The Kinematic Subject

The Vehicular Experience of Speed and Automobility in Virtuality/Reality

Subject Positions

In vehicular travel, there are three distinct, objective positions of the kinematic subject: the driver/pilot, the passenger, and the spectator. Being embodied in the vehicle as motile agents, both the driver and passenger are subject to the dangers of the vehicle, whereas the faraway spectator has the safety of distance from that vehicle, and is only exposed to the dangers of their metabolic vehicles' immediate environment.

A spectator can view the external physics of vehicular movement, and analyse from a distance driver decisions. This is an instance of the ‘driver-identified’ subject, that can be either a driver, passenger or spectator that displays the analytical elements of a spectator. For this to be possible, prior experience (due to apperception) of the specific skill is necessary for criticality.

Horses traditionally provide only a single mounting position for the subject: on the horse’s back. The same position can be said for motorcycle rider positioning. Cars on the other hand provide a range of different seating positions inside and outside of the vehicle. In these three

cases, it is up to the subject’s perception of affordance, as to how they position themselves in relation to the vehicle (see Dant, 2004: 64-67).

What is most interesting is that while these subject positions may be fixed in actuality, they are not fixed during experiences of speed. Take traffic lights as an example. when stopped at an intersection governed by traffic lights, the stationary drivers and passengers become >temporary spectators to the other vehicles and pedestrians (metabolic vehicles) moving through the intersection. In this case, the only change in motility is that there is no personal movement or control; only that of other kinematic subjects, and yet there is a change in spectatorship. This leads to the idea that a kinematic subject can be simultaneously a driver of their vehicle and a spectator of another vehicle. This is another instance of Virilio’s ‘voyager-voyeur’: as a subject that is mobile but also observes from a distance. However, is it possible for a driver to be a passenger of their own vehicle at the same moment as driving?


[Click here and here for further exploration of subject positions]