The Kinematic Subject

The Vehicular Experience of Speed and Automobility in Virtuality/Reality

... optical effect that recurs in nearly every early description of accelerated motion and underlies the design of thrill rides in nineteenth century amusement parks as well as their cinematic shows: namely, a reversal of perspective such that it now appears as if it is the landscape that is in motion and not the traveller; or rather, that the landscape is in motion for the traveller. (Schnapp, 1999: 13-14)

This relational aspect is the basis of the subjective phenomenon of speed, epitomised by Virilio's metaphor of the 'rushing standstill' (Bechmann, 2004: 84). Merleau-Ponty, visual perception is an orientation of the whole body to the world through which it moves (Dant, 2004: 73)

Additionally, Virilio briefly asserts that 'speed is not at all a "phenomenon" but only the relation between phenomena (relativity itself)' (1990, 45). We can thus define speed as the relationship experienced through the relativity of a subject and their environment. The relation between phenomena that causes an experience of speed is then created through the interfaces that change the relativity between a subject and their environment; the interfaces of media, vehicles, and other such devices of transportation.

The basis of the perspective image is the eye; the camera; the 'subject' (Baudry, 1974-5: 43). One could thus argue that the visual sense is the primary sense of speed. The camera captures and - through processing and subsequent mediation - reproduces a single point of view. When the perspective image moves, the subject becomes a kinematic subject; a person who is exposed to the experience of speed, inertia and momentum through space and time. The car driver, net surfer, and escalator rider are examples of the kinematic subject (Bechman, 2004: 85).Used by Schnapp (1999), the kinematic subject is the human subject of speed, a being exposed to the reversed perspectivism of motion projection. That is the: