Sample vs. Program
From Dead Media Archive
Some media can be inscribed by simply being turned on and allowed to feel, or sample the content they remediate - yet other media generate complete nonsense unless a highly specialized and refined language code or aesthetic has been mastered and applied in the process of inscription.
In essence, a sample is a mode of inscription that appropriates content with minimal analysis, and one that often manages to capture elements a user may or may not notice (ie noise with the phonograph). Whereas image creation through painting, engraving and print making all relied upon heavily developed aesthetics in order to approximate the real (perspective, impressionism, cubism) the photograph enabled one to appropriate an image without any knowledge of such highly specialized disciplines and schools. A sampling medium, such as a rector graphics system, the dictaphone, the camera, or film, is capable of inscribing information that the user may or may not understand, resulting in a mode of inscription that can often bear witness to qualities unnoticed by the user.
A program, on the other hand requires intense analysis in order to function properly. Conventional sheet music, like computer programs, vector graphics systems, and writing itself, contain a highly developed systems of inscription which demand a great deal of training in order to achieve intelligible and desired ends. The program is inevitably a symbolic form of inscription that is, in itself, legible by the trained user, yet inherently unable to capture traditional noise from external inputs.
When one programs and designs a 3d animation, what is displayed is a direct result of the programming which allows the image to be generated - in contrast, film often registers qualities which filmmakers attribute to accidents and improvisations that lie outside of deliberate inscriptions. Programs document perceptions, while Samples are unprocessed and raw material that is sensed, or "felt" by the system of inscription. In addition, the raw material of a sample generally acquires more information (and in the case of a graphics system requires more memory), yet the processed and reduced content of a Program, while using up less memory generally requires more time/energy/processing in order to decode and display/generate the inscribed content.
Although samples and programs govern the intended use of a medium, one often finds that The Hack of the medium is an attempt to make one mode of inscription function like the other. William Burroughs' cut-up method, the Surrealists' exquisite corpses, and record scratching each constitute the introduction of a spontaneous, sample-oriented, mode of inscription into one previously bound by the rules of the program. In contrast, the attempt to program what was once only sampled and particular at the moment of inscription, could be characterized as an attempt to hack everyday life.
Questions: Does the medium demand a great deal of analysis before the act of inscription, or does it appropriate material that can be processed and interpreted later? Does the noise of the medium illustrate a condition external to the user's actions (ie background noise) or does the noise illustrate imperfect execution of a symbolic system (misspellings, syntactical errors, grammatical nonsense, freudian slips etc.)? Does the medium demand a complex understanding of the given content (embodying an informational cultural bias) or does it appear to witness with an inhuman objectivity? If the medium is a program, what are the ethical implications of what is distilled into the programming language and what is inherently left out?