Transcoding, according to Lev Manovich in his 2001 book The Language of New Media is an intrinsic quality to any new media object. It refers to the interpretation of the human “cultural layer” in computer ontology and the “computer layer” in human cultural terms. Manovich believes each layer influences the development of the other and are no longer separable. Manovich sees transcoding as the most substantial consequence of the computerization of media.

"Since new media is created on computers, distributed via computers, stored and archived on computers, the logic of a computer can be expected to have a significant influence on the traditional cultural logic of media......The result of this composite is the new computer culture: blend of human and computer meanings ... "
-Manovich

Examples

The mp3

The process of digitizing an audio recording is a method of generating data from music, a means of human expression. Once the audio recording becomes a computer file, it is imprinted with characteristics that are distinct from those of the recording itself (sound materials, environments, temporal structure etc.). Rather, an audio computer file exists in the context of other computer files, with different headers, sizes, formats, types of compression etc. The result is partially that music becomes something you can extract from a database, alter the volume of, rename, order in a sequence with other mp3's on your digital music player.

The Web

Much, if not all of what we see on the web is transcoded for our viewing. Without machines transcoding machine language into human language humans wouldn't have any idea what was being communicated to them. These two layers go together because without one the other means nothing. Machine language wouldn't exist if it wasn't for human language and ingenuity and machine language would just be gibberish if it was not translated into something that could be understood. This type of transcoding is possible thanks to a mediator of languages and in the case of the web, that mediator is the computer that is running the parse and interpret commands which then outputs something you can understand to the screen. Likewise, the great machine can't understand human language, so when I am typing this sentence into the Wiki edit box, the computer will then translate what I am saying into machine language and the connection is made in the opposite direction. This type of communication allows two different kids with different communication standards to play in the same sandbox without problems arising.

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