Friday, February 12, 2016

Quick Response Codes - Dying to Use Technology

by Ron Samul 

Quick Response Codes were developed to link products to advertising, marketing, and stock information. They were developed in Japan as a way of automating connections from a thing to information stored online. The difference between a bar code (numerical) and a Quick Response Code is the amount and type of data that it encodes. Thinking about and creating quick response codes came from elements for a class in the fall and participation in Digital Writing Month. Not only did the idea of codes as keys become engaging, it was something that I could introduce to my class and make operational quickly. See links below for older articles and connections. 

Yesterday, speaking to a Death and Dying instructor, I was shown a fascinating connection to Quick Response Codes and the dead. A Living Headstone is more than just a burial plot. The idea is simple - attach a QR code to a tombstone and when someone stops by - they scan the code and see a video, slideshow, or website commemorating your loved one. I love this idea and I love the idea of using QR codes to share the connections between the cemetery plot and the family memories. I also enjoy the way the website promotes this technology into the respectful memorial jargon. In a "timeless tradition of granite headstones with the newest technology available. We provide an interactive "living" memorial that is a legacy for future generations." This is one more example of how technology can disrupt traditional rituals of our culture. 

Not only does the code connect to information about the deceased, but it can be added to existing monuments. Imagine donating a granite bench to your university alumni and adding the QR code to your website. Achievements, class images, projects, and friends can all connect to make the memorial an important touchstone to those who care.

This post is not meant to be patronising or sarcastic. In fact, the point is to highlight another interesting use of QR Codes in the evolution of our rituals and connections to our society. If we can have "Find-a-Grave" where we have started to index tombstones and cemeteries, this would seem like a good next step for the logical integration of memories to the source of someone's final resting place.

Like the previous articles that discuss ways to use QR Codes for scavager hunts, tree identification, and even party favours -- it makes sense that this is the next generation of tangible connection between a lost loved one and a grieving family. And like new technology, will it stand the test of time? 

Not to minimize the impact of the newly deceased, this would be an interesting element to allow for historical access to cemeteries. I know we have a few old cemeteries with stones that hold significant historical context. Imagine a location for a small QR Code next to the stone that could access archives and other resources to help people understand the history, the tangible connection to the past, and the keys that can unlock real knowledge and understanding - even as they wandered through the pristine grounds of a cemetery. 

Reference Articles 
QR Codes and Your Syllabus 
QR Codes on the Ground 
Boxes and Connections 

Ron Samul is a writer and educator. For more information or to contact him, go to 

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1 comment:

  1. Intriguing ... digital ways to honor and respect the lives of those who have passed ...