At a digital agency’s briefing last week, focusing on ‘New Tools’ for publishing, part of the talk was centered around the current use of QR Codes and their implications. Whilst studies seem to show they are largely unknown and underused (and often when they are, employed for gimmicky or lazy motives) there’s certainly some interesting potential for wonder and mischief.
It’s true that the ignorant consumption of QR Codes, hastily scanned without any accompanying information and without ensuring the source is safe, could lead to malware or undesired material. However, I think the mystery of these codes – strange, enigmatic symbols, able to instantly transport the user to a digital realm which bears no relation to its signage – is their appeal. The word ‘Talisman’ can be interpreted as “to initiate into the mysteries”. In this way, QR Codes might be deemed their modern-day versions.
After the test run for Storycube Cairn, where we used QR Coded Storycubes and mobile phones as wayfinding devices, I was inspired by ideas on how these codes might be embedded into the urban fabric of a city. The notion of encountering one of these cubes by accident in an odd location, which, when scanned, leads you on a winding quest to discover more, or reveals a short story or video piece relevant to its found location, is undeniably alluring. Perhaps even, a cube or code is partially glimpsed in a seemingly unreachable place, rewarding the explorer when they have found a means to get there – parkour and geolocation intertwined. I’ll try not to gush over the possibilities for sculpting codes into walls and pillars. Digital hieroglyphs for the modern city.
Of course, they have more traditional, functional benefits. They could be a great help for those with sight or motor skills problems when placed alongside small print, summoning an enlarged text version on whatever device is being used, as well as enabling access to links without entering complex URLs. Our recent changes to bookleteer lets readers access a digital version of a book by scanning a QR Code on the back cover; instant, free distribution of content.
I would hazard a guess that developing their capability, whilst finding innovative ways in which they might be used, will be essential for QR Codes to stick around throughout the coming years, becoming a technology that can evolve beyond novelty uses or simple shortcuts.
Beyond being quickly scanned over.