The Kinematic Subject

The Vehicular Experience of Speed and Automobility in Virtuality/Reality

In opposition to mobility, which always refers to realised movements such as the ones in traffic, migration or tourism, motility means the ability to be mobile without necessarily performing movement. (Beckmann, 2004: 85)

As such, by extension the concept of motility should be able to apply to the motorised subject as well. This is supported by Bechmann, who claims that vehicles simultaneously enable and disable the kinematic subject (2004: 83).

Just as the child learns to walk, to run, to ride a bike and in so doing expands her or his engagement with the physical world, so the young person learning to drive will delight in that shift in their embodied relationship with the world that goes with driving the car, moving at a speed impossible without assistance to the body. (Dant, 2004: 73)

The kinematic subject, as a motile agent, is one that lives in the parallel spaces of physical reality and virtual reality; of reality and imagination, of two different spatio-temporalities. The study of the experience of speed becomes that of the experience of automatic propulsion;of travelling without moving. Furthermore, motility is an additional cause of the sense of a ‘rushing standstill’.

In other words, Virilio's motility only occurs when the subject is immobile and 'imprisoned' by the technology. This is inconsistent with Bechmann's assertion that:

motility [means] the coexistence of immobility in one kind of spatio-temporality, and mobility in another. (Bechmann, 2004: 86).

As an example, while driving a car, the kinematic subject may be sitting at rest, while also being transported by the vehicle at high speed. Through the perception of high speed, the subject gets the impression that they are actually travelling at high speed, while in fact their body is at rest. The existence of any interface then implies that in order to perceive and interact with it, one has to become temporarily disabled. For Virilio, the media vehicle is thus ‘the last vehicle’ of transportation, one in which one can travel without effort (Virilio, 1990: 17-36). This ‘last’ vehicle signifies that there is a ‘first’ vehicle. Motility could additionally be said to occur in the interface of daydreaming. In an experience of daydreaming, the body is in one place, while the mind wanders elsewhere. Thus the concept of motility is not only applicable to metabolic, mechanical and media vehicles, but is also applicable to the ethereal vehicle of the mind. This is the forth and final vehicle to add to Virilio’s forms of vehicles: the vehicle of imagination.

Now, in contrast to Virilio, Bechmann's concept of motility includes the hybrid forms between mobility and immobility.