The Kinematic Subject

The Vehicular Experience of Speed and Automobility in Virtuality/Reality


There is no such thing as sober driving under the new regime of accelerated motion. (Schnapp, 1999: 14)

In the information age, what is it about media that engages our attention? Spectacle, narrative, characterisation, as well as the new media buzzword of 'interactivity', are all possible answers. While there is now a large amount of game research on the flight simulator and first person shooter genres of video games, there is a surprising lack of scholarly analysis and critique on a genre mixed between the two; an activity that is experienced in reality and in video games by billions of people everyday: the vehicular experience along a horizontal plane. What is an element that ties together actors, spectators, local environments and remote landscapes? The experience of speed.

To contextualise the study of speed, what Virilio terms as dromology, one only has to look at the state of contemporary modernity. Speed can be found everywhere. There is vehicular movement in public and private spaces in the form of action and transportation. The city is a haven of activity and hustle and bustle; always moving, never sleeping. According to McQuire, the free world lives in a state of permanent mobility, placing vehicles and speed 'at the heart of modern social and political life' (1999, 144). As Schnapp articulates, the moment humans first mounted a horses back was

the moment we entered a cultural themic of speed (1999). However, there is another dimension of speed to be found in any modern metropolis - the speed in and of modern media. The information age is an era of development away from static media to additional element of time. From commercial radio and television, to the entertainment of the cinema and Imax screens, to the multimedia of the internet to the simulations of video games, the projections of different spatio-temporalities subject people to experiences of virtualised velocities. From the mythology of the Centaur, to the mobilities of reality and the virtualities of game space, our experience of motion is a phenomenon that is heavily entwined with everyday activities.