of ‘watching’ their body automatically control the vehicle; becoming a passenger of the automatic control of the body. The immersed driver becomes a spectator of their own actions, transcending their normal experience of reality. Like an audience in a cinema, the kinematic subject is disassociated from environmental control, and yet paradoxically, there is an increased harmony in the association between the subject and the environment. Thus, Virilio’s voyager-voyeur is possible and is entirely applicable to the self, and not just the objective spectatorship of external spectacle. The kinematic subject becomes both an actor and a spectator of their own actions.